I called upon you this morning and found that you were
gone to visit a dying friend. I had been upon a like errand.
Poor N.R. has lain dying now for almost a week, such is the penalty
we pay for having enjoyed through life a strong constitution.
Whether he knew me or not, I know not, or whether he saw me
through his poor glazed eyes, but the group I saw about him
I shall not forget. Upon the bed, or about it, were assembled
his Wife, their two Daughters, and poor deaf Robert, looking
doubly stupified. There they were, and seemed to have been
sitting all the week. I could only reach out a hand to Mrs. R.
Speaking was impossible in that mute chamber. By this time
it must be all over with him. In him I have a loss the world
cannot make up. He was my friend, and my father's friend, for all
the life that I can remember. I seem to have made foolish
friendships since. Those are the friendships, which outlast a
second generation. Old as I am getting, in his eyes I was still
the child he knew me. To the last he called me Jemmy. I
have none to call me Jemmy now. He was the last link that
bound me to B____. You are but of yesterday. In him I seem
to have lost the old plainness of manners and singleness of heart.
Lettered he was not, his reading scarcely exceeded the Obituary
of the old Gentleman's Magazine, to which he has never failed
of having recourse for these last fifty years. Yet there was the
pride of literature about him from that slender perusal, and moreover
from his office of archive-keeper to your ancient city, in which
he must needs pick up some equivocal Latin, which, among his
less literary friends, assumed the air of a very pleasant pedantry.
Can I forget the erudite look with which, having tried to puzzle
out the text of a Black-lettered Chaucer in your Corporation
Library, to which he was a sort of Librarian, he gave it up with
this consolatory reflection -- "Jemmy," said he, "I do not know
what you find in these very old books, but I observe, there is a
deal of very indifferent spelling in them." His jokes (for he had
some) are ended, but they were old Perennials, staple, and always
as good as new. He had one Song, that spake of the "flat
bottoms of our foes coming over in darkness," and alluded to a
threatened invasion, many years since blown over, this he reserved
to be sung on Christmas Night, which we always passed with him,
and he sang it with the freshness of the impending event. How
his eyes would sparkle when he came to the passage:--
We'll still make 'em run, and we'll still make 'em sweat,
What is the Brussels' Gazette now? I cry, while I endite these
trifles. His poor girls who are, I believe, compact of solid goodness,
will have to receive their afflicted mother at an unsuccessful
home in a petty village in ---shire, where for years they have
been struggling to raise a Girls' School with no effect. Poor deaf
Robert (and the less hopeful for being so) is thrown up a deaf
world, without the comfort to his father on his death-bed of knowing
him provided for. They are left almost provisionless. Some
life assurance there is, but I fear, not exceeding ---. Their
hopes must be from your corporation, which their father has
served for fifty years. Who or what are your Leading Members
now, I know not. Is there any, to whom without impertinence,
you can represent the true circumstances of the family? You cannot
say good enough of poor R., and his poor wife. Oblige me and the
dead, if you can.
In spite of the devil and Brussels' Gazette!