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“ Pectora cui credam ? Quis me lenire docebit
Mordaces curas? Quis longam fallere noctem
“ In whom shall I confide? Whose counsel find
A balmy med'cine for my troubled mind?
Even when left alone, there is sometimes a charm in watching out the decaying fire, - in getting closer and closer to it with tilted chair and knees against the bars, and letting the whole multitude of fancies, that work in the night silence, come whispering about the yielding faculties. The world around is silent; and for a moment the very cares of day seem to have gone with it to sleep, leaving you to catch a waking sense of disenthralment, and to commune with a thousand airy visitants that come to play with innocent thoughts. Then, for imagination's sake, not for superstition's, are recalled the stories of the Secret World and the midnight pranks of Fairyism. The fancy roams out of doors after rustics led astray by the jacko'-lantern, or minute laughings heard upon the wind, or the night-spirit on his horse that comes flouncing through the air on his way to a surfeited citizen, or the tiny morrisdance that springs up in the watery glimpses of the moon ; or keeping at home, it finds a spirit in every room peeping at it as it opens the door, while a cry is heard from upstairs announcing the azure marks inflicted by —
“The nips of fairies upon maids' white hips,"
or hearing a snoring from below, it tiptoes down into the kitchen, and beholds where
“ Lies him down the lubber fiend, And stretch'd out all the chimney's length, Basks at the fire his hairy strength.”
Presently the whole band of fairies, ancient and modern, — the demons, sylphs, gnomes, sprites, elves, peries, genii, and above all, the fairies of the fireside, the salamanders, lob-lie-by-the-fires, lars, lemures, larvæ, come flitting between the fancy's eyes, and the dying coals, some with their weapons and lights, others with grave steadfastness on book or dish, others of the softer kind with their arch looks, and their conscious pretence of attitude, while a minute music tinkles in the ear, and Oberon gives his gentle order :
“ Through this house in glimmering light
By the dead and drowsy fire,
Hop as light as bird from briar;
Anon, the whole is vanished, and the dreamer, turning his eye down aside, almost looks for a laughing sprite gazing at him from a tiny chair, and mimicking his face and attitude. Idle fancies these, and incomprehensible to minds clogged with every-day earthliness; but not useless, either as an exercise of the invention, or even as adding consciousness to the range and destiny of the soul. They will occupy us too, and steal us away from ourselves, when other recollections fail us or grow painful, when friends are found selfish, or better friends can but commiserate, or when the world has nothing in it to compare with what we have missed out of it. They may even lead us to higher and more solemn meditations, till we work up our way beyond the clinging and heavy atmosphere of this earthly sojourn, and look abroad upon the light that knows neither blemish nor bound, while our ears are saluted at that egress by the harmony of the skies, and our eyes behold the lost and congenial spirits that we have loved hastening to welcome us with their sparkling eyes, and their curls that are ripe with sunshine.
But earth recalls us again; the last flame is out; the fading embers tinkle with a gaping dreariness; and the chill reminds us where we should be. Another gaze on the hearth that has so cheered us, and the last, lingering action is to wind up the watch for the next day. Upon how many anxieties shall the finger of that brief chronicler strike, — and upon how many comforts too! Tomorrow our fire shall be trimmed anew; and so, gentle reader, good night: may the weariness I have caused you make sleep the pleasanter!
“Let no lamenting cryes, nor dolefull tears,
Be heard all night within, nor yet without;
SPENSER'S Epithalamion. *
* In the new edition of “The Round Table," published in the Bayard Series of books, this article is given to Hazlitt. “Our style bewrays us,” says Burton; and “A Day by the Fire" is full of Leigh Hunt's peculiarities of thought and diction. The question of authorship, however, is not to be decided
ON COMMONPLACE PEOPLE.
GREEABLY to our chivalrous, as well as do
mestic, character, and in order to show further in what sort of spirit we shall hereafter confer blame and praise, whom we shall cut up for
the benefit of humanity, and to whom apply our healing balsams, we have thought fit, in our present number, to take the part of a very numerous and ill-treated body of persons, known by the various appellations of commonplace people, - dull fellows, or people who have nothing to say.
It is perhaps wrong, indeed, to call these persons commonplace. Those who are the most vehement in objecting to them have the truest right to the title, however little they may suspect it; but of this more hereafter. It is a name by which the others are very commonly known; though they might rather be called persons of simple common sense, and, in fact, have just enough of that valuable quality to inspire them with the very quietness which brings them into so much contempt.
We need not, however, take any pains to describe a set of people so well known. They are, of course, what none of our readers are, but many are acquainted with. They are the more silent part of companies, and generally the best behaved people at table. They are the best of dumb waiters near the lady of the house. They are always at leisure to help you to good things, if not to say them. They will supply your absence of mind for
upon internal evidence ; facts prove that the essay was written by the author of the “Story of Rimini.” The prolusion was originally published in the “Reflector," with Hunt's well-known signature, – F.
It was afterwards re-printed in the “Examiner,” as one of “The Round Table” papers. When these essays were collected into a volume, Leigh Hunt's initials were printed at the end of "A Day by the Fire ;” and Hazlitt, in the preface to this original edition of “The Round Table,” says, “out of the fifty-two numbers, twelve are Mr. Hunt's, with the signature, L. H.” – ED.
you are talking, and believe you are taking sugar for pepper. Above all, — which ought to recommend them to the very hardest of their antagonists, — they are uninquiring laughers at jokes, and most exemplary listeners.
Now, we do not say that these are the very best of companions, or that when we wished to be particularly amused or informed we should invite them to our houses, or go to see them at theirs ; all we demand is that they should be kindly and respectfully treated when they are by, and not insolently left out of the pale of discourse, purely because they may not bring with them as much as they find, or say as brilliant things as we imagine we do ourselves.
This is one of the faults of over-civilization. In a stage of society like the present, there is an intellectual as well as personal coxcombry apt to prevail, which leads people to expect from each other a certain dashing turn of mind, and an appearance, at least, of having ideas, whether they can afford them or not. Their minds endeavor to put on intelligent attitudes, just as their bodies do graceful ones; and every one who, from conscious modesty, or from not thinking about the matter, does not play the same monkey tricks with his natural deficiency, is set down for a dull fellow, and treated with a sort of scornful resentment, for differing with the others. It is equally painful and amusing to see how the latter will look upon an honest fellow of this description, if they happen to find him in a company where they think he has no business. On the first entrance of one of these intolerant men of wisdom, – to see, of course, a brilliant friend of his, — he concludes