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Peacock, Thomas Love / Nightmare Abbey
Scythrop had
quarrelled, as usual, with Marionetta, and was enclosed in his tower,
in a fit of morbid sensibility. Marionetta was comforting herself at
the piano, with singing the airs of _Nina pazza per amore_; and the
Honourable Mr Listless was listening to the harmony, as he lay
supine on the sofa, with a book in his hand, into which he peeped at
intervals. The Reverend Mr Larynx approached the sofa, and proposed a
game at billiards.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

Billiards! Really I should be very happy; but, in my present exhausted
state, the exertion is too much for me. I do not know when I have been
equal to such an effort. (_He rang the bell for his valet. Fatout
entered_.) Fatout! when did I play at billiards last?


FATOUT

De fourteen December de last year, Monsieur. (_Fatout bowed and
retired_.)


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

So it was. Seven months ago. You see, Mr Larynx; you see, sir. My
nerves, Miss O'Carroll, my nerves are shattered. I have been advised
to try Bath. Some of the faculty recommend Cheltenham. I think of
trying both, as the seasons don't clash. The season, you know, Mr
Larynx--the season, Miss O'Carroll--the season is every thing.


MARIONETTA

And health is something. _N'est-ce pas_, Mr Larynx?


THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

Most assuredly, Miss O'Carroll. For, however reasoners may dispute
about the _summum bonum_, none of them will deny that a very good
dinner is a very good thing: and what is a good dinner without a good
appetite? and whence is a good appetite but from good health? Now,
Cheltenham, Mr Listless, is famous for good appetites.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

The best piece of logic I ever heard, Mr Larynx; the very best,
I assure you. I have thought very seriously of Cheltenham: very
seriously and profoundly. I thought of it--let me see--when did I
think of it? (_He rang again, and Fatout reappeared._) Fatout! when
did I think of going to Cheltenham, and did not go?


FATOUT

De Juillet twenty-von, de last summer, Monsieur. (_Fatout retired._)


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

So it was. An invaluable fellow that, Mr Larynx--invaluable, Miss
O'Carroll.


MARIONETTA

So I should judge, indeed. He seems to serve you as a walking memory,
and to be a living chronicle, not of your actions only, but of your
thoughts.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

An excellent definition of the fellow, Miss O'Carroll,--excellent,
upon my honour. Ha! ha! he! Heigho! Laughter is pleasant, but the
exertion is too much for me.


A parcel was brought in for Mr Listless; it had been sent express.
Fatout was summoned to unpack it; and it proved to contain a new
novel, and a new poem, both of which had long been anxiously expected
by the whole host of fashionable readers; and the last number of a
popular Review, of which the editor and his coadjutors were in high
favour at court, and enjoyed ample pensions[5] for their services to
church and state. As Fatout left the room, Mr Flosky entered, and
curiously inspected the literary arrivals.


MR FLOSKY

(_Turning over the leaves._) 'Devilman, a novel.' Hm. Hatred--revenge--
misanthropy--and quotations from the Bible. Hm. This is the morbid
anatomy of black bile.--'Paul Jones, a poem.' Hm. I see how it is.
Paul Jones, an amiable enthusiast--disappointed in his affections--
turns pirate from ennui and magnanimity--cuts various masculine
throats, wins various feminine hearts--is hanged at the yard-arm! The
catastrophe is very awkward, and very unpoetical.--'The Downing Street
Review.' Hm. First article--An Ode to the Red Book, by Roderick
Sackbut, Esquire. Hm. His own poem reviewed by himself. Hm--m--m.


(_Mr Flosky proceeded in silence to look over the other articles
of the review; Marionetta inspected the novel, and Mr Listless the
poem._)


THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

For a young man of fashion and family, Mr Listless, you seem to be of
a very studious turn.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

Studious! You are pleased to be facetious, Mr Larynx. I hope you do
not suspect me of being studious. I have finished my education. But
there are some fashionable books that one must read, because they are
ingredients of the talk of the day; otherwise, I am no fonder of books
than I dare say you yourself are, Mr Larynx.


THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

Why, sir, I cannot say that I am indeed particularly fond of books;
yet neither can I say that I never do read. A tale or a poem, now and
then, to a circle of ladies over their work, is no very heterodox
employment of the vocal energy. And I must say, for myself, that
few men have a more Job-like endurance of the eternally recurring
questions and answers that interweave themselves, on these occasions,
with the crisis of an adventure, and heighten the distress of a
tragedy.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

And very often make the distress when the author has omitted it.


MARIONETTA

I shall try your patience some rainy morning, Mr Larynx; and Mr
Listless shall recommend us the very newest new book, that every body
reads.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

You shall receive it, Miss O'Carroll, with all the gloss of novelty;
fresh as a ripe green-gage in all the downiness of its bloom. A
mail-coach copy from Edinburgh, forwarded express from London.


MR FLOSKY

This rage for novelty is the bane of literature. Except my works and
those of my particular friends, nothing is good that is not as old as
Jeremy Taylor: and, _entre nous_, the best parts of my friends' books
were either written or suggested by myself.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

Sir, I reverence you. But I must say, modern books are very
consolatory and congenial to my feelings. There is, as it were, a
delightful north-east wind, an intellectual blight breathing through
them; a delicious misanthropy and discontent, that demonstrates the
nullity of virtue and energy, and puts me in good humour with myself
and my sofa.


MR FLOSKY

Very true, sir. Modern literature is a north-east wind--a blight of
the human soul. I take credit to myself for having helped to make it
so. The way to produce fine fruit is to blight the flower. You call
this a paradox. Marry, so be it. Ponder thereon.


The conversation was interrupted by the re-appearance of Mr Toobad,
covered with mud. He just showed himself at the door, muttered 'The
devil is come among you!' and vanished. The road which connected
Nightmare Abbey with the civilised world, was artificially raised
above the level of the fens, and ran through them in a straight line
as far as the eye could reach, with a ditch on each side, of which the
water was rendered invisible by the aquatic vegetation that covered
the surface. Into one of these ditches the sudden action of a
shy horse, which took fright at a windmill, had precipitated the
travelling chariot of Mr Toobad, who had been reduced to the necessity
of scrambling in dismal plight through the window. One of the wheels
was found to be broken; and Mr Toobad, leaving the postilion to
get the chariot as well as he could to Claydyke for the purpose of
cleaning and repairing, had walked back to Nightmare Abbey, followed
by his servant with the imperial, and repeating all the way his
favourite quotation from the Revelations.

* * * * *




CHAPTER VI


Mr Toobad had found his daughter Celinda in London, and after the
first joy of meeting was over, told her he had a husband ready for
her. The young lady replied, very gravely, that she should take the
liberty to choose for herself. Mr Toobad said he saw the devil was
determined to interfere with all his projects, but he was resolved
on his own part, not to have on his conscience the crime of passive
obedience and non-resistance to Lucifer, and therefore she should
marry the person he had chosen for her. Miss Toobad replied, _très
posément_, she assuredly would not. 'Celinda, Celinda,' said Mr
Toobad, 'you most assuredly shall.'--'Have I not a fortune in my own
right, sir?' said Celinda. 'The more is the pity,' said Mr Toobad:
'but I can find means, miss; I can find means. There are more ways
than one of breaking in obstinate girls.' They parted for the night
with the expression of opposite resolutions, and in the morning the
young lady's chamber was found empty, and what was become of her Mr
Toobad had no clue to conjecture. He continued to investigate town and
country in search of her; visiting and revisiting Nightmare Abbey at
intervals, to consult with his friend, Mr Glowry. Mr Glowry agreed
with Mr Toobad that this was a very flagrant instance of filial
disobedience and rebellion; and Mr Toobad declared, that when he
discovered the fugitive, she should find that 'the devil was come unto
her, having great wrath.'

In the evening, the whole party met, as usual, in the library.
Marionetta sat at the harp; the Honourable Mr Listless sat by her and
turned over her music, though the exertion was almost too much
for him. The Reverend Mr Larynx relieved him occasionally in this
delightful labour. Scythrop, tormented by the demon Jealousy, sat in
the corner biting his lips and fingers. Marionetta looked at him every
now and then with a smile of most provoking good humour, which he
pretended not to see, and which only the more exasperated his troubled
spirit. He took down a volume of Dante, and pretended to be deeply
interested in the Purgatorio, though he knew not a word he was
reading, as Marionetta was well aware; who, tripping across the room,
peeped into his book, and said to him, 'I see you are in the middle of
Purgatory.'--'I am in the middle of hell,' said Scythrop furiously.
'Are you?' said she; 'then come across the room, and I will sing you
the finale of Don Giovanni.'

'Let me alone,' said Scythrop. Marionetta looked at him with a
deprecating smile, and said, 'You unjust, cross creature, you.'--'Let
me alone,' said Scythrop, but much less emphatically than at first,
and by no means wishing to be taken at his word. Marionetta left him
immediately, and returning to the harp, said, just loud enough for
Scythrop to hear--'Did you ever read Dante, Mr Listless? Scythrop
is reading Dante, and is just now in Purgatory.'--'And I' said the
Honourable Mr Listless, 'am not reading Dante, and am just now in
Paradise,' bowing to Marionetta.


MARIONETTA

You are very gallant, Mr Listless; and I dare say you are very fond of
reading Dante.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

I don't know how it is, but Dante never came in my way till lately. I
never had him in my collection, and if I had had him I should not have
read him. But I find he is growing fashionable, and I am afraid I must
read him some wet morning.


MARIONETTA

No, read him some evening, by all means. Were you ever in love, Mr
Listless?


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

I assure you, Miss O'Carroll, never--till I came to Nightmare Abbey.
I dare say it is very pleasant; but it seems to give so much trouble
that I fear the exertion would be too much for me.


MARIONETTA

Shall I teach you a compendious method of courtship, that will give
you no trouble whatever?


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

You will confer on me an inexpressible obligation. I am all impatience
to learn it.


MARIONETTA

Sit with your back to the lady and read Dante; only be sure to begin
in the middle, and turn over three or four pages at once--backwards
as well as forwards, and she will immediately perceive that you are
desperately in love with her--desperately.


_(The Honourable Mr Listless sitting between Scythrop and Marionetta,
and fixing all his attention on the beautiful speaker, did not observe
Scythrop, who was doing as she described.)_


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

You are pleased to be facetious, Miss O'Carroll. The lady would
infallibly conclude that I was the greatest brute in town.


MARIONETTA

Far from it. She would say, perhaps, some people have odd methods of
showing their affection.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

But I should think, with submission--


MR FLOSKY (_joining them from another part of the room_)

Did I not hear Mr Listless observe that Dante is becoming fashionable?


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

I did hazard a remark to that effect, Mr Flosky, though I speak on
such subjects with a consciousness of my own nothingness, in the
presence of so great a man as Mr Flosky. I know not what is the colour
of Dante's devils, but as he is certainly becoming fashionable I
conclude they are blue; for the blue devils, as it seems to me, Mr
Flosky, constitute the fundamental feature of fashionable literature.


MR FLOSKY

The blue are, indeed, the staple commodity; but as they will not
always be commanded, the black, red, and grey may be admitted as
substitutes. Tea, late dinners, and the French Revolution, have played
the devil, Mr Listless, and brought the devil into play.


MR TOOBAD (_starting up_)

Having great wrath.


MR FLOSKY

This is no play upon words, but the sober sadness of veritable fact.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

Tea, late dinners, and the French Revolution. I cannot exactly see the
connection of ideas.


MR FLOSKY

I should be sorry if you could; I pity the man who can see the
connection of his own ideas. Still more do I pity him, the connection
of whose ideas any other person can see. Sir, the great evil is,
that there is too much common-place light in our moral and political
literature; and light is a great enemy to mystery, and mystery is a
great friend to enthusiasm. Now the enthusiasm for abstract truth is
an exceedingly fine thing, as long as the truth, which is the object
of the enthusiasm, is so completely abstract as to be altogether out
of the reach of the human faculties; and, in that sense, I have
myself an enthusiasm for truth, but in no other, for the pleasure of
metaphysical investigation lies in the means, not in the end; and if
the end could be found, the pleasure of the means would cease. The
mind, to be kept in health, must be kept in exercise. The proper
exercise of the mind is elaborate reasoning. Analytical reasoning is a
base and mechanical process, which takes to pieces and examines, bit
by bit, the rude material of knowledge, and extracts therefrom a few
hard and obstinate things called facts, every thing in the shape of
which I cordially hate. But synthetical reasoning, setting up as its
goal some unattainable abstraction, like an imaginary quantity in
algebra, and commencing its course with taking for granted some two
assertions which cannot be proved, from the union of these two assumed
truths produces a third assumption, and so on in infinite series, to
the unspeakable benefit of the human intellect. The beauty of this
process is, that at every step it strikes out into two branches, in
a compound ratio of ramification; so that you are perfectly sure of
losing your way, and keeping your mind in perfect health, by the
perpetual exercise of an interminable quest; and for these reasons I
have christened my eldest son Emanuel Kant Flosky.


THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

Nothing can be more luminous.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

And what has all that to do with Dante, and the blue devils?


MR HILARY

Not much, I should think, with Dante, but a great deal with the blue
devils.


MR FLOSKY

It is very certain, and much to be rejoiced at, that our literature is
hag-ridden. Tea has shattered our nerves; late dinners make us slaves
of indigestion; the French Revolution has made us shrink from the name
of philosophy, and has destroyed, in the more refined part of the
community (of which number I am one), all enthusiasm for political
liberty. That part of the _reading public_ which shuns the solid
food of reason for the light diet of fiction, requires a perpetual
adhibition of _sauce piquante_ to the palate of its depraved
imagination. It lived upon ghosts, goblins, and skeletons (I and my
friend Mr Sackbut served up a few of the best), till even the devil
himself, though magnified to the size of Mount Athos, became too base,
common, and popular, for its surfeited appetite. The ghosts have
therefore been laid, and the devil has been cast into outer darkness,
and now the delight of our spirits is to dwell on all the vices and
blackest passions of our nature, tricked out in a masquerade dress of
heroism and disappointed benevolence; the whole secret of which lies
in forming combinations that contradict all our experience, and
affixing the purple shred of some particular virtue to that precise
character, in which we should be most certain not to find it in the
living world; and making this single virtue not only redeem all the
real and manifest vices of the character, but make them actually
pass for necessary adjuncts, and indispensable accompaniments and
characteristics of the said virtue.


MR TOOBAD

That is, because the devil is come among us, and finds it for his
interest to destroy all our perceptions of the distinctions of right
and wrong.


MARIONETTA

I do not precisely enter into your meaning, Mr Flosky, and should be
glad if you would make it a little more plain to me.


MR FLOSKY

One or two examples will do it, Miss O'Carroll. If I were to take all
the mean and sordid qualities of a money-dealing Jew, and tack on to
them, as with a nail, the quality of extreme benevolence, I should
have a very decent hero for a modern novel; and should contribute my
quota to the fashionable method of administering a mass of vice, under
a thin and unnatural covering of virtue, like a spider wrapt in a
bit of gold leaf, and administered as a wholesome pill. On the same
principle, if a man knocks me down, and takes my purse and watch by
main force, I turn him to account, and set him forth in a tragedy as
a dashing young fellow, disinherited for his romantic generosity, and
full of a most amiable hatred of the world in general, and his own
country in particular, and of a most enlightened and chivalrous
affection for himself: then, with the addition of a wild girl to fall
in love with him, and a series of adventures in which they break all
the Ten Commandments in succession (always, you will observe, for some
sublime motive, which must be carefully analysed in its progress), I
have as amiable a pair of tragic characters as ever issued from that
new region of the belles lettres, which I have called the Morbid
Anatomy of Black Bile, and which is greatly to be admired and rejoiced
at, as affording a fine scope for the exhibition of mental power.


MR HILARY

Which is about as well employed as the power of a hothouse would be in
forcing up a nettle to the size of an elm. If we go on in this way, we
shall have a new art of poetry, of which one of the first rules will
be: To remember to forget that there are any such things as sunshine
and music in the world.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

It seems to be the case with us at present, or we should not have
interrupted Miss O'Carroll's music with this exceedingly dry
conversation.


MR FLOSKY

I should be most happy if Miss O'Carroll would remind us that there
are yet both music and sunshine--


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

In the voice and the smile of beauty. May I entreat the favour
of--(_turning over the pages of music._)


All were silent, and Marionetta sung:

Why are thy looks so blank, grey friar?
Why are thy looks so blue?
Thou seem'st more pale and lank, grey friar,
Than thou wast used to do:--
Say, what has made thee rue?

Thy form was plump, and a light did shine
In thy round and ruby face,
Which showed an outward visible sign
Of an inward spiritual grace:--
Say, what has changed thy case?

Yet will I tell thee true, grey friar,
I very well can see,
That, if thy looks are blue, grey friar,
'Tis all for love of me,--
'Tis all for love of me.

But breathe not thy vows to me, grey friar,
Oh, breathe them not, I pray;
For ill beseems in a reverend friar,
The love of a mortal may;
And I needs must say thee nay.

But, could'st thou think my heart to move
With that pale and silent scowl?
Know, he who would win a maiden's love,
Whether clad in cap or cowl,
Must be more of a lark than an owl.


Scythrop immediately replaced Dante on the shelf, and joined the
circle round the beautiful singer.



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