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Reaching above our nature does no good,
We must fall back to our old flesh and blood."
Is there no island of rest for thee between Scylla and Charybdis? must thou be for ever bandied to and fro by the conflicting battledores of fanaticism and indifference?
It may not be unamusing, perhaps not uninstructive, to consider the mode in which some of the various classes of London society dispose of themselves upon the Sabbath.
The rational Christian goes to church in an exhilarating spirit of grateful devotion to God, and universal charity to mankind; and, feeling persuaded that the most acceptable homage to the Creator must be the happiness of the creature, dedicates the rest of the day to innocent recreations, and the enjoyment of domestic and social intercourse.
The bigot enters his Salem or Ebenezer, hoping to propitiate the God of unbounded benignity by enforcing systems of gloom and horror; by dreadful denunciations against the rest of mankind, and ascetical self-privations. He holds with the Caliph Omar, that we must make a hell of this world to merit heaven in the next. In all probability, he is a vice-suppresser, and, hating to see others enjoy that which he denies to himself, wages a petty but malignant warfare against human happiness, from the poor boy's kite to the old woman's apple-stall. If in good circumstances, he orders out his coachman, footman, and horses, to go to chapel, that the world may at once know his wealth and his devoutness; yet dines
upon cold meat, to let God Almighty see that he does not unnecessarily employ his servants on the Sabbath. Music on this day is an utter abomination; and, if he had his will, he would imprison the running waters for making melody with the pebbles; set the wind in the stocks for whistling; and cite the lark, the thrush, and the blackbird, into the Ecclesiastical Court.
The man of fashion cannot possibly get dressed in time for church; the park is mauvais ton;—there is no other place to ride in;—he hates walkinglounges at the subscription-house, and votes Sunday a complete bore, until it is time to drop in at the Marchioness's, in Arlington-street.
Jammed in by other carriages, and sometimes unable to move from the same spot for hours together, the woman of fashion spends her Sunday morning in the Ring, exposed to sun, wind, and dust, and the rude stare of an endless succession of Oriental vulgarians.
Half filling his showy and substantial carriage, the rich citizen rides from his country-house to the church, fully impressed with the importance of the duty he is performing, and not altogether unmindful of the necessity of acquiring an appetite for dinner. He has, moreover, a lurking hope that his supplications may not have an unpropitious effect on the fate of his missing ship, the Good Intent, on which he is short insured;* to strengthen which influence, he deplores
* An insurance company at Cadiz once took the Virgin Mary into formal partnership, covenanting to set aside her
to his son their religious omission of the introductory and concluding prayer in the newly printed bills of lading; censures the same impropriety in the form of modern wills; and informs him that most of the old mercantile ledgers had the words "Laus Deo" very properly printed in their first page. His wife, fat and fine, with a gorgeous pelisse, and a whole flowergarden in her bonnet, sits opposite to him, and, as they go to church to abjure all pomps and vanities, their rich-liveried servant, with fifty bobs and tags dangling from his shoulder, clatters up the aisle behind them, to perform the essential offices of carrying one little Prayer-book, and shutting the door of their pew. Whatever be the rank of those who practise this obtrusive and indecorous display, it is of the very essence of vulgar upstart pride, and constitutes an offence, which the beadle of every parish ought to have special orders to prevent.
The city dandy and dandisette, arrayed in the very newest of their septenary fashions, pick the cleanest way to the Park, and leaving the verdant sward, umbrageous avenues, and chirping birds of Kensington Gardens, to nurserymaids and children, prefer taking the dust, and enjoying the crowd by the roadside, accompanied by the unceasing grating of the carriage-wheels in the gravel.
portion of profits for the enrichment of her shrine in that city. Not doubting that she would protect every vessel, in which she had such a manifest interest, they underwrote ships of all sorts, at such reduced rates, that in a few months the infatuated partners were all declared bankrupts.
The maid-servant, having a smart new bonnet, asks her mistress's permission to go to morning-service; and, when her fellow-servants inquire what the sermon was about, exclaims, with a toss of her head, "I always told Mary what the flirting of that fellow Tomkins would come to: spite of all his fine speeches about the banns, they wasn't no more asked in church than I was.
The labourer, or mechanic, who was formerly enabled to freshen his feet in the grass of the green fields, and recreate his smoke-dried nose with the fragrance of a country breeze, can no longer enjoy that gratification, now that London itself is gone out of town. He prowls about the dingy swamps of Battersea or Mile-End, with a low bull-dog at his heels, which he says he will match, for a gallon of beer, with e'er a dog in England. Being of the same stock with the cockney young lady, who pathetically lamented that she "never could exasperate the Haitch," and then innocently inquired "whether the letter We wasn't a wowell?" he, with a scrupulous inaccuracy, misplaces his H's, V's, and W's. At Vauxhall he stops to buy an ash-stick; because, as he argumentatively tells Bill Gibbons, his companion, "I always likes a hash un." However numerous may be his acquaintance, he never meets one without asking him what they shall drink, having a bibulous capacity as insatiable as that of a dustman, who, beginning at six o'clock in the morning, will swallow a quart of washy small beer at every door on both sides of a long
The more decent artisan, having stowed four young children, all apparently of the same age, in a handcart, divides with his wife the pleasure of dragging them, for the benefit of country air, as far as the Mother Red Cap in the Hampstead-road, where he ascends into a balcony commanding a fine view of the surrounding dust, smokes his pipe, drinks his ale, and, enjoying the heat of the high road as he lugs his burden back again, declares, that "them country excursions are vastly wholesome."
It was my intention to have contrasted with these scenes "the sound of the church-going bell" in a quiet sequestered village; but, in writing of London, I have so far caught its spirit, as to have left myself little room for further enlargement, and I shall, therefore, comprise all I had to say in the following extract from Wordsworth's "White Doe of Rylstone:"
"From Bolton's old monastic tower,
The bells ring loud with gladsome power;
And up among the moorlands, see
Path, or no path, what care they?
To Bolton's mouldering Priory."