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Peacock, Thomas Love / Nightmare Abbey
Scythrop intended
to find her another asylum; but from day to day he postponed his
intention, and by degrees forgot it. The young lady reminded him of
it from day to day, till she also forgot it. Scythrop was anxious to
learn her history; but she would add nothing to what she had already
communicated, that she was shunning an atrocious persecution. Scythrop
thought of Lord C. and the Alien Act, and said, 'As you will not
tell your name, I suppose it is in the green bag.' Stella, not
understanding what he meant, was silent; and Scythrop, translating
silence into acquiescence, concluded that he was sheltering an
_illuminée_ whom Lord S. suspected of an intention to take the
Tower, and set fire to the Bank: exploits, at least, as likely to be
accomplished by the hands and eyes of a young beauty, as by a drunken
cobbler and doctor, armed with a pamphlet and an old stocking.

Stella, in her conversations with Scythrop, displayed a highly
cultivated and energetic mind, full of impassioned schemes of liberty,
and impatience of masculine usurpation. She had a lively sense of all
the oppressions that are done under the sun; and the vivid pictures
which her imagination presented to her of the numberless scenes of
injustice and misery which are being acted at every moment in every
part of the inhabited world, gave an habitual seriousness to her
physiognomy, that made it seem as if a smile had never once hovered on
her lips. She was intimately conversant with the German language and
literature; and Scythrop listened with delight to her repetitions of
her favourite passages from Schiller and Goethe, and to her encomiums
on the sublime Spartacus Weishaupt, the immortal founder of the sect
of the Illuminati. Scythrop found that his soul had a greater capacity
of love than the image of Marionetta had filled. The form of Stella
took possession of every vacant corner of the cavity, and by degrees
displaced that of Marionetta from many of the outworks of the citadel;
though the latter still held possession of the _keep_. He judged, from
his new friend calling herself Stella, that, if it were not her real
name, she was an admirer of the principles of the German play from
which she had taken it, and took an opportunity of leading the
conversation to that subject; but to his great surprise, the lady
spoke very ardently of the singleness and exclusiveness of love, and
declared that the reign of affection was one and indivisible; that it
might be transferred, but could not be participated. 'If I ever love,'
said she, 'I shall do so without limit or restriction. I shall hold
all difficulties light, all sacrifices cheap, all obstacles gossamer.
But for love so total, I shall claim a return as absolute. I will have
no rival: whether more or less favoured will be of little moment. I
will be neither first nor second--I will be alone. The heart which I
shall possess I will possess entirely, or entirely renounce.'

Scythrop did not dare to mention the name of Marionetta; he trembled
lest some unlucky accident should reveal it to Stella, though he
scarcely knew what result to wish or anticipate, and lived in the
double fever of a perpetual dilemma. He could not dissemble to himself
that he was in love, at the same time, with two damsels of minds and
habits as remote as the antipodes. The scale of predilection always
inclined to the fair one who happened to be present; but the absent
was never effectually outweighed, though the degrees of exaltation and
depression varied according to accidental variations in the outward
and visible signs of the inward and spiritual graces of his respective
charmers. Passing and repassing several times a day from the company
of the one to that of the other, he was like a shuttlecock between two
battledores, changing its direction as rapidly as the oscillations of
a pendulum, receiving many a hard knock on the cork of a sensitive
heart, and flying from point to point on the feathers of a
super-sublimated head. This was an awful state of things. He had
now as much mystery about him as any romantic transcendentalist or
transcendental romancer could desire. He had his esoterical and his
exoterical love. He could not endure the thought of losing either of
them, but he trembled when he imagined the possibility that some fatal
discovery might deprive him of both. The old proverb concerning two
strings to a bow gave him some gleams of comfort; but that concerning
two stools occurred to him more frequently, and covered his forehead
with a cold perspiration. With Stella, he could indulge freely in all
his romantic and philosophical visions. He could build castles in the
air, and she would pile towers and turrets on the imaginary edifices.
With Marionetta it was otherwise: she knew nothing of the world and
society beyond the sphere of her own experience. Her life was all
music and sunshine, and she wondered what any one could see to
complain of in such a pleasant state of things. She loved Scythrop,
she hardly knew why; indeed she was not always sure that she loved him
at all: she felt her fondness increase or diminish in an inverse ratio
to his. When she had manoeuvred him into a fever of passionate love,
she often felt and always assumed indifference: if she found that her
coldness was contagious, and that Scythrop either was, or pretended to
be, as indifferent as herself, she would become doubly kind, and raise
him again to that elevation from which she had previously thrown him
down. Thus, when his love was flowing, hers was ebbing: when his was
ebbing, hers was flowing. Now and then there were moments of level
tide, when reciprocal affection seemed to promise imperturbable
harmony; but Scythrop could scarcely resign his spirit to the pleasing
illusion, before the pinnace of the lover's affections was caught in
some eddy of the lady's caprice, and he was whirled away from the
shore of his hopes, without rudder or compass, into an ocean of mists
and storms. It resulted, from this system of conduct, that all that
passed between Scythrop and Marionetta, consisted in making and
unmaking love. He had no opportunity to take measure of her
understanding by conversations on general subjects, and on his
favourite designs; and, being left in this respect to the exercise of
indefinite conjecture, he took it for granted, as most lovers would do
in similar circumstances, that she had great natural talents, which
she wasted at present on trifles: but coquetry would end with
marriage, and leave room for philosophy to exert its influence on her
mind. Stella had no coquetry, no disguise: she was an enthusiast in
subjects of general interest; and her conduct to Scythrop was always
uniform, or rather showed a regular progression of partiality which
seemed fast ripening into love.

* * * * *




CHAPTER XI


Scythrop, attending one day the summons to dinner, found in the
drawing-room his friend Mr Cypress the poet, whom he had known at
college, and who was a great favourite of Mr Glowry. Mr Cypress said,
he was on the point of leaving England, but could not think of doing
so without a farewell-look at Nightmare Abbey and his respected
friends, the moody Mr Glowry and the mysterious Mr Scythrop, the
sublime Mr Flosky and the pathetic Mr Listless; to all of whom, and
the morbid hospitality of the melancholy dwelling in which they were
then assembled, he assured them he should always look back with as
much affection as his lacerated spirit could feel for any thing. The
sympathetic condolence of their respective replies was cut short by
Raven's announcement of 'dinner on table.'

The conversation that took place when the wine was in circulation, and
the ladies were withdrawn, we shall report with our usual scrupulous
fidelity.


MR GLOWRY

You are leaving England, Mr Cypress. There is a delightful melancholy
in saying farewell to an old acquaintance, when the chances are twenty
to one against ever meeting again. A smiling bumper to a sad parting,
and let us all be unhappy together.


MR CYPRESS (_filling a bumper_)

This is the only social habit that the disappointed spirit never
unlearns.


THE REVEREND MR LARYNX (_filling_)

It is the only piece of academical learning that the finished educatee
retains.


MR FLOSKY (_filling_)

It is the only objective fact which the sceptic can realise.


SCYTHROP (_filling_)

It is the only styptic for a bleeding heart.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS (_filling_)

It is the only trouble that is very well worth taking.


MR ASTERIAS (_filling_)

It is the only key of conversational truth.


MR TOOBAD (_filling_)

It is the only antidote to the great wrath of the devil.


MR HILARY (_filling_)

It is the only symbol of perfect life. The inscription 'HIC NON
BIBITUR' will suit nothing but a tombstone.


MR GLOWRY

You will see many fine old ruins, Mr Cypress; crumbling pillars, and
mossy walls--many a one-legged Venus and headless Minerva--many a
Neptune buried in sand--many a Jupiter turned topsy-turvy--many a
perforated Bacchus doing duty as a water-pipe--many reminiscences of
the ancient world, which I hope was better worth living in than the
modern; though, for myself, I care not a straw more for one than the
other, and would not go twenty miles to see any thing that either
could show.


MR CYPRESS

It is something to seek, Mr Glowry. The mind is restless, and must
persist in seeking, though to find is to be disappointed. Do you feel
no aspirations towards the countries of Socrates and Cicero? No wish
to wander among the venerable remains of the greatness that has passed
for ever?


MR GLOWRY

Not a grain.


SCYTHROP

It is, indeed, much the same as if a lover should dig up the buried
form of his mistress, and gaze upon relics which are any thing but
herself, to wander among a few mouldy ruins, that are only imperfect
indexes to lost volumes of glory, and meet at every step the more
melancholy ruins of human nature--a degenerate race of stupid and
shrivelled slaves, grovelling in the lowest depths of servility and
superstition.


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

It is the fashion to go abroad. I have thought of it myself, but am
hardly equal to the exertion. To be sure, a little eccentricity and
originality are allowable in some cases; and the most eccentric and
original of all characters is an Englishman who stays at home.


SCYTHROP

I should have no pleasure in visiting countries that are past all hope
of regeneration. There is great hope of our own; and it seems to me
that an Englishman, who, either by his station in society, or by his
genius, or (as in your instance, Mr Cypress,) by both, has the power
of essentially serving his country in its arduous struggle with its
domestic enemies, yet forsakes his country, which is still so rich
in hope, to dwell in others which are only fertile in the ruins of
memory, does what none of those ancients, whose fragmentary memorials
you venerate, would have done in similar circumstances.


MR CYPRESS

Sir, I have quarrelled with my wife; and a man who has quarrelled with
his wife is absolved from all duty to his country. I have written an
ode to tell the people as much, and they may take it as they list.


SCYTHROP

Do you suppose, if Brutus had quarrelled with his wife, he would have
given it as a reason to Cassius for having nothing to do with his
enterprise? Or would Cassius have been satisfied with such an excuse?


MR FLOSKY

Brutus was a senator; so is our dear friend: but the cases are
different. Brutus had some hope of political good: Mr Cypress has
none. How should he, after what we have seen in France?


SCYTHROP

A Frenchman is born in harness, ready saddled, bitted, and bridled,
for any tyrant to ride. He will fawn under his rider one moment, and
throw him and kick him to death the next; but another adventurer
springs on his back, and by dint of whip and spur on he goes as
before. We may, without much vanity, hope better of ourselves.


MR CYPRESS

I have no hope for myself or for others. Our life is a false nature;
it is not in the harmony of things; it is an all-blasting upas,
whose root is earth, and whose leaves are the skies which rain their
poison-dews upon mankind. We wither from our youth; we gasp with
unslaked thirst for unattainable good; lured from the first to the
last by phantoms--love, fame, ambition, avarice--all idle, and all
ill--one meteor of many names, that vanishes in the smoke of death.[8]


MR FLOSKY

A most delightful speech, Mr Cypress. A most amiable and instructive
philosophy. You have only to impress its truth on the minds of
all living men, and life will then, indeed, be the desert and the
solitude; and I must do you, myself, and our mutual friends, the
justice to observe, that let society only give fair play at one and
the same time, as I flatter myself it is inclined to do, to your
system of morals, and my system of metaphysics, and Scythrop's system
of politics, and Mr Listless's system of manners, and Mr Toobad's
system of religion, and the result will be as fine a mental chaos as
even the immortal Kant himself could ever have hoped to see; in the
prospect of which I rejoice.


MR HILARY

'Certainly, ancient, it is not a thing to rejoice at:' I am one
of those who cannot see the good that is to result from all this
mystifying and blue-devilling of society. The contrast it presents
to the cheerful and solid wisdom of antiquity is too forcible not to
strike any one who has the least knowledge of classical literature. To
represent vice and misery as the necessary accompaniments of genius,
is as mischievous as it is false, and the feeling is as unclassical as
the language in which it is usually expressed.


MR TOOBAD

It is our calamity. The devil has come among us, and has begun by
taking possession of all the cleverest fellows. Yet, forsooth, this is
the enlightened age. Marry, how? Did our ancestors go peeping about
with dark lanterns, and do we walk at our ease in broad sunshine?
Where is the manifestation of our light? By what symptoms do you
recognise it? What are its signs, its tokens, its symptoms, its
symbols, its categories, its conditions? What is it, and why? How,
where, when is it to be seen, felt, and understood? What do we see by
it which our ancestors saw not, and which at the same time is worth
seeing? We see a hundred men hanged, where they saw one. We see five
hundred transported, where they saw one. We see five thousand in the
workhouse, where they saw one. We see scores of Bible Societies, where
they saw none. We see paper, where they saw gold. We see men in stays,
where they saw men in armour. We see painted faces, where they saw
healthy ones. We see children perishing in manufactories, where they
saw them flourishing in the fields. We see prisons, where they saw
castles. We see masters, where they saw representatives. In short,
they saw true men, where we see false knaves. They saw Milton, and we
see Mr Sackbut.


MR FLOSKY

The false knave, sir, is my honest friend; therefore, I beseech you,
let him be countenanced. God forbid but a knave should have some
countenance at his friend's request.


MR TOOBAD

'Good men and true' was their common term, like the chalos chagathos
of the Athenians. It is so long since men have been either good or
true, that it is to be questioned which is most obsolete, the fact or
the phraseology.


MR CYPRESS

There is no worth nor beauty but in the mind's idea. Love sows the
wind and reaps the whirlwind.[9] Confusion, thrice confounded, is the
portion of him who rests even for an instant on that most brittle of
reeds--the affection of a human being. The sum of our social destiny
is to inflict or to endure.[10]


MR HILARY

Rather to bear and forbear, Mr Cypress--a maxim which you perhaps
despise. Ideal beauty is not the mind's creation: it is real beauty,
refined and purified in the mind's alembic, from the alloy which
always more or less accompanies it in our mixed and imperfect nature.
But still the gold exists in a very ample degree. To expect too
much is a disease in the expectant, for which human nature is not
responsible; and, in the common name of humanity, I protest against
these false and mischievous ravings. To rail against humanity for not
being abstract perfection, and against human love for not realising
all the splendid visions of the poets of chivalry, is to rail at the
summer for not being all sunshine, and at the rose for not being
always in bloom.


MR CYPRESS

Human love! Love is not an inhabitant of the earth. We worship him as
the Athenians did their unknown God: but broken hearts are the martyrs
of his faith, and the eye shall never see the form which phantasy
paints, and which passion pursues through paths of delusive beauty,
among flowers whose odours are agonies, and trees whose gums are
poison.[11]


MR HILARY

You talk like a Rosicrucian, who will love nothing but a sylph, who
does not believe in the existence of a sylph, and who yet quarrels
with the whole universe for not containing a sylph.


MR CYPRESS

The mind is diseased of its own beauty, and fevers into false
creation. The forms which the sculptor's soul has seized exist only in
himself.[12]


MR FLOSKY

Permit me to discept. They are the mediums of common forms combined
and arranged into a common standard. The ideal beauty of the Helen of
Zeuxis was the combined medium of the real beauty of the virgins of
Crotona.


MR HILARY

But to make ideal beauty the shadow in the water, and, like the dog in
the fable, to throw away the substance in catching at the shadow, is
scarcely the characteristic of wisdom, whatever it may be of genius.
To reconcile man as he is to the world as it is, to preserve and
improve all that is good, and destroy or alleviate all that is evil,
in physical and moral nature--have been the hope and aim of the
greatest teachers and ornaments of our species. I will say, too,
that the highest wisdom and the highest genius have been invariably
accompanied with cheerfulness. We have sufficient proofs on record
that Shakspeare and Socrates were the most festive of companions. But
now the little wisdom and genius we have seem to be entering into a
conspiracy against cheerfulness.


MR TOOBAD

How can we be cheerful with the devil among us!


THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

How can we be cheerful when our nerves are shattered?


MR FLOSKY

How can we be cheerful when we are surrounded by a _reading public_,
that is growing too wise for its betters?


SCYTHROP

How can we be cheerful when our great general designs are crossed
every moment by our little particular passions?


MR CYPRESS

How can we be cheerful in the midst of disappointment and despair?


MR GLOWRY

Let us all be unhappy together.


MR HILARY

Let us sing a catch.


MR GLOWRY

No: a nice tragical ballad. The Norfolk Tragedy to the tune of the
Hundredth Psalm.


MR HILARY

I say a catch.


MR GLOWRY

I say no. A song from Mr Cypress.


ALL

A song from Mr Cypress.


MR CYPRESS _sung_--

There is a fever of the spirit,
The brand of Cain's unresting doom,
Which in the lone dark souls that bear it
Glows like the lamp in Tullia's tomb:
Unlike that lamp, its subtle fire
Burns, blasts, consumes its cell, the heart,
Till, one by one, hope, joy, desire,
Like dreams of shadowy smoke depart.

When hope, love, life itself, are only
Dust--spectral memories--dead and cold--
The unfed fire burns bright and lonely,
Like that undying lamp of old:
And by that drear illumination,
Till time its clay-built home has rent,
Thought broods on feeling's desolation--
The soul is its own monument.


MR GLOWRY

Admirable. Let us all be unhappy together.


MR HILARY

Now, I say again, a catch.


THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

I am for you.


ME HILARY

'Seamen three.'


THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

Agreed. I'll be Harry Gill, with the voice of three. Begin


MR HILARY AND THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

Seamen three! I What men be ye?
Gotham's three wise men we be.
Whither in your bowl so free?
To rake the moon from out the sea.
The bowl goes trim.



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