Imágenes de páginas

to be born without a position and with a brain deserves congratulation. This, however, is a very rare condition in modern England. It is hard to avoid being somebody--socially: it is hard to avoid being nobody — intellectually. I know several people who deem it their duty to keep a carriage and pair, and who, in consequence, never eat a good rump-steak or drink a bottle of sound claret. You cannot, indeed, live in a country district without having such neighbours; and I suppose it is the same in London—which city I avoid. I have been accused, by various kindly critics of my novels, of laying too much stress upon eating and drinking-without which it is not particularly easy to live. The Times (April 14, 1871), remarks that I talk a deal too much of eating, drinking, and smoking in Marquis and Merchant; but it goes on to say that one great charm about my books—and it is a great charm in these days, when poets and novelists are apt to write in a querulous dyspeptic strain, as if they studied human nature while crouching over the parlour fire—is that there is plenty of oxygen in them; they breathe a jovial out-of-doors atmosphere ; we seem to be under the blue sky, and to hear a wholesome breeze rustling the tree-tops.' Mark the word dyspeptic, which I italicise. My friend in the Times answers himself. I am eupeptic: which I could not be unless I cared about what I eat and drink. He has divined my mode of work. I am now writing on a bird-haunted lawn, with a joyous wind tossing my lime-trees above me, and three dogs sleepily watching my proceedings, and wishing I would knock off work and take them to the Thames, and a bottle of hock close at hand. If I drank green tea or laudanum instead of hock, I should not offend my critics by writing of wine and ale. But, then, what would my books be like?

Again; the Athenæum (March 25, 1871), after reading me a friendly lecture on the same topic, hopes that I will give the public 'a shorter book in summer, in which not every chapter, but every page, shall flow with refreshing bumpers of Roederer and los Vougeot.' This is very much what I am trying to do at present. I want this to be a summer book that shall teach multitudes how to multiply their summers. I believe I shall succeed, if only I can get hold of a publisher with a grain of sense in his head. Meanwhile

There's a beautiful blonde for whom

I have been mad in my time full oft:
O, her kiss hath a gay perfume !

O, her voice is divinely soft !
Sweet it is her waist to clasp,
Strongly she mankind can grasp;
While life lasts I shall ever be fond
Of that same peerless piquant blonde.

There is also a rare brunette,


beloved by me; Purple suns that in autumn set

Have not more magical hue than she.

O, to woo her is joy and power!
She, of brunettes the choicest flower,
Hath a deliciously dainty breath:
Faith, I shall love her until my death.

For the laughing blonde is Champagne, you see :

And the rare brunette is Burgundy. Historic investigation has shown that life in England is at this date longer on the average than it was in the Middle Ages. And that the average size of Englishmen is also greater was pretty clearly proved at the Eglinton tournament in 1839. The aristocratic babies who played their parts in that absurdity found that the armour of their ancestors was too small for them. One of those infants, by the way, was Prince Louis Napoleon, whose weak brain has done a good deal of mischief since. Now, if men live longer than they did some centuries ago, and if likewise they grow to a finer size, I take it that what they eat and drink has something to do with it. So I must ask my courteous critics to forgive me for occasionally referring to a topic of such moment.

I am afraid this is a digressive and desultory chapter, with very little in it about politics. But, as my theory is that politics should, so far as possible, be avoided, I may defend this procedure logically. This is my final thesis: if by attention to the rules of spiritual and corporal health you can obtain for the majority of men a perfect constitution, there will be very little for governments to do. In a perfect community, the only persons who need exercise authority would be fathers of families.

« AnteriorContinuar »