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simply puts down what he sees ; he utters no feelings, but in a word or two introduces us to the scenery
of both the out-of-doors and in-doors life of the time. And so the “ Memoirs of the Count de Grammont,” loose and adulterate as they are, have this excellence, that without any attempt at colouring, without any labouring for effect, but simply by the introduction of anecdote, and the plain narration, they give to us a far more painful view of the grossness of the court, and the manners of the nobility of the time of Charles II., than could ever be conveyed from the merely so called history. All that a man puts down, and says “I saw," is life-writing biography. The chronicles of Froissart, and others, therefore, may be thus mentioned; and a very opposite book indeed, “Boswell's Life of Johnson,” is not only valuable as giving a very full and striking portrait of a great man-perhaps the most full-length portrait of any man—it is pictorial, too ; we have a better idea, after reading it, of the life of the time; we know better what they did in Boswell's and Johnson's day. So says Thomas Carlyle,—“ This book of Boswell's will give us more real insight into the history of England, during those days, than twenty other books falsely entitled “Histories :' which take to themselves that special aim. The thing I want to see is not Red-book Lists,
and Court Calendars, and Parliamentary Registers, but the life of man in England; what men did, thought, suffered, and enjoyed; the form, especially the spirit of their terrestrial existence, its outward environment, its inward principle; how, and what it was ; whence it proceeded, whither it was tending."
In their ambitious attempts to set off renowned heroes, life-writers have usually forgotten that they are linked to us most by the depictment of common sympathies and circumstances. The dress of a life is not so important as the life itself, but it frequently enables us to understand it better; the description is very often something between the reader and an abstraction; the qualities of men are brought home to us by their association with sensible objects ; minute touches bring out into fullness the whole picture. Many a life, many a history, most valuable in itself, is unknown to us; because, in the narration there was so little concern manifested in matters interesting to the simplest tastes.
There is another section, however, of pictorial life-writing, to which we may give the name of Household Biography. It is anecdotical ; it is confined to some little incident; but then that incident, it may be, lightens the history of something very much beloved by us—shows to us the
origin of some beautiful, long-living thought.Perhaps all that can be said about some person may be condensed in a few lines,—but then those few words offer to us the solution of a doubt, or paint vividly some ancient manners, or preserve, as in a museum, the lineaments of a dear, old, departed day. This is the principal interest of anecdote, which is a kind of biography of the most pertinent, condensed, and instructive character. Every reader knows how frequently, from a simple saying, or hint, or some very short description, a far more extended conception may be formed of a life, than is frequently to be obtained from the most voluminous biography. A single ray illuminates a dark ebamber, and a single remark will sometimes pour a flood of light through a whole life-time; and an incident, too, sometimes shines before us with this unaffected prettiness; there is so much reality about it, it charms us, and adds an additional interest to what was already interesting
The following may be cited as an illustrative instance :
Mr. Shepherd, the respectable and well-informed conservator of the Botanical gardens at Liverpool, gives the following account of the introduction of that elegant little floweriug shrub, the Fuchsia, into our English green-houses and parlour-windows. Old Mr. Lee, a nurserymau and gardener, near London, well known fifty or sixty years ago, was one day showing his variegated treasures to a friend, who sudden!y turned to him, and declared,
“Well, you have not in your collection a prettfer flower than I saw this morning at Wapping.” No! and
pray what was this phoenix like ?" Why, the plant was elegant, and the flowers hung in rows, like tassels, from the pendant
, branches; their colour the richest crimson; in the centre a fold of deep purple," and so forth.
Particular directions being demanded and given, Mr. Lee posted off to Wapping, where he at once perceived that the plant was new in this part of the world. He saw, and admired. Entering the house, he said
· My good woman, this is a nice plant-I should like to buy it."
“ I could not sell it for no money, for it was brought me from the West Indies by my husband, who has now left again, and I must keep it for his sake."
" But I must have it."
, silver, and copper ;" (this stock was something more than eight guineas).
· Well-a-day, bnt this is a power of money, sure and sure.”
“ 'Tis yours, and the plant is mine ; and, my « '
, good dame, you shall have one of the first young ones I rear, to keep for
husband's sake.” “ Alack, alack !” “ You shall, I say, by Jove !"
I A coach was called, in which was safely deposited our florist, and his seemingly dear purchase. His first work was to pull off, and utterly destroy, every vestige of blossom and bud; it was divided into cuttings, which were forced in bark-beds and hot-beds; were re-divided, and subdivided. Every effort was used to multiply the plant. By the commencement of the next flowering season, Mr. Lee was the delighted possessor of three hundred fuchsia plants, all giving promise of blossom. The two which opened first were removed into his show-house. A lady came :
Why, Mr. Lee, my dear Mr. Lee, where did you get this charming flower ?”
“Hem ! 'tis a new thing, my lady-pretty, is it not ?"
“Pretty! 'tis beautiful! Its price?"
“A guinea—thank your ladyship;" and one of the two plants stood proudly in her ladyship's boudoir.
“My dear Charlotte, where did you get?" &c., &c.
“Oh! 'tis a new thing ; I saw it at old Lee's; pretty, is it not ?"