TALES AND NOVELS
IN TEN VOLUMES
WITH ENGRAVINGS ON STEEL
HARRINGTON; THOUGHTS ON BORES;
TO THE READER.
In my seventy-fourth year, I have the satisfaction of seeing another work of my daughter brought before the public. This was more than I could have expected from my advanced age and declining health.
I have been reprehended by some of the public critics for the notices which I have annexed to my daughter's works. As I do not know their reasons for this reprehension, I cannot submit even to their respectable authority. I trust, however, the British public will sympathize with what a father feels for a daughter's literary success, particularly as this father and daughter have written various works in partnership.
The natural and happy confidence reposed in me by my daughter puts it in my power to assure the public that she does not write negligently. I can assert that twice as many pages were written for these volumes as are now printed.
The first of these tales, HARRINGTON, was occasioned by an extremely well-written letter, which Miss Edgeworth received from America, from a Jewish lady, complaining of the illiberality with which the Jewish nation had been treated in some of Miss Edgeworth's works.
The second tale, ORMOND, is the story of a young gentleman, who is in some respects the reverse of Vivian. The moral of this tale does not immediately appear, for the author has taken peculiar care that it should not obtrude itself upon the reader.
Public critics have found several faults with Miss Edgeworth's former works—she takes this opportunity of returning them sincere thanks for the candid and lenient manner in which her errors have been pointed out. In the present Tales she has probably fallen into many other faults, but she has endeavoured to avoid those for which she has been justly reproved.
And now, indulgent reader, I beg you to pardon this intrusion, and, with the most grateful acknowledgments, I bid you farewell for ever.
RICHARD LOVELL EDGEWORTH.
Edgeworthstown, May 31,1817.
Note—Mr. Edgeworth died a few days after he wrote this Preface—the 13th June, 1817.
* * * * *
When I was a little boy of about six years old, I was standing with a maid-servant in the balcony of one of the upper rooms of my father's house in London—it was the evening of the first day that I had ever been in London, and my senses had been excited, and almost exhausted, by the vast variety of objects that were new to me. It was dusk, and I was growing sleepy, but my attention was awakened by a fresh wonder. As I stood peeping between the bars of the balcony, I saw star after star of light appear in quick succession, at a certain height and distance, and in a regular line, approaching nearer and nearer. I twitched the skirt of my maid's gown repeatedly, but she was talking to some acquaintance at the window of a neighbouring house, and she did not attend to me. I pressed my forehead more closely against the bars of the balcony, and strained my eyes more eagerly towards the object of my curiosity. Presently the figure of the lamp-lighter with his blazing torch in one hand, and his ladder in the other, became visible; and, with as much delight as philosopher ever enjoyed in discovering the cause of a new and grand phenomenon, I watched his operations. I saw him fix and mount his ladder with his little black pot swinging from his arm, and his red smoking torch waving with astonishing velocity, as he ran up and down the ladder. Just when he reached the ground, being then within a few yards of our house, his torch flared on the face and figure of an old man with a long white beard and a dark visage, who, holding a great bag slung over one shoulder, walked slowly on, repeating in a low, abrupt, mysterious tone, the cry of "Old clothes! Old clothes! Old clothes!" I could not understand the words he said, but as he looked up at our balcony he saw me—smiled—and I remember thinking that he had a good-natured countenance. The maid nodded to him; he stood still, and at the same instant she seized upon me, exclaiming, "Time for you to come off to bed, Master Harrington."
I resisted, and, clinging to the rails, began kicking and roaring.
"If you don't come quietly this minute, Master Harrington," said she, "I'll call to Simon the Jew there," pointing to him, "and he shall come up and carry you away in his great bag."
The old man's eyes were upon me; and to my fancy the look of his eyes and his whole face had changed in an instant. I was struck with terror—my hands let go their grasp—and I suffered myself to be carried off as quietly as my maid could desire. She hurried and huddled me into bed, bid me go to sleep, and ran down stairs. To sleep I could not go, but full of fear and curiosity I lay, pondering on the thoughts of Simon the Jew and his bag, who had come to carry me away in the height of my joys. His face with the light of the torch upon it appeared and vanished, and flitted before my eyes. The next morning, when daylight and courage returned, I asked my maid whether Simon the Jew was a good or a bad man? Observing the impression that had been made upon my mind, and foreseeing that the expedient, which she had thus found successful, might be advantageously repeated, she answered with oracular duplicity, "Simon the Jew is a good man for naughty boys." The threat of "Simon the Jew" was for some time afterwards used upon every occasion to reduce me to passive obedience; and when by frequent repetition this threat had lost somewhat of its power, she proceeded to tell me, in a mysterious tone, stories of Jews who had been known to steal poor children for the purpose of killing, crucifying, and sacrificing them at their secret feasts and midnight abominations. The less I understood, the more I believed.
Above all others, there was one story—horrible! most horrible!—which she used to tell at midnight, about a Jew who lived in Paris in a dark alley, and who professed to sell pork pies; but it was found out at last that the pies were not pork—they were made of the flesh of little children. His wife used to stand at the door of her den to watch for little children, and, as they were passing, would tempt them in with cakes and sweetmeats. There was a trap-door in the cellar, and the children were dragged down; and—Oh! how my blood ran cold when we came to the terrible trap-door. Were there, I asked, such things in London now?
Oh, yes! In dark narrow lanes there were Jews now living, and watching always for such little children as me; I should take care they did not catch me, whenever I was walking in the streets; and Fowler (that was my maid's name) added, "There was no knowing what they might do with me."
In our enlightened days, and in the present improved state of education, it may appear incredible that any nursery-maid could be so wicked as to relate, or any child of six years old so foolish as to credit, such tales; but I am speaking of what happened many years ago: nursery-maids and children, I believe, are very different now from what they were then; and in further proof of the progress of human knowledge and reason, we may recollect that many of these very stories of the Jews, which we now hold too preposterous for the infant and the nursery-maid to credit, were some centuries ago universally believed by the English nation, and had furnished more than one of our kings with pretexts for extortion and massacres.
But to proceed with my story. The impression made on my imagination by these horrible tales was greater than my nursery-maid intended. Charmed by the effect she had produced, she was next afraid that I should bring her into disgrace with my mother, and she extorted from me a solemn promise that I would never tell any body the secret she had communicated. From that moment I became her slave, and her victim. I shudder when I look back to all I suffered during the eighteen months I was under her tyranny. Every night, the moment she and the candle left the room, I lay in an indescribable agony of terror; my head under the bed-clothes, my knees drawn up, in a cold perspiration. I saw faces around me grinning, glaring, receding, advancing, all turning at last into the same face of the Jew with the long beard and the terrible eyes; and that bag, in which I fancied were mangled limbs of children—it opened to receive me, or fell upon my bed, and lay heavy on my breast, so that I could neither stir nor scream; in short, it was one continued nightmare; there was no refreshing sleep for me till the hour when the candle returned and my tyrant—my protectress, as I thought her—came to bed. In due course she suffered in her turn; for I could not long endure this state, and, instead of submitting passively or lying speechless with terror, the moment she left the room at night I began to roar and scream till I brought my mother and half the house up to my bedside. "What could be the matter with the child?" Faithful to my promise, I never betrayed the secrets of my prison-house. Nothing could he learned from me but that "I was frightened," that "I could not go to sleep;" and this, indeed, my trembling condition, and convulsed countenance, sufficiently proved. My mother, who was passionately fond of me, became alarmed for my health, and ordered that Fowler should stay in the room with me every night till I should be quite fast asleep.
So Fowler sat beside my bed every night, singing, caressing, cajoling, hushing, conjuring me to sleep: and when in about an hour's time, she flattered herself that her conjurations had succeeded; when my relaxing muscles gave her hope that she might withdraw her arm unperceived; and when slowly and dexterously she had accomplished this, and, watching my eyelashes, and cautiously shading the candle with her hand, she had happily gained the door; some slipping of the lock, some creaking of the hinge, some parting sound startled me, and bounce I was upright in my bed, my eyes wide open, and my voice ready for a roar: so she was compelled instantly to return, to replace the candle full in my view, to sit down close beside the bed, and, with her arm once more thrown over me, she was forced again to repeat that the Jew's bag could not come there, and, cursing me in her heart, she recommenced her deceitful songs. She was seldom released in less than two hours. In vain she now tried by day to chase away the terrors of the night: to undo her own work was beyond her power. In vain she confessed that her threats were only to frighten me into being a good boy. In vain she told me that I was too old now to believe such nonsense. In vain she told me that Simon was only an old-clothes-man, that his cry was only "Old clothes! Old clothes!" which she mimicked to take off its terror; its terror was in that power of association which was beyond her skill to dissolve. In vain she explained to me that his bag held only my old shoes and her yellow petticoat. In vain she now offered to let me see with my own eyes. My imagination was by this time proof against ocular demonstration. One morning early, she took me down stairs into the housekeeper's room, where Simon and his bag were admitted; she emptied the bag in my presence, she laughed at my foolish fears, and I pretended to laugh, but my laugh was hysterical. No power could draw me within arm's- length of the bag or the Jew. He smiled and smoothed his features, and stroked his white beard, and, stooping low, stretched out his inoffensive hand to me; my maid placed sugared almonds on the palm of that hand, and bid me approach and eat. No! I stood fixed, and if the Jew approached, I ran back and hid my head in Fowler's lap. If she attempted to pull or push me forwards I screamed, and at length I sent forth a scream that wakened my mother—her bell rang, and she was told that it was only Master Harrington, who was afraid of poor Simon, the old-clothes-man. Summoned to the side of my mother's bed, I appeared nearly in hysterics—but still faithful to my promise, I did not betray my maid;—nothing could be learned from me but that I could not bear the sight of Old Simon the Jew. My mother blamed Fowler for taking me down to see such a sort of a person. The equivocating maid replied, that Master Harrington could not or would not be asy unless she did; and that indeed now it was impossible to know how to make him asy by day or by night; that she lost her natural rest with him; and that for her part she could not pretend to stand it much longer, unless she got her natural rest. Heaven knows my natural rest was gone! But, besides, she could not even get her cup of tea in an evening, or stir out for a mouthful of fresh air, now she was every night to sing Master Harrington to sleep.
It was but poetical justice that she who had begun by terrifying me, in order to get me to bed, and out of her way, should end by being forced to suffer some restraint to cure me of my terrors: but Fowler did not understand or relish poetical justice, or any kind of justice: besides, she had heard that Lady de Brantefield was in want of a nursery-maid for the little Lady Anne Mowbray, who was some years younger than Master Harrington, and Fowler humbly represented to my mother that she thought Master Harrington was really growing too stout and too much of a man; and she confessed quite above and beyond her management and comprehension; for she never pretended to any thing but the care of young children that had not arrived at the years of discretion; this she understood to be the case with the little Lady Anne Mowbray; therefore a recommendation to Lady de Brantefield would be very desirable, and, she hoped, but justice to her. The very desirable recommendation was given by my mother to Lady de Brantefield, who was her particular friend; nor was my mother in the least to blame on this occasion, for she truly thought she was doing nothing but justice; had it been otherwise, those who know how these things are usually managed, would, I trust, never think of blaming my mother for a sort of thing which they would do, and doubtless have done themselves without scruple, for a favourite maid, who is always a faithful creature.
So Fowler departed, happy, but I remained unhappy—not with her, departed my fears. After she was gone I made a sort of compromise with my conscience, and without absolutely breaking my promise, I made a half confession to my mother that I had somehow or other horrid notions about Jews; and that it was the terror I had conceived of Simon the Jew which prevented me from sleeping all night. My mother felt for me, and considered my case as no laughing matter.
My mother was a woman of weak health, delicate nerves, and a kind of morbid sensibility; which I often heard her deplore as a misfortune, but which I observed every body about her admire as a grace. She lamented that her dear Harrington, her only son, should so much resemble her in this exquisite sensibility of the nervous system. But her physician, and he was a man who certainly knew better than she did, she confessed, for he was a man who really knew every thing, assured her that this was indisputably "the genuine temperament of genius."
I soon grew vain of my fears. My antipathy, my natural, positively natural antipathy to the sight or bare idea of a Jew, was talked of by ladies and by gentlemen; it was exhibited to all my mother's acquaintance, learned and unlearned; it was a medical, it was a metaphysical wonder, it was an idiosyncrasy, corporeal, or mental, or both; it was—in short, more nonsense was talked about it than I will repeat, though I perfectly remember it all; for the importance of which at this period I became to successive circles of visitors fixed every circumstance and almost every word indelibly in my memory. It was a pity that I was not born some years earlier or later, for I should have flourished a favourite pupil of Mesmer, the animal magnetizer, or I might at this day be a celebrated somnambulist. No, to do myself justice, I really had no intention to deceive, at least originally; but, as it often happens with those who begin by being dupes, I was in imminent danger of becoming a knave. How I escaped it, I do not well know. For here, a child scarce seven years old, I saw myself surrounded by grown-up wise people, who were accounting different ways for that, of which I alone knew the real, secret, simple cause. They were all, without my intending it, my dupes. Yet when I felt that I had them in my power, I did not deceive them much, not much more than I deceived myself. I never was guilty of deliberate imposture. I went no farther than affectation and exaggeration, which it was in such circumstances scarcely possible for me to avoid; for I really often did not know the difference between my own feelings, and the descriptions I heard given of what I felt.
Fortunately for my integrity, my understanding, and my health, people began to grow tired of seeing and talking of Master Harrington. Some new wonder came into fashion; I think it was Jedediah Buxton, the man of prodigious memory, who could multiply in his head nine figures by nine; and who, the first time he was taken to the playhouse, counted all the steps of the dancers, and all the words uttered by Garrick in Richard the Third. After Jedediah Buxton, or about the same time, if I recollect rightly, came George Psalmanazar, from his Island of Formosa, who, with his pretended Dictionary of the Pormosan language, and the pounds of raw beef he devoured per day, excited the admiration and engrossed the attention of the Royal Society and of every curious and fashionable company in London: so that poor little I was forgotten, as though I had never been. My mother and myself were left to settle the affair with my nerves and the Jews, as we could. Between the effects of real fear, and the exaggerated expression of it to which I had been encouraged, I was now seriously ill. It is well known that persons have brought on fits by pretending to have them; and by yielding to feelings, at first slight and perfectly within the command of the will, have at last acquired habits beyond the power of their reason, or of their most strenuous voluntary exertion, to control. Such was my pitiable case; and at the moment I was most to be pitied, nobody pitied me. Even my mother, now she had nobody to talk to about me, grew tired of my illness. She was advised by her physician, on account of her own health, by no means to keep so close to the house as she had done of late: she went out therefore every night to refresh herself at crowded parties; and as soon as she left the house, the nurse and every body in the family left me. The servants settled it, in my hearing, that there was nothing in life the matter with me, that my mother and I were equally vapoursome-ish and timersome, and that there was no use in nursing and pampering of me up in them fantastical fancifulnesses: so the nurse, and lady's maid, and housekeeper, went down all together to their tea; and the housemaid, who was ordered by the housekeeper to stay with me, soon followed, charging the under housemaid to supply her place; who went off also in her turn, leaving me in charge of the cook's daughter, a child of nine years old, who soon stole out of the room, and scampered away along the gallery out of the reach of my voice, leaving the room to darkness and to me—and there I lay, in all the horrors of a low nervous fever, unpitied and alone.
Shall I be pardoned for having dwelt so long on this history of the mental and corporeal ills of my childhood? Such details will probably appear more trivial to the frivolous and ignorant than to the philosophic and well informed: not only because the best informed are usually the most indulgent judges, but because they will perceive some connexion between these apparently puerile details and subjects of higher importance. Bacon, and one who in later days has successfully followed him on this ground, point out as one of the most important subjects of human inquiry, equally necessary to the science of morals and of medicine, "The history of the power and influence of the imagination, not only upon the mind and body of the imaginant, but upon those of other people." This history, so much desired and so necessary, has been but little advanced. One reason for this may be, that both by the learned and the unlearned it is usually begun at the wrong end.
"Belier, mon ami, commences par le commencement," is excellent advice; equally applicable to philosophical history and to fairy tale. We must be content to begin at the beginning, if we would learn the history of our own minds; we must condescend to be even as little children, if we would discover or recollect those small causes which early influence the imagination, and afterwards become strong habits, prejudices, and passions. In this point of view, if they might possibly tend to turn public attention in a new direction to an important subject, my puerile anecdotes may be permitted. These, my experiments, solitary and in concert, touching fear, and of and concerning sympathies and antipathies, are perhaps as well worth noting for future use, as some of those by which Sir Kenelm Digby and others astonished their own generation, and which they bequeathed to ungrateful posterity.
My mother, who had a great, and perhaps not altogether a mistaken, opinion, of the sovereign efficacy of the touch of gold in certain cases, tried it repeatedly on the hand of the physician who attended me, and who, in consequence of this application, had promised my cure; but that not speedily taking place, and my mother, naturally impatient, beginning to doubt his skill, she determined to rely on her own. On Sir Kenelm Digby's principle of curing wounds, by anointing the weapon with which the wound had been inflicted, she resolved to try what could be done with the Jew, who had been the original cause of my malady, and to whose malignant influence its continuance might be reasonably ascribed; accordingly one evening, at the accustomed hour when Simon the old-clothes-man's cry was heard coming down the street, I being at that time seized with my usual fit of nerves, and my mother being at her toilette crowning herself with roses to go to a ball, she ordered the man to be summoned into the housekeeper's room, and, through the intervention of the housekeeper, the application was made on the Jew's hand; and it was finally agreed that the same should be renewed every twelvemonth, upon condition that he, the said Simon, should never more be seen or heard under our windows or in our square. My evening attack of nerves intermitted, as the signal for its coming on, ceased. For some time I slept quietly: it was but a short interval of peace. Simon, meanwhile, told his part of the story to his compeers, and the fame of his annuity ran through street and alley, and spread through the whole tribe of Israel. The bounty acted directly as an encouragement to ply the profitable trade, and "Old clothes! Old clothes!" was heard again punctually under my window; and another and another Jew, each more hideous than the former, succeeded in the walk. Jews I should not call them; though such they appeared to be at the time: we afterwards discovered that they were good Christian beggars, dressed up and daubed, for the purpose of looking as frightful, and as like the traditionary representations and vulgar notions of a malicious, revengeful, ominous looking Shylock as ever whetted his knife. The figures were well got up; the tone, accent, and action, suited to the parts to be played; the stage effect perfect, favoured as it was by the distance at which I saw and wished ever to keep such personages; and as money was given, by my mother's orders, to these people to send them away, they came the more. If I went out with a servant to walk, a Jew followed me; if I went in the carriage with my mother, a Jew was at the coach-door when I got in, or when I got out: or if we stopped but five minutes at a shop, while my mother went in, and I was left alone, a Jew's head was at the carriage window, at the side next me; if I moved to the other side, it was at the other side; if I pulled up the glass, which I never could do fast enough, the Jew's head was there opposite to me, fixed as in a frame; and if I called to the servants to drive it away, I was not much better off, for at a few paces' distance the figure would stand with his eyes fixed upon me; and, as if fascinated, though I hated to look at those eyes, for the life of me I could not turn mine away. The manner in which I was thus haunted and pursued wherever I went, seemed to my mother something "really extraordinary;" to myself, something magical and supernatural. The systematic roguery of beggars, their combinations, meetings, signals, disguises, transformations, and all the secret tricks of their trade of deception, were not at this time, as they have in modern days, been revealed to public view, and attested by indisputable evidence. Ignorance is always credulous. Much was then thought wonderful, nay, almost supernatural, which can now be explained and accounted for, by asy and very ignoble means. My father—for all this time, though I have never mentioned him, I had a father living—my father, being in public life, and much occupied with the affairs of the nation, had little leisure to attend to his family. A great deal went on in his house, without his knowing any thing about it. He had heard of my being ill and well, at different hours of the day; but had left it to the physicians and my mother to manage me till a certain age: but now I was nine years old, he said it was time I should be taken out of the hands of the women; so he inquired more particularly into my history, and, with mine, he heard the story of Simon and the Jews. My mother said she was glad my father's attention was at last awakened to this extraordinary business. She expatiated eloquently upon the medical, or, as she might call them, magical effects of sympathies and antipathies: on the nervous system; but my father was not at all addicted to a belief in magic, and he laughed at the whole female doctrine, as he called it, of sympathies and antipathies: so, declaring that they were all making fools of themselves, and a Miss Molly of his boy, he took the business up short with a high hand. There was some trick, some roguery in it. The Jews were all rascals, he knew, and he would soon settle them. So to work he set with the beadles, and the constables, and the overseers. The corporation of beggars were not, in those days, so well grounded in the theory and so alert in the practice of evasion as, by long experience, they have since become. The society had not then, as they have now, in a certain lane, their regular rendezvous, called the Beggars' Opera; they had not then, as they have now, in a certain cellar, an established school for teaching the art of scolding, kept by an old woman, herself an adept in the art; they had not even their regular nocturnal feasts, where they planned the operations of the next day's or the next week's campaign, so that they could not, as they now do, set at nought the beadle and the parish officers: the system of signals was not then perfected, and the means of conveying secret and swift intelligence, by telegraphic science, had not in those days been practised. The art of begging was then only art without science: the native genius of knavery unaided by method or discipline. The consequence was, that the beggars fled before my father's beadles, constables, and overseers; and they were dispersed through other parishes, or led into captivity to roundhouses, or consigned to places called asylums for the poor and indigent, or lodged in workhouses, or crammed into houses of industry or penitentiary houses, where, by my father's account of the matter, there was little industry and no penitence, and from whence the delinquents issued, after their seven days' captivity, as bad or worse than when they went in. Be that as it may, the essential point with my father was accomplished: they were got rid of that season, and before the next season he resolved that I should be out of the hands of the women, and safe at a public school, which he considered as a specific for all my complaints, and indeed for every disease of mind and body incident to childhood. It was the only thing, he said, to make a man of me. "There was Jack B——, and Thomas D——, and Dick C——, sons of gentlemen in our county, and young Lord Mowbray to boot, all at school with Dr. Y——, and what men they were already!" A respite of a few months was granted, in consideration of my small stature, and of my mother's all eloquent tears. Meantime my father took me more to himself; and, mixed with men, I acquired some manly, or what were called manly, ideas. My attention was awakened, and led to new things. I took more exercise and less medicine; and with my health and strength of body my strength of mind and courage increased. My father made me ashamed of that nervous sensibility of which I had before been vain. I was glad that the past should be past and forgotten; yet a painful reminiscence would come over my mind, whenever I heard or saw the word Jew. About this time I first became fond of reading, and I never saw the word in any page of any book which I happened to open, without immediately stopping to read the passage. And here I must observe, that not only in the old story books, where the Jews are as sure to be wicked as the bad fairies, or bad genii, or allegorical personifications of the devils, and the vices in the old emblems, mysteries, moralities, &c.; but in almost every work of fiction, I found them represented as hateful beings; nay, even in modern tales of very late years, since I have come to man's estate, I have met with books by authors professing candour and toleration—books written expressly for the rising generation, called, if I mistake not, Moral Tales for Young People; and even in these, wherever the Jews are introduced, I find that they are invariably represented as beings of a mean, avaricious, unprincipled, treacherous character. Even the peculiarities of their persons, the errors of their foreign dialect and pronunciation, were mimicked and caricatured, as if to render them objects of perpetual derision and detestation. I am far from wishing to insinuate that such was the serious intention of these authors. I trust they will in future benefit by these hints. I simply state the effect which similar representations in the story books I read, when I was a child, produced on my mind. They certainly acted most powerfully and injuriously, strengthening the erroneous association of ideas I had accidentally formed, and confirming my childish prejudice by what I then thought the indisputable authority of printed books.
About this time also I began to attend to conversation—to the conversation of gentlemen as well as of ladies; and I listened with a sort of personal interest and curiosity whenever Jews happened to be mentioned. I recollect hearing my father talk with horror of some young gentleman who had been dealing with the Jews, I asked what this meant, and was answered, "'Tis something very like dealing with the devil, my dear." Those who give a child a witty instead of a rational answer, do not know how dearly they often make the poor child pay for their jest. My father added, "It is certain, that when a man once goes to the Jews, he soon goes to the devil. So Harrington, my boy, I charge you at your peril, whatever else you do, keep out of the hands of the Jews—never go near the Jews: if once they catch hold of you, there's an end of you, my boy."
Had the reasons for the prudential part of this charge been given to me, and had the nature of the disgraceful transactions with the Hebrew nation been explained, it would have been full as useful to me, and rather more just to them. But this was little or no concern of my father's. With some practical skill in the management of the mind, but with short-sighted views as to its permanent benefit, and without an idea of its philosophic moral cultivation, he next undertook to cure me of the fears which he had contributed to create. He took opportunities of pointing out how poor, how helpless, how wretched they are; how they are abused continually, insulted daily, and mocked by the lowest of servants, or the least of children in our streets; their very name a by-word of reproach: "He is a Jew—an actual Jew," being the expression for avarice, hard-heartedness, and fraud. Of their frauds I was told innumerable stories. In short, the Jews were represented to me as the lowest, meanest, vilest of mankind, and a conversion of fear into contempt was partially effected in my mind; partially, I say, for the conversion was not complete; the two sentiments existed together, and by an experienced eye, could easily be detected and seen even one through the other.
Now whoever knows any thing of the passions—and who is there who does not?—must be aware how readily fear and contempt run into the kindred feeling of hatred. It was about this time, just before I went to school, that something relative to the famous Jew Bill became the subject of vehement discussion at my father's table. My father was not only a member of parliament, but a man of some consequence with his party. He had usually been a staunch friend of government; but upon one occasion, when he first came into parliament, nine or ten years before the time of which I am now writing, in 1753 or 54, I think, he had voted against ministry upon this very bill for the Naturalization of the Jews in England. Government liberally desired that they should be naturalized, but there was a popular cry against it, and my father on this one occasion thought the voice of the people was right. After the bill had been carried half through, it was given up by ministry, the opposition to it proving so violent. My father was a great stickler for parliamentary consistency, and moreover he was of an obstinate temper. Ten years could make no change in his opinions, as he was proud to declare. There was at this time, during a recess of parliament, some intention among the London merchants to send addresses to government in favour of the Jews; and addresses were to be procured from the country. The county members, and among them of course my father, were written to; but he was furiously against the naturalization: he considered all who were for it as enemies to England; and, I believe, to religion. He hastened down to the country to take the sense of his constituents, or to impress them with his sense of the business. Previously to some intended county meeting, there were, I remember, various dinners of constituents at my father's, and attempts after dinner, over a bottle of wine, to convince them, that they were, or ought to be, of my father's opinion, and that they had better all join him in the toast of "The Jews are down, and keep 'em down."
A subject apparently less liable to interest a child of my age could hardly be imagined; but from my peculiar associations it did attract my attention. I was curious to know what my father and all the gentlemen were saying about the Jews at these dinners, from which my mother and the ladies were excluded. I was eager to claim my privilege of marching into the dining-room after dinner, and taking my stand beside my father's elbow; and then I would gradually edge myself on, till I got possession of half his chair, and established a place for my elbow on the table. I remember one day sitting for an hour together, turning from one person to another as each spoke, incapable of comprehending their arguments, but fully understanding the vehemence of their tones, and sympathizing in the varying expression of passion; as to the rest, quite satisfied with making out which speaker was for, and which against the Jews. All those who were against them, I considered as my father's friends; all those who were for them, I called by a common misnomer, or metonymy of the passions, my father's enemies, because my father was their enemy. The feeling of party spirit, which is caught by children as quickly as it is revealed by men, now combined to strengthen still more and to exasperate my early prepossession. Astonished by the attention with which I had this day listened to all that seemed so unlikely to interest a boy of my age, my father, with a smile and a wink, and a side nod of his head, not meant, I suppose, for me to see, but which I noticed the more, pointed me out to the company, by whom it was unanimously agreed, that my attention was a proof of uncommon abilities, and an early decided taste for public business. Young Lord Mowbray, a boy two years older than myself, a gawkee schoolboy, was present; and had, during this long hour after dinner, manifested sundry symptoms of impatience, and made many vain efforts to get me out of the room. After cracking his nuts and his nut-shells, and thrice cracking the cracked—after suppressing the thick-coming yawns that at last could no longer be suppressed, he had risen, writhed, stretched, and had fairly taken himself out of the room. And now he just peeped in, to see if he could tempt me forth to play.
"No, no," cried my father, "you'll not get Harrington, he is too deep here in politics—but however, Harrington, my dear boy, 'tis not the thing for your young companion—go off and play with Mowbray: but stay, first, since you've been one among us so long, what have we been talking of?"
"The Jews, to be sure, papa."
"Right," cried my father; "and what about them, my dear?"
"Whether they ought to be let to live in England, or any where."
"Right again, that is right in the main," cried my father; "though that is a larger view of the subject than we took."
"And what reasons did you hear?" said a gentleman in company.
"Reasons!" interrupted my father: "oh! sir, to call upon the boy for all the reasons he has heard—But you'll not pose him: speak up, speak up, Harrington, my boy!"
"I've nothing to say about reasons, sir."
"No! that was not a fair question," said my father; "but, my boy, you know on which side you are, don't you?"
"To be sure—on your side, father."
"That's right—bravo! To know on which side one is, is one great point in life."
"And I can tell on which side every one here is." Then going round the table, I touched the shoulder of each of the company, saying, "A Jew!—No Jew!" and bursts of applause ensued.
When I came to my father again, he caught me in his arms, kissed me, patted my head, clapped me on the back, poured out a bumper of wine, bid me drink his toast, "No Naturalization Bill!—No Jews!" and while I blundered out the toast, and tossed off the bumper, my father pronounced me a clever fellow, "a spirited little devil, who, if I did but live to be a man, would be, he'd engage, an honour to my country, my family, and my party."
Exalted, not to say intoxicated, by my father's praise, when I went to the drawing-room to the ladies, I became rather more eloquent and noisy than my mother thought quite becoming; she could not, indeed, forbear smiling furtively at my wit, when, in answer to some simple country lady's question of "After all, why should not the Jews be naturalized?" I, with all the pertness of ignorance, replied, "Why, ma'am, because the Jews are naturally an unnatural pack of people, and you can't naturalize what's naturally unnatural."
Kisses and cake in abundance followed—but when the company was gone, my mamma thought it her duty to say a few words to me upon politeness, and a few words to my father upon the too much wine he had given me. The reproach to my father, being just, he could not endure; but instead of admitting the truth, he vowed, by Jupiter Ammon, that his boy should never be made a Miss Molly, and to school I should go, by Jupiter Ammon, next morning, plump.
Now it was well known in our house, that a sentence of my father's beginning and ending "by Jupiter Ammon" admitted of no reply from any mortal—it was the stamp of fate; no hope of any reversion of the decree: it seemed to bind even him who uttered the oath beyond his own power of revocation. My mother was convinced that even her intercession was vain; so she withdrew, weeping, to the female apartments, where, surrounded by her maids, the decree of fate was reported, but not verbatim, after the manner of the gods and goddesses. The maids and the washerwoman, however, scolded one another very much after their manner, in a council held at midnight, about my clothes; the result of the whole was that "they must be found and packed;" and found and packed at last they were; and the next morning, as decreed, early as Aurora streaked the east, to school I went, very little thinking of her rosy-tipped fingers.
My life at school was like that of any other school-boy. I shall not record, even if I could remember, how often I was flogged when I did not deserve it, or how often I escaped when I did. Five years of my life passed away, of which I have nothing to relate but that I learned to whip a top, and to play at ball and marbles, each in their season; that I acquired in due course the usual quantity of Greek and Latin; and perpetrated in my time, I presume, the usual quantity of mischief. But in the fourth year of my schoolboy life, an opportunity for unusual mischief occurred. An accident happened, which, however trifling in itself, can never be effaced from my memory. Every particular connected with it, is indeed as fresh in my recollection as it was the day after it happened. It was a circumstance which awakened long dormant associations, and combined them with all the feelings and principles of party spirit, which had first been inculcated by my father at home, and which had been exercised so well and so continually by my companions at school, as to have become the governing power of my mind.
Schoolboys, as well as men, can find or make a party question, and quarrel out of any thing or out of nothing. There was a Scotch pedlar, who used to come every Thursday evening to our school to supply our various wants and fancies. The Scotch pedlar died, and two candidates offered to supply his place, an English lad of the name of Dutton, and a Jew boy of the name of Jacob. Dutton was son to a man who had lived as butler in Mowbray's family. Lord Mowbray knew the boy to be a rogue, but thought he was attached to the Mowbrays, and at all events was determined to support him, as being somehow supposed to be connected with his family. Reminding me of my early declaration at my father's table against the naturalization of the Jews, and the bon-mot I had made, and the toast I had drunk, and the pledge I had given, Mowbray easily engaged me to join him against the Jew boy; and a zealous partisan against Jacob I became, canvassing as if my life had depended upon this point. But in spite of all our zeal, noise, violence, and cabal, it was the least and the most simple child in the school who decided the election. This youngster had in secret offered to exchange a silver pencil-case for a top, or something of such inadequate value: Jacob, instead of taking advantage of the child, explained to him that his pencil-case was worth twenty tops. On the day of election, this little boy, mounted upon the top of a step-ladder, appeared over the heads of the crowd, and in a small clear voice, and with an eagerness which fixed attention, related the history of his pencil-case, and ended by hoping with all his heart that his friend Jacob, his honest Jacob, might be chosen. Jacob was elected. Mowbray and I, and all our party, vexed and mortified, became the more inveterate in our aversion to the successful candidate; and from this moment we determined to plague and persecute him, till we should force him to give up. Every Thursday evening, the moment he appeared in the school-room, or on the play-ground, our party commenced the attack upon "the Wandering Jew," as we called this poor pedlar; and with every opprobrious nickname, and every practical jest, that mischievous and incensed schoolboy zealots could devise, we persecuted and tortured him body and mind. We twanged at once a hundred Jew's-harps in his ear, and before his eyes we paraded the effigy of a Jew, dressed in a gabardine of rags and paper. In the passages through which he was to pass, we set stumbling-blocks in his way, we threw orange-peel in his path, and when he slipped or fell, we laughed him to scorn, and we triumphed over him the more, the more he was hurt, or the more his goods were injured. "We laughed at his losses, mocked at his gains, scorned his nation, thwarted his bargains, cooled his friends, heated his enemies—and what was our reason? he was a Jew."
But he was as unlike to Shylock as it is possible to conceive. Without one thought or look of malice or revenge, he stood before us Thursday after Thursday, enduring all that our barbarity was pleased to inflict; he stood patient and long-suffering, and even of this patience and resignation we made a jest, and a subject of fresh reproach and taunt.
How I, who was not in other cases a cruel or an ill-natured boy, could be so inhuman to this poor, unprotected, unoffending creature I cannot conceive; but such in man or boy is the nature of persecution. At the time it all appeared to me quite natural and proper; a just and necessary war. The blame, if blame there were, was divided among so many, that the share of each, my share at least, appeared to me so small, as not to be worth a moment's consideration. The shame, if we had any, was carried away in the tide of popular enthusiasm, and drowned and lost in the fury and noise of the torrent. In looking back upon this disgraceful scene of our boyish days—boyish indeed I can scarcely call them, for I was almost, and Mowbray in his own opinion was quite, a man—I say, in looking hack upon this time, I have but one comfort. But I have one, and I will make the most of it: I think I should never have done so much wrong, had it not been for Mowbray. We were both horribly to blame; but though I was full as wrong in action, I flatter myself that I was wrong upon better or upon less bad motives. My aversion to the Jew, if more absurd and violent, was less interested and malignant than Mowbray's. I never could stand as he did to parley, and barter, and chaffer with him—if I had occasion to buy any thing, I was high and haughty, and at a word; he named his price, I questioned not, not I—down was thrown my money, my back was turned—and away! As for stooping to coax him as Mowbray would, when he had a point to gain, I could not have done it. To ask Jacob to lend me money, to beg him to give me more time to pay a debt, to cajole and bully him by turns, to call him alternately usurer and my honest fellow, extortioner and my friend Jacob—my tongue could not have uttered the words, my soul detested the thought; yet all this, and more, could Mowbray do, and did.
Lord Mowbray was deeply in Jacob's debt, especially for two watches which he had taken upon trial, and which he had kept three months, making, every Thursday, some fresh excuse for not paying for them; at last Jacob said that he must have the money, that his employer could wait no longer, and that he should himself be thrown into prison. Mowbray said this was only a trick to work upon his compassion, and that the Jew might very well wait for his money, because he asked twice as much for the watches as they were worth. Jacob offered to leave the price to be named by any creditable watchmaker. Lord Mowbray swore that he was as good a judge as any watchmaker in Christendom. Without pretending to dispute that point, Jacob finished by declaring, that his distress was so urgent that he must appeal to some of the masters. "You little Jewish tell-tale, what do you mean by that pitiful threat? Appeal to the higher powers if you dare, and I'll make you repent it, you usurer! Only do, if you dare!" cried he, clenching his hand and opening it, so as to present, successively, the two ideas of a box on the ear, and a blow on the stomach. "That was logic and eloquence," added Mowbray, turning to me. "Some ancient philosopher, you know, or I know, has compared logic to the closed fist, and eloquence to the open palm. See what it is, Harrington, to make good use of one's learning."
This was all very clever, at least our party thought so, and at the moment I applauded with the rest, though in my secret soul I thought Jacob was ill used, and that he ought to have had justice, if he had not been a Jew. His fear of a prison proved to be no pretence, for it surmounted his dread of Mowbray's logic and eloquence, and of all the unpopularity which he was well aware must be the consequence of his applying to the higher powers. Jacob appealed, and Lord Mowbray was summoned to appear before the head master, and to answer to the charge. It was proved that the price set upon the two watches was perfectly fair, as a watchmaker, who was examined on this point, declared. The watches had been so damaged during the two months they had been in his lordship's possession, that Jacob declined taking them back. Lord Mowbray protested that they were good for nothing when he first had them.
Then why did he not return them after the first week's trial, when Jacob had requested either to have them back or to be paid for them? His lordship had then, as half a dozen of the boys on the Jew's side were ready to testify, refused to return the watches, declaring they went very well, and that he would keep them as long as he pleased, and pay for them when he pleased, and no sooner.
This plain tale put down the Lord Mowbray. His wit and his party now availed him not; he was publicly reprimanded, and sentenced to pay Jacob for the watches in a week, or to be expelled from the school. Mowbray would have desired no better than to leave the school, but he knew that his mother would never consent to this.
His mother, the Countess de Brantefield, was a Countess in her own right, and had an estate in her own power;—his father, a simple commoner, was dead, his mother was his sole guardian.
"That mother of mine," said he to us, "would not hear of her son's being turned out—so I must set my head to work against the head of the head master, who is at this present moment inditing a letter to her ladyship, beginning, no doubt, with, 'I am sorry to be obliged to take up my pen,' or, 'I am concerned to be under the necessity of sitting down to inform your ladyship.' Now I must make haste and inform my lady mother of the truth with my own pen, which luckily is the pen of a ready writer. You will see," continued he, "how cleverly I will get myself out of the scrape with her. I know how to touch her up. There's a folio, at home, of old Manuscript Memoirs of the De Brantefield family, since the time of the flood, I believe: it's the only book my dear mother ever looks into; and she has often made me read it to her, till—no offence to my long line of ancestry—I cursed it and them; but now I bless it and them for supplying my happy memory with a case in point, that will just hit my mother's fancy, and, of course, obtain judgment in my favour. A case, in the reign of Richard the Second, between a Jew and my great, great, great, six times great grandfather, whom it is sufficient to name to have all the blood of all the De Brantefields up in arms for me against all the Jews that ever were born. So my little Jacob, I have you."
Mowbray, accordingly, wrote to his mother what he called a chef-d'oeuvre of a letter, and next post came an answer from Lady de Brantefield with the money to pay her son's debt, and, as desired and expected, a strong reproof to her son for his folly in ever dealing with a Jew. How could he possibly expect not to be cheated, as, by his own confession, it appeared he had been, grossly? It was the more extraordinary, since he so well recollected the ever to be lamented case of Sir Josseline de Brantefield, that her son could, with all his family experience, be, at this time of day, a dupe to one of a race branded by the public History of England, and private Memoirs of the De Brantefields, to all eternity!
Mowbray showed this letter in triumph to all his party. It answered the double purpose of justifying his own bad opinion of the tribe of Israel, and of tormenting Jacob.
The next Thursday evening after that on which judgment had been given against Mowbray, when Jacob appeared in the school-room, the anti-Jewish party gathered round him, according to the instructions of their leader, who promised to show them some good sport at the Jew's expense.
"Only give me fair play," said Mowbray, "and stick close, and don't let him off, for your lives don't let him break through you, till I've roasted him well."
"There's your money," cried Mowbray, throwing down the money for the watches—"take it—ay, count it—every penny right—I've paid you by the day appointed; and, thank Heaven and my friends, the pound of flesh next my heart is safe from your knife, Shylock!"
Jacob made no reply, but he looked as if he felt much.
"Now tell me, honest Jacob," pursued Mowbray, "honest Jacob, patient Jacob, tell me, upon your honour, if you know what that word means—upon your conscience, if you ever heard of any such thing—don't you think yourself a most pitiful dog, to persist in coming here to be made game of for twopence? 'Tis wonderful how much your thoroughbred Jew will do and suffer for gain. We poor good Christians could never do as much now—could we any soul of us, think you, Jacob?"
"Yes," replied Jacob, "I think you could, I think you would."
Loud scornful laughter from our party interrupted him; he waited calmly till it was over, and then continued, "Every soul of you good Christians would, I think, do as much for a father, if he were in want and dying, as mine is." There was a silence for the moment: we were all, I believe, struck, or touched, except Mowbray, who, unembarrassed by feeling, went on with the same levity of tone as before: "A father in want! Are you sure now he is not a father of straw, Jacob, set up for the nonce, to move the compassion of the generous public? Well, I've little faith, but I've some charity—here's a halfpenny for your father, to begin with."
"Whilst I live, my father shall ask no charity, I hope," said the son, retreating from the insulting alms which Mowbray still proffered.
"Why now, Jacob, that's bad acting, out o' character, Jacob, my Jew; for when did any son of Israel, any one of your tribe, or your twelve tribes, despise a farthing they could get honestly or dishonestly? Now this is a halfpenny—a good halfpenny. Come, Jacob, take it—don't be too proud— pocket the affront—consider it's for your father, not for yourself—you said you'd do much for your father, Jacob."
Jacob's countenance continued rigidly calm, except some little convulsive twitches about the mouth.
"Spare him, Mowbray," whispered I, pulling back Mowbray's arm; "Jew as he is, you see he has some feeling about his father."
"Jew as he is, and fool as you are, Harrington," replied Mowbray, aloud, "do you really believe that this hypocrite cares about his father, supposing he has one? Do you believe, boys, that a Jew pedlar can love a father gratis, as we do?"
"As we do!" repeated some of the boys: "Oh! no, for his father can't be as good as ours—he is a Jew!"
"Jacob, is your father good to you?" said one of the little boys.
"He is a good father, sir—cannot be a better father, sir," answered Jacob: the tears started into his eyes, but he got rid of them in an instant, before Mowbray saw them, I suppose, for he went on in the same insulting tone.
"What's that he says? Does he say he has a good father? If he'd swear it, I would not believe him—a good father is too great a blessing for a Jew."
"Oh! for shame, Mowbray!" said I. And "For shame! for shame, Mowbray!" echoed from the opposite, or, as Mowbray called it, from the Jewish party: they had by this time gathered in a circle at the outside of that which we had made round Jacob, and many had brought benches, and were mounted upon them, looking over our heads to see what was going on.
Jacob was now putting the key in his box, which he had set down in the middle of the circle, and was preparing to open it.
"Stay, stay, honest Jacob! tell us something more about this fine father; for example, what's his name, and what is he?" "I cannot tell you what he is, sir," replied Jacob, changing colour, "nor can I tell you his name."
"Cannot tell me the name of his own father! a precious fellow! Didn't I tell you 'twas a sham father? So now for the roasting I owe you, Mr. Jew." There was a large fire in the school-room; Mowbray, by a concerted movement between him and his friends, shoved the Jew close to the fire, and barricadoed him up, so that he could not escape, bidding him speak when he was too hot, and confess the truth.
Jacob was resolutely silent; he would not tell his father's name. He stood it, till I could stand it no longer, and I insisted upon Mowbray's letting him off.
"I could not use a dog so," said I.
"A dog, no! nor I; but this is a Jew."
"A fellow-creature," said I.
"A fine discovery! And pray, Harrington, what has made you so tender-hearted all of a sudden for the Jews?"
"Your being so hard-hearted, Mowbray," said I: "when you persecute and torture this poor fellow, how can I help speaking?"
"And pray, sir," said Mowbray, "on which side are you speaking?"
"On the side of humanity," said I.
"Fudge! On whose side are you?"
"On yours, Mowbray, if you won't be a tyrant."
"If! If you have a mind to rat, rat sans phrase, and run over to the Jewish side. I always thought you were a Jew at heart, Harrington."
"No more a Jew than yourself, Mowbray, nor so much," said I, standing firm, and raising my voice, so that I could be heard by all.
"No more a Jew than myself! pray how do you make that out?"
"By being more of a Christian—by sticking more to the maxim 'Do as you would be done by.'"
"That is a good maxim," said Jacob: a cheer from all sides supported me, as I advanced to liberate the Jew; but Mowbray, preventing me, leaped upon Jacob's box, and standing with his legs stretched out, Colossus-like, "Might makes right," said he, "all the world over. You're a mighty fine preacher, Master Harrington; let's see if you can preach me down."
"Let's see if I can't pull you down!" cried I, springing forward: indignation giving me strength, I seized, and with one jerk pulled the Colossus forward and swung him to the ground.
"Well done, Harrington!" resounded from all sides. Mowbray, the instant he recovered his feet, flew at me, furious for vengeance, dealing his blows with desperate celerity. He was far my overmatch in strength and size; but I stood up to him. Between the blows, I heard Jacob's voice in tones of supplication. When I had breath I called out to him, "Jacob! Escape!" And I heard the words, "Jacob! Jacob! Escape!" repeated near me.
But, instead of escaping, he stood stock still, reiterating his prayer to be heard: at last he rushed between us—we paused—both parties called to us, insisting that we should hear what the Jew had to say.
"Young Lord—," said he, "and dear young gentleman," turning to me, "let poor Jacob be no more cause now, or ever, of quarrel between you. He shall trouble you never more. This is the last day, the last minute he will ever trouble you."
He bowed. Looking round to all, twice to the upper circle, where his friends stood, he added, "Much obliged—for all kindness—grateful. Blessings!—Blessings on all!—and may—"
He could say no more; but hastily taking up his box, he retired through the opening crowd. The door closed after him. Both parties stood silent for a moment, till Mowbray exclaimed, "Huzza! Dutton for ever! We've won the day. Dutton for Thursday! Huzza! Huzza! Adieu! Adieu!—Wandering Jew!"
No one echoed his adieu or his huzzas. I never saw man or boy look more vexed and mortified. All further combat between us ceased, the boys one and all taking my part and insisting upon peace. The next day Mowbray offered to lay any wager that Jacob the Jew would appear again on the ensuing Thursday; and that he would tell his father's name, or at least come provided, as Mowbray stated it, with a name for his father. These wagers were taken up, and bets ran high on the subject. Thursday was anxiously expected—Thursday arrived, but no Jacob. The next Thursday came—another, and another—and no Jacob!
When it was certain that poor Jacob would appear no more—and when his motive for resigning, and his words at taking leave were recollected—and when it became evident that his balls, and his tops, and his marbles, and his knives, had always been better and more reasonable than Dutton's, the tide of popularity ran high in his favour. Poor Jacob was loudly regretted; and as long as schoolboys could continue to think about the same thing, we continued conjecturing why it was that Jacob would not tell us his father's name. We made many attempts to trace him, and to discover his secret; but all our inquiries proved ineffectual: we could hear no more of Jacob, and our curiosity died away.
Mowbray, who was two or three years my senior, left school soon afterwards. We did not meet at the university; he went to Oxford, and I to Cambridge.
When the mind is full of any one subject, that subject seems to recur with extraordinary frequency—it appears to pursue or to meet us at every turn: in every conversation that we hear, in every book we open, in every newspaper we take up, the reigning idea recurs; and then we are surprised, and exclaim at these wonderful coincidences. Probably such happen every day, but pass unobserved when the mind is not intent upon similar ideas, or excited by any strong analogous feeling.
When the learned Sir Thomas Browne was writing his Essay on the Gardens of Cyrus, his imagination was so possessed by the idea of a quincunx, that he is said to have seen a quincunx in every object in nature. In the same manner, after a Jew had once made an impression on my imagination, a Jew appeared wherever I went.
As I was on my road to Cambridge, travelling in a stagecoach, whilst we were slowly going up a steep hill, I looked out of the window, and saw a man sitting under a hawthorn-bush, reading very intently. There was a pedlar's box beside him; I thought I knew the box. I called out as we were passing, and asked the man, "What's the mile-stone?" He looked up. It was poor Jacob. The beams of the morning sun dazzled him; but he recognized me immediately, as I saw by the look of joy which instantly spread over his countenance. I jumped out of the carriage, saying that I would walk up the hill, and Jacob, putting his book in his pocket, took up his well-known box, and walked along with me. I began, not by asking any question about his father, though curiosity was not quite dead within me, but by observing that he was grown very studious since we parted; and I asked what book he had been reading so intently. He showed it to me; but I could make nothing of it, for it was German. He told me that it was the Life of the celebrated Mendelssohn, the Jew. I had never heard of this celebrated man. He said that if I had any curiosity about it, he could lend me a translation which he had in his pack; and with all the alacrity of good-will, he set down the box to look for the book.
"No, don't trouble yourself—don't open it," said I, putting my hand on the box. Instantly a smile, and a sigh, and a look of ineffable kindness and gratitude from Jacob, showed me that all the past rushed upon his heart.
"Not trouble myself! Oh, Master Harrington," said he, "poor Jacob is not so ungrateful as that would come to."
"You're only too grateful," said I; "but walk on—keep up with me, and tell me how your affairs are going on in the world, for I am much more interested about them than about the life of the celebrated Mendelssohn."
Is that possible! said his looks of genuine surprised simplicity. He thanked me, and told me that he was much better in the world than formerly; that a good friend of his, a London jeweller of his own tribe, who had employed him as a pedlar, and had been satisfied with his conduct, had assisted him through his difficulties. This was the last time he should go his rounds in England as a pedlar; he said he was going into another and a much better way of business. His friend, the London jeweller, had recommended him to his brother, a rich Israelite, who had a valuable store in Gibraltar, and who wanted a young man to assist him, on whom he could entirely depend. Jacob was going out to Gibraltar in the course of the next week. "And now, Mr. Harrington," said he, changing his tone and speaking with effort, as if he were conquering some inward feeling, "now it is all over, Mr. Harrington, and that I am leaving England, and perhaps may never see you again; I wish before I take leave of you, to tell you, sir, who my father was—was, for he is no more. I did not make a mystery of his name merely to excite curiosity, as some of the young gentlemen thought, nor because I was ashamed of my low birth. My father was Simon the old clothes-man. I knew you would start, Mr. Harrington, at hearing his name. I knew all that you suffered in your childhood about him, and I once heard you say to Lord Mowbray who was taunting you with something about old Simon, that you would not have that known, upon any account, to your school-fellows, for that they would plague you for ever. From that moment I was determined that I would never be the cause of recalling or publishing what would be so disagreeable to you. This was the reason why I persisted in refusing to tell my father's name, when Lord Mowbray pressed me so to declare it before all your school-fellows. And now, I hope," concluded he, "that Mr. Harrington will not hate poor Jacob, though he is the son of—"
He paused. I assured him of my regard: I assured him that I had long since got rid of all the foolish prejudices of my childhood. I thanked him for the kindness and generosity he had shown in bearing Mowbray's persecution for my sake, and in giving up his own situation, rather than say or do what might have exposed me to ridicule.
Thanking me again for taking, as he said, such a kind interest in the concerns of a poor Jew like him, he added, with tears in his eyes, that he wished he might some time see me again: that he should to the last day of his life remember me, and should pray for my health and happiness, and that he was sorry he had no way of showing me his gratitude. Again he recurred to his box, and would open it to show me the translation of Mendelssohn's Life; or, if that did not interest me, he begged of me to take my choice from among a few books he had with him; perhaps one of them might amuse me on my journey, for he knew I was a reading young gentleman.
I could not refuse him. As he opened the packet of books, I saw one directed to Mr. Israel Lyons, Cambridge. I told Jacob that I was going to Cambridge. He said he should be there in a few days, for that he took Cambridge in his road; and he rejoiced that he should see me again. I gave him a direction to my college, and for his gratification, in truth, more than for my own, I borrowed the magazine containing the life of Mendelssohn, which he was so anxious to lend me. We had now reached the coach at the top of the hill; I got in, and saw Jacob trudging after me for some time; but, at the first turn of the road, I lost sight of him, and then, as my two companions in the coach were not very entertaining, one of them, a great fat man, being fast asleep and snoring, the other, a pale spare woman, being very sick and very cross, I betook myself to my magazine. I soon perceived why the life of Mendelssohn had so deeply interested poor Jacob. Mendelssohn was a Jew, born like himself in abject poverty, but, by perseverance, he made his way through incredible difficulties to the highest literary reputation among the most eminent men of his country and of his age; and obtained the name of the Jewish Socrates. In consequence of his early, intense, and misapplied application in his first Jewish school, he was seized at ten years old with some dreadful nervous disease; this interested me, and I went on with his history. Of his life I should probably have remembered nothing, except what related to the nervous disorder; but it so happened, that, soon after I had read this life, I had occasion to speak of it, and it was of considerable advantage in introducing me to good company at Cambridge. A few days after I arrived there, Jacob called on me: I returned his book, assuring him that it had interested me very much. "Then, sir," said he, "since you are so fond of learning and learned men, and so kind to the Jews, there is a countryman of mine now at Cambridge, whom it will be well worth your while to be acquainted with; and who, if I may be bold enough to say so, has been prepossessed in your favour, by hearing of your humanity to poor Jacob."
Touched as I was by his eagerness to be of use to me, I could not help smiling at Jacob's simplicity and enthusiasm, when he proceeded to explain, that this person with whom he was so anxious to make me acquainted was a learned rabbi, who at this time taught Hebrew to several of the gownsmen of Cambridge. He was the son of a Polish Jew, who had written a Hebrew grammar, and was himself author of a treatise on fluxions (since presented to, and accepted by the university), and moreover the author of a celebrated work on botany. At the moment Jacob was speaking, certainly my fancy was bent on a phaeton and horses, rather than on Hebrew or fluxions, and the contrast was striking, between what he conceived my first objects at Cambridge would be, and what they really were. However, I thanked him for his good opinion, and promised to make myself acquainted with his learned countryman. To make the matter secure, as Jacob was to leave Cambridge the next day, and as the rabbi was at the house of one of his scholars in the country, and was not to return to Cambridge till the ensuing week, Jacob left with me a letter for him, and the very parcel which I had seen directed to Mr. Israel Lyons: these I engaged to deliver with my own hands. Jacob departed satisfied—happy in the hope that he had done me a service; and so in fact it proved. Every father, and every son, who has been at the university, knows how much depends upon the college companions with whom a young man first associates. There are usually two sets: if he should join the dissipated set, it is all over with him, he learns nothing; but if he should get into the set with whom science and literature are in fashion, he acquires knowledge, and a taste for knowledge; with all the ardour inspired by sympathy and emulation, with all the facility afforded by public libraries and public lectures—the collected and combined information of the living and the dead—he pursues his studies. He then fully enjoys the peculiar benefits of a university education, the union of many minds intent upon the same object, working, with all the advantages of the scientific division of labour, in a literary manufactory.
When I went to deliver my packet to Mr. Lyons, I was surprised by seeing in him a man as different as possible from my preconceived notion of a Jewish rabbi; I never should have guessed him to be either a rabbi, or a Jew. I expected to have seen a man nearly as old as Methuselah, with a reverend beard, dirty and shabby, and with a blue pocket handkerchief. Instead of which I saw a gay looking man, of middle age, with quick sparkling black eyes, and altogether a person of modern appearance, both in dress and address. I thought I must have made a mistake, and presented my packet with some hesitation, reading aloud the direction to Mr. Israel Lyons—"I am the man, sir," said he; "our honest friend Jacob has described you so well, Mr. Harrington—Mr. William Harrington Harrington (you perceive that I am well informed)—that I feel as if I had had the pleasure of being acquainted with you for some time. I am very much obliged by this visit; I should have done myself the honour to wait upon you, but I returned only yesterday from the country, and my necessary engagements do not leave as much time for my pleasures as I could wish."
I perceived by the tone of his address, that, though he was a Hebrew teacher, he was proud of showing himself to be a man of the world. I found him in the midst of his Hebrew scholars, and moreover with some of the best mathematicians, and some of the first literary men in Cambridge. I was awe-struck, and should have been utterly at a loss, had it not been for a print of Mendelssohn over the chimney-piece, which recalled to my mind the life of this great man; by the help of that I had happily some ideas in common with the learned Jew, and we; entered immediately into conversation, much to our mutual relief and delight. Dr. Johnson, in one of his letters, speaking of a first visit from a young gentleman who had been recommended to his acquaintance, says, that "the initiatory conversation of two strangers is seldom pleasing or instructive;" but I am sure that I was both pleased and instructed during this initiatory conversation, and Mr. Lyons did not appear to be oppressed or encumbered by my visit. I found by his conversation, that though he was the son of a great Hebrew grammarian, and himself a great Hebrew scholar, and though he had written a treatise on fluxions, and a work on botany, yet he was not a mere mathematician, a mere grammarian, or a mere botanist, nor yet a dull pedant. In despite of the assertion, that
"——Hebrew roots are always found To flourish best on barren ground,"
this Hebrew scholar was a man of a remarkably fertile genius. This visit determined my course, and decided me as to the society which I kept during the three happy and profitable years I afterwards spent at Cambridge.
Mr. Israel Lyons is now no more. I hope it is no disrespect to his memory to say that he had his foibles. It was no secret among our contemporaries at Cambridge that he was like too many other men of genius, a little deficient in economy—shall I say it? a little extravagant. The difficulties into which he brought himself by his improvidence were, however, always to him matters of jest and raillery; and often, indeed, proved subjects of triumph, for he was sure to extricate himself, by some of his many talents, or by some of his many friends.
I should be very sorry, however, to support the dangerous doctrine, that men of genius are privileged to have certain faults. I record with quite a different intention these facts, to mark the effect of circumstances in changing my own prepossessions.
The faults of Israel Lyons were not of that species which I expected to find in a Jew. Perhaps he was aware that the Hebrew nation is in general supposed to be too careful, and he might, therefore, be a little vain of his own carelessness about money matters. Be this as it may, I confess that, at the time, I rather liked him the better for it. His disregard, on all occasions, of pecuniary interest, gave me a conviction of his liberal spirit. I was never fond of money, or remarkably careful of it myself; but I always kept out of debt; and my father gave me such a liberal allowance, that I had it in my power to assist a friend. Mr. Lyons' lively disposition and manners took off all that awe which I might have felt for his learning and genius. I may truly say, that these three years, which I spent at Cambridge, fixed my character, and the whole tone and colour of my future life. I do not pretend to say that I had not, during my time at the university, and afterwards in London, my follies and imprudences; but my soul did not, like many other souls of my acquaintance, "embody and embrute." When the time for my quitting Cambridge arrived, I went to take leave of my learned friend Mr. Israel Lyons, and to offer him my grateful acknowledgments. In the course of the conversation I mentioned the childish terror and aversion with which I had been early taught to look upon a Jew. I rejoiced that, even while a schoolboy, I had conquered this foolish prejudice; and that at the university, during those years which often decide our subsequent opinions in life, it had been my good fortune to become acquainted with one, whose superior abilities and kindness of disposition, had formed in my mind associations of quite an opposite nature. Pleased with this just tribute to his merit, and with the disposition I showed to think candidly of persons of his persuasion, Mr. Lyons wished to confirm me in these sentiments, and for this purpose gave me a letter of introduction to a friend, with whom he was in constant correspondence, Mr. Montenero, a Jewish gentleman born in Spain, who had early in life quitted that country, in consequence of his horror of tyranny and persecution. He had been fortunate enough to carry his wealth, which was very considerable, safely out of Spain, and had settled in America, where he had enjoyed perfect toleration and freedom of religious opinion; and as, according to Mr. Lyons' description of him, this Spanish Jew must, I thought, be a most accomplished and amiable person, I eagerly accepted the offered letter of introduction, and resolved that it should be my first business and pleasure, on arriving in London, to find and make myself acquainted with Mr. Montenero.
People like myself, of lively imagination, may have often felt that change of place suddenly extinguishes, or gives a new direction to, the ardour of their enthusiasm. Such persons may, therefore, naturally suspect, that, as "my steps retired from Cam's smooth margin," my enthusiasm for my learned rabbi might gradually fade away; and that, on my arrival in London, I should forget my desire to become acquainted with the accomplished Spanish Jew. But it must be observed that, with my mother's warmth of imagination, I also had, I will not say, I inherited, some of my father's "intensity of will,"—some of that firmness of adhesion to a preconceived notion or purpose, which in a good cause is called resolution, in a bad cause obstinacy; and which is either a curse or a blessing to the possessor, according to the degree or habit of exercising the reasoning faculty with which he may be endowed.
On my arrival in London, a variety of petty unforeseen obstacles occurred to prevent my accomplishing my visit to the Spanish Jew. New and never-ending demands upon my time arose, both in and out of my own family, so that there seemed a necessity for my spending every hour of the day and night in a manner wholly independent of my will. There seemed to be some fatality that set at nought all my previous plans and calculations. Every morning for a week after my arrival, I regularly put my letter of introduction to Mr. Montenero into my pocket, resolving that I would that day find him out, and pay my visit; but after walking all the morning, to bear and to forbear various engagements, to execute promised commissions, and to fulfil innumerable duties, I regularly came home as I went out, with my letter in my pocket, and with the sad conviction that it was utterly impossible to deliver it that day. These obstacles, and this contrariety of external circumstances, instead of bending my will, or making me give up my intention, fixed it more firmly in my mind, and strengthened my determination. Nor was I the least shaken from the settled purpose of my soul, by the perversity with which every one in our house opposed or contemned that purpose. One morning, when I had my letter and my hat in my hand, I met my father, who after looking at the direction of the letter, and hearing that I was going on a visit to a Spanish Jew, asked what business upon earth I could have with a Jew—cursed the whole race— rejoiced that he had five-and-twenty years ago voted against their naturalization in England, and ended as he began, by wondering what in the name of Heaven could make me scrape acquaintance with such fellows. When, in reply, I mentioned my friend, Mr. Israel Lyons, and the high character he had drawn of Mr. Montenero, my father laughed, saying that he would answer for it my friend Israel was not an Israelite without guile; for that was a description of Israelite he had never yet seen, and he had seen a confounded deal of the world. He decided that my accomplished Spanish Jew would prove an adventurer, and he advised me, a young man, heir to a good English fortune, to keep out of his foreign clutches: in short, he stuck to the advice he gave me, and only wished I would stick to the promise I gave him, when I was ten years old, to have no dealings with the Jews. It was in vain that I endeavoured to give my explanation of the word dealings. My father's temper, naturally positive, had, I observed, become, as he advanced in years, much more dogmatic and intolerant. I avoided contradicting his assertions; but I determined to pursue my own course in a matter where there could be nothing really wrong or improper. That morning, however, I must, I perceived, as in duty bound, sacrifice to my father; he took me under the arm, and carried me away to introduce me to some commonplace member of parliament, who, as he assured me, was a much fitter and more profitable acquaintance for me than any member of the synagogue could possibly be.
The next morning, when, firm to my purpose, I was sallying forth, my mother, with a face of tender expostulation and alarm, stopped me, and entreated me to listen to her. My mother, whose health had always been delicate, had within these three last years fallen into what is called a very nervous state, and this, with her natural timidity and sensibility, inclined her now to a variety of superstitious feelings—to a belief in presentiments and presages, omens and dreams, added to her original belief in sympathies and antipathies. Some of these her peculiarities of opinion and feeling had perhaps, at first, only been assumed, or yielded to in her season of youth and beauty, to interest her admirers and to distinguish herself in society; but as age advanced, they had been confirmed by habit and weakness, so that what in the beginning might have been affectation, was in the end reality. She was alarmed, she said, by the series of strange coincidences which, from my earliest childhood, had occurred, seeming to connect my fate, in some extraordinary manner, with these Jews. She recalled all the circumstances of my illness when I was a child: she confessed that she had retained a sort of antipathy to the idea of a Jew—a weakness it might be—but she had had dreams and presentiments, and my fortune had been told her while I was at Cambridge; and some evil, she had been assured, hung over me within the five ensuing years—some evil connected with a Jew: in short, she did not absolutely believe in such prophecies, but still it was extraordinary that the first thing my mind should be intent upon, in coming to town, should be a Spanish Jew, and she earnestly wished that I would avoid rather than seek the connexion.
Knowing my mother's turn for the romantic, I had anticipated her delight at the idea of making acquaintance with a noble-minded travelled Spaniard; but unluckily her imagination had galloped off in a contrary direction to mine, and now my only chance was to make her hear reason, and a very bad chance I knew this to be. I endeavoured to combat her presentiment, and to explain whatever appeared extraordinary in my love and hatred of the Jews, by recalling the slight and natural circumstances at school and the university, which had changed my early prejudice; and I laboured to show that no natural antipathy could have existed, since it had been completely conquered by humanity and reason; so that now I had formed what might rather appear a natural sympathy with the race of Israel. I laboured these points in vain. When I urged the literary advantages I had reaped from my friendship with Mr. Israel Lyons, she besought me not to talk of friendship with persons of that sort. I had now awakened another train of associations, all unfavourable to my views. My mother wondered—for both she and my father were great wonderers, as are all, whether high or low, who have lived only with one set of people—my mother wondered that, instead of seeking acquaintance in the city with old Jews and persons of whom nobody had ever heard, I could not find companions of my own age and rank in life: for instance, my schoolfellow and friend, Lord Mowbray, who was now in town, just returned from abroad, a fine young officer, "much admired here by the ladies, I can assure you, Harrington," added my mother. This, as I had opportunity of seeing, was perfectly true; four, nearly five years had made a great apparent change in Mowbray for the better; his manners were formed; his air that of a man of fashion—a military man of fashion. He had served a campaign abroad, had been at the siege of Gibraltar, had much to say, and could say it well. We all know what astonishing metamorphoses are sometimes wrought even on the most hopeless subjects, by seeing something of the world, by serving a campaign or two. How many a light, empty shell of a young man comes home full, if not of sense, at least of something bearing the semblance of sense! How many a heavy lout, a dull son of earth, returns enlivened into a conversable being, who can tell at least of what it has seen, heard, and felt, if not understood; and who for years, perhaps for ever afterwards, by the help of telling of other countries, may pass in his own for a man of solid judgment! Such being the advantages to be derived by these means, even in the most desperate cases, we may imagine the great improvement produced in a young man of Lord Mowbray's abilities, and with his ambition both to please and to shine. In youth, and by youth, improvement in appearance and manner is easily mistaken for improvement in mind and principle. All that I had disliked in the schoolboy—the tyrannical disposition—the cruel temper—the insolent tone—had disappeared, and in their place I saw the deportment which distinguished a gentleman. Whatever remained of party spirit, so different from the wrangling, overbearing, mischievous party spirit of the boy, was in the man and the officer so happily blended with love of the service, and with l'esprit de corps, that it seemed to add a fresh grace, animation, and frankness to his manner. The evil spirit of persecution was dislodged from his soul, or laid asleep within him, and in its place appeared the conciliating spirit of politeness. He showed a desire to cultivate my friendship, which still more prepossessed me in his favour.
Mowbray happened to call upon me soon after the conversation I had with my mother about the Spanish Jew. I had not been dissuaded from my purpose by her representations; but I had determined to pay my visit without saying any thing more about the matter, and to form my own judgment of the man. A new difficulty, however, occurred: my letter of introduction had disappeared. I searched my pockets, my portfolios, my letter-case, every conceivable place, but it was not to be found. Mowbray obligingly assisted me in this search; but after emptying half a dozen times over portfolios, pockets, and desks, I was ashamed to give him more trouble, and I gave up the letter as lost. When Mowbray heard that this letter, about which I was so anxious, was an introduction to a Jewish gentleman, he could not forbear rallying me a little, but in a very agreeable tone, upon the constancy of my Israelitish taste, and the perfect continuance of my identity.
"I left you, Harrington, and I find you, after four years' absence, intent upon a Jew; boy and man you are one and the same; and in your case, 'tis well that the boy and man should an individual make; but for my part, I am glad to change my identity, like all other mortals, once in seven years; and I hope you think I have changed for the better."
It was impossible to think otherwise, especially at that moment. In a frank, open-hearted manner, he talked of his former tyrannical nature, and blamed himself for our schoolboy quarrel. I was charmed with him, and the more so, when he entered so warmly or so politely into my present distress, and sympathized with my madness of the moment. He suggested all that was possible to be done to supply the loss of the letter. Could not I get another in its stead? The same friend who gave me one letter of introduction could write another. No; Mr. Israel Lyons had left Cambridge, and I knew not where to direct to him. Could not I present myself to Mr. Montenero without a letter? That might be rather an awkward proceeding, but I was not to be stopped by any nice observances, now that I had set my mind upon the matter. Unluckily, however, I could by no means recollect the exact address of Mr. Montenero. I was puzzled among half a dozen different streets and numbers: Mowbray offered to walk with me, and we went to each of these streets, and to all the variety of numbers I suggested, but in vain; no Mr. Montenero was to be found. At last, tired and disappointed, as I was returning home, Mowbray said he thought he could console me for the loss of my chance of seeing my Spanish Jew, by introducing me to the most celebrated Jew that ever appeared in England. Then turning into a street near one of the play-houses, he knocked at the door of a house where Macklin the actor lodged. Lord Mowbray was well acquainted with him, and I was delighted to have an opportunity of seeing this celebrated man. He was at this time past the meridian of ordinary life, but he was in the zenith of his extraordinary course, and in the full splendour and vigour of his powers.
"Here," said Mowbray, presenting me to Macklin, "is a young gentleman, who is ambitious of being acquainted with the most celebrated Jew that ever appeared in England. Allow me to introduce him to the real, original Jew of Venice: