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CHAPTER I. THE INTRODUCTION—A CHARACTER.

THE distinguished American writer, Washington Irving, in his introduction to "The Sketch Book," has depicted his ardent longing, when young, for travel; in recording his own experience, he has described the feelings of the young of Britain and America. We observe, it is true, many young men, educated within the influence of strict commercial discipline, who sink prematurely into the starched neckcloths and saturnine countenances of their forefathers, while their anxious faces little accord with their extreme youth, and their mock anxiety is a caricature upon the profession. We are happy to think the majority of our young men, especially those who have been born free from the influence of commercial circles, are more or less addicted to poetry and literary pursuits; many rear Utopian schemes in early life, while a few—a favoured few—go beyond this, and end by becoming enthusiasts. Out of this latter class, our intellectual great have sprung—our beautiful prose writers and sublime poets, our finest painters and most celebrated


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sculptors, our brave commanders, and most distinguished circumnavigators and travellers. Indeed, were it our object to write an essay on enthusiasm, we would draw a distinct line of demarcation between practical and speculative enthusiasm; but this is not our purpose, and we merely wish to introduce a young man of enthusiastic temperament to our readers.

Godfrey Arabin was the third son of a respectable trader in a county-town in England. At the early age of eight he was sent to the care of a relative in the south of Scotland, and went to a school of repute in the neighbourhood of his retation's dwelling. He attended the school regularly; his relation was a bachelor, and he was allowed to follow the bent of his wild fancy. He mixed with the country-people, and acquired much information—for, as a people, the Scotch stand pre-eminent for intellectual ability, and many of the lower orders are passionately attached to the literature of their country. The country-people are rather fond of fictitious and speculative literature, and the schoolboy would often spend the winter evenings with some one who would talk over the adventures of Ivanhoe. When he did not meet with agreeable company, he used to wander among the mountains, thinking on the warriors and people of the long-forgotten past, until he would inspire the dull landscape with imaginary beings. He stood in fancy at the head of an array of warriors, while on the opposite side was the enemy's camp. He unsheathed his sword, gave his war-cry, and led to the attack,—the opposing forces are scattered as chaff before the wind. He remembered, when with his mother he went to


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view one of England's “old cathedrals,” and gazing with astonishment upon the tombs of the Crusaders, his impression of that strange order was vague and mazy, something like that we might derive from the description of Coeur de Lion, Ivanhoe, and Conrad of Montserrat, in the novel of “Ivanhoe.” He would brood over the battles and sieges of the Crusades until his heart throbbed and his cheek flushed. He was often overpowered by an intense melancholy, which he however kept concealed, yet at times the most trifling incidents would chill his heart. He commonly took refuge in pious exercises, which he would perform fervently for two or three weeks, when, we regret to add, some new fancy would occupy his mind, or his attention would be captivated by some one of the many fictitious works then emanating from both the London and Edinburgh press.

When he had attained the age of fifteen, he was removed to Edinburgh to finish his education at the University: he was unwilling to leave his acquaintances, but at the same time was glad that he should have opportunities of seeing life and procuring books. He was no sooner established in a lodging-house, than he began to feast upon the contents of the circulating libraries. Hitherto he had merely fallen in with works of fiction by chance, and with the exception of one or two of Sir Walter Scott's novels, they had been romances of the old school—emanations of the Minerva Press, as it has been designated; but now he revelled among the works of fiction which then almost daily issued from the press. The great change in the quality of the fictitious literature of the


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country was a leading feature of the time. The vulgarity, crudeness, and mawkishness which had marked the former school of fashionable romances was no longer to be observed; the works of Miss Edgeworth were the first which marked a new school, and soon after Sir Walter Scott was hailed as the head of a renovated style of fictitious literature, for as before the most improbable tales had been dished up with a seasoning of satyrs, hobgoblins, &c., Sir Walter Scott's tales on the contrary were rounded upon the more permanent basis of history, and being moreover executed in a style which almost placed imitation at defiance, they were not only favourably received, but the author acquired, perhaps, a more enduring fame than any former prose writer in our literature. The young scholar often neglected his lessons to indulge in his passion for novel-reading; he made little distinction between the good and the bad; indeed, he devoured everything in the shape of a romance which came within his reach. Here we may remark, that many may observe in Arabin some resemblance to the character of Waverly; we firmly assert, however, that we have not copied from the great work of the “Wizard of the North”; indeed, it is because the character is rounded upon truth and permanent that it must resemble. The future career of Arabin will have no affinity with “the fortunes of Waverley,” for, from the peculiar constitution of society in the present day, there are many Waverleys and Arabins.

In his humble sleeping-room Arabin lived in a fictitious world; from the occasional neglect of his studies, he was regarded by his teachers as a boy


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of slender abilities; nay, he often feigned bad health to escape the irksome restraints of a public school. At certain periods, however, the meanness of such conduct would break upon his mind, and then he would decline the practice, and pay more attention to his lessons.

He had attained the age of eighteen before his teachers considered he had a sufficient knowledge of languages. About this time he determined to devote his attention to the science of medicine. The medical college of Edinburgh is justly celebrated; and as the young scholar had a taste for medical studies, his advances in the science astonished many of his former friends, who had regarded him as a dull boy. Even at this period the same feature of melancholy marked his character; the translations from the German writers, which were just then becoming the rage, were eagerly devoured by him, and their dreary metaphysics pleased him, and increased the flame of melancholy which glowed in his heart, engendered by solitary habits and the Byronian style of fictitious literature. This morbid misanthropy bid fair at one time to nip the flower in the morning of life, for he would crouch about without enjoying the pleasures of nature. Then, again, he would fancy himself a character of romance, and to keep up the deception would wander among the ancient churches, and transport himself centuries into the past. What magic exists in the past for novelist, poet, and enthusiast! —how can we expect any admiration for our poor labours, which are to be devoted to the present, and perhaps even towards the future? In plain


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words, Arabin was a melancholy enthusiast. Have we overdrawn the character? or, on the contrary, might it not be found to assimilate with that of many young men of the present day, even among the classes known as tradesmen? We have observed in the world too great an anxiety to ape the misanthropy in which the Byron school of poets have so completely enveloped their heroes.

Arabin passed the usual examinations, and having received his diploma, left the metropolis of Scotland for his native land. His father died, and he found himself possessed of £500, with the world before him. He ruminated upon the course which he was called upon to pursue, and being unable to come to a determination, went over to the Continent, and travelled in France and Spain for some months. He then decided upon returning to England, and on his arrival in London tried to establish himself as a surgeon in one or two parts of that vast metropolis without success. He returned to his native city rather disconcerted; he had squandered a considerable portion of his small patrimony, and the want of success which had attended his efforts paralysed his energies and nourished the melancholy which preyed upon his heart. His mind gave way, and reeled under the wild fancies of which it had become the arena. The most horrible ideas would at times suggest themselves, a constant dread of future calamity weighed down his spirits, he bade fair to become a wreck at the age of twenty-one.

Arabin was decidedly an intellectual person, and as it has often been noticed that the persons who have possessed the finest minds have had to endure a


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large amount of mental anguish, it may not be out of the way to give our opinion on the cause. The finest intellects are the most grasping and the most restless; this very restlessness, however, frequently becomes a curse, because it suggests fears and whims which an inferior mind cannot perceive. Fine minds are from home in the tame course of every-day life; common things appear “flat, stale, and unprofitable.” Few around can appreciate the peculiarities of genius, and it has to retire within itself and create an ideal world peopled by beings of a more remote character than the rotaries of the desk and shop-table. They have a charm more potent than ever a witch possessed— they wave their wand, and, as Sir Walter Scott has written, “From haunted spring and grassy ring,
Troop goblin, elf and fairy” —

Or, who does not remember the finest poem which Mrs. Hemans has left upon record, on the funeral day of Sir Walter Scott? The following lines are very beautiful :— And he is silent! he whose flexile lips
Were but unsealed, and lo! a thousand forms
From every pastoral glen and fern-clad height,
In glowing life upsprang—vassal and chief,
Rider and steed, with shout and bugle-peal
Fast rushing through the brightly-troubled air,
Like the wild huntsman's band.

Mrs. Hemans was a kindred poet, who could bring a thousand forms rushing through the brightly-troubled air at a beck; let her memory be hallowed, for hers was a noble gift.




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There was another very marked trait in the character of Arabin—his independent spirit. He scorned to crouch or cringe to any person; his manners, too, were abrupt, and he had but slender prospects at home. The medical man of modern times must have studied politeness as well as medicine—how to tie his cravat and dress; as well as how to amputate a limb—and, above all, the art of pleasing, whether he knows the art of healing or not. Now all this indispensable knowledge Arabin regarded as contemptible, yet he knew without them he could not succeed; he however cared not. “I have enough for the present,” he would say; “and if I cannot provide for the wants of this poor body in future, why, I shall make quick work, for dependent I never shall be.” To the genuine man of the world, without mind or character, these feelings may appear absurd; be that as it may, we are writing of a bird of a different tribe, with whom they can have little in common, except to hear his history.

There was another marked feature in the character of Arabin at this time; he would rush heedlessly into the most absurd speculations, and without even affording them a fair trial, he would throw up one after another and get out of them at any sacrifice of property. He found his small capital dwindling away rapidly; no means of recovering it presented themselves to his eager mind, and he began to consider his case almost hopeless,—that he was destined to be unfortunate. We must add, that he was very bashful; he could not endure the sight of those whom he knew; he was afraid lest they should penetrate into


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his mind, and become masters of his secret thoughts— that they should pity him, which he could not endure. He was mistaken; his friends never regarded him as possessing either a mind or feelings; they looked sour because he was eccentric, which they misunderstood, and set him down as wild; he was not of their class, and they did not know what to think of him. He determined to return to London, and disappeared nearly as suddenly as he had reappeared. “London again!” he exclaimed, as he found himself one foggy November evening entering the dreary regions of Wapping, having left a steam-boat the moment before; “London again!” he said, as the faint traces of scenes he well knew broke upon his sight. “There is no city like thee! but to me all your princely mansions and magnificent marts of business form but a desert—it will not afford me bread.” What magic is there in the very name of London to the young!— how many have longed to reach it,—how many have panted to try “their luck” in a city so vast in extent, so dazzling in splendour, so rich in trade! Thousands throng there: some are awed by the very extension of the field, and depart without endeavouring to find an opening; others, bolder, endeavour by every art to push forward, but they are lost in the crowd, thrust hither and thither, and give over the attempt in despair. Still young men swarm towards the mistress of the world, and perhaps a few, a very few, may succeed; and after a life of toil behind the shop-table, towards its close find themselves worth a little heap of gold. If the acquirement of this be success, they have, we allow, succeeded.




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Arabin once again endeavoured to push forward into business, without any better success. He resolved therefore, as a last and desperate measure, to go abroad, and he fixed upon the Australian Colonies as the scene of future attempts; in fact, he determined to emigrate with the crowd rushing towards the East. He soon found an opportunity, and sailed in a vessel bound for the Australian shores.

The detail of the long dull voyage would not interest the general reader, and as it has been so often described, we pass it over.

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