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months of a malignant fever and four doctors; and in less than three months afterwards, marries the divine Miss Emilia Turner, of Skelsmore Vale-alas! for six weeks only. A chariot and four runs away with them, and his “charmer is killed.” She lives about an hour, repeats some consolatory verses to him out of a Latin epitaph, and bids him adieu with “the spirit of an old Roman.”
John’s next “intended” (for the marriage did not take place in due order) was the enchanting Miss Dunk, famous for “exact regularity of beauty, and elegant softness of propriety.” This elegant softness of propriety does not hinder the fair Agnes from running away with him from her father's house; but she has scarcely arrived at the village where they are to be married, when she falls sick, is laid out for dead, and is buried in the next churchyard. Not long afterwards the unhappy lover meets her, alive, laughing, and taking no notice, in the character of the wife of Dr. Stanyil, an amiable anatomist. The word will explain the accident that brought the charmer into the doctor's hands. Buncle, vexed as he owns himself to lose her, could not but see the reasonableness of the result and the folly of making an “uproar;" so he gallantly imitates the lady's behaviour, and rides off to fall in with that “fine creature” Julia Fitzgibbons, as charming for a bewitching negligence, as Miss Dunk was for a divine self-possession. John studies physic under her father; marries her in the course of two years; and at the end of ten months loses her in a river while they are fishing. He sits with his eyes shut ten days (so highly do his wives increase in value); and then calls his man “to bring out the horses,” and is off, on Christian principles, for wife the seventh.
Who should this be but Miss Dunk? His friend, Dr. Stanvil, her husband, drops down dead of an apoplexy on purpose to oblige him. The widow lets him know that her reserve had not proceeded a bit from dislike; quite the contrary. She marries him; they lead a blissful life for a year and a half, during which he is reconciled with his father, who has become a convert to Unitarianism; and then the lady goes the
way of all Buncle's wives, dying of his favourite uxoricide, the small-pox; and John, after diverting himself at sea, retires to a “little flowery retreat,” in the neighbourhood of London, to hear purling streams on the one hand, and news on the other, and write verses about going to Heaven.
The reader is to bear in mind, that all these marriages are inter, spersed with descriptions, characters, adventures of other sorts, natural
history, and, above all, with polemics full of the most ridiculous beggings of the question, and the most bigoted invectives against bigotry. A few specimens of the table of contents will show him what sort of reading he has missed :
“ The History of Miss Noel.
“ A Conversation in relation to the Primævity of the Hebrew Tongue.
6 Of Mrs. O'Hara's and Mrs. Grafton's Grottoes.
“ The Author removes to Oldfield Spaw, on account of Indisposition occasioned hy Hard Drinking; and his Reflections on Hard Drinking.
“ A Discourse on Fluxions between Miss Spence and the Author.
66 Of the Athanasian Creed.
“ Picture and Character of Curll, the Bookseller.” (He says he was very tall, thin, ungainly, goggle-eyed, whitefaced, splay-footed, and baker-kneed; very profligate, but not ill-natured.")
It is impossible to be serious with John Buncle, Esquire, jolly dog, Unitarian, and Blue Beard; otherwise, if we were to take him at his word, we should pronounce him, besides being a jolly dog, to be one of a very selfish description, with too good a constitution to correct him, a prodigious vanity, no feeling whatever, and a provoking contempt for everything unfortunate, or opposed to his whims. He quarrels with
bigotry, and is a bigot; with abuse, and riots in it. He hates the cruel opinions held by Athanasius, and sends people to the devil as an Arian. He kills off seven wives out of pure incontinence and love of change, yet cannot abide a rake or even the poorest victim of the rake, unless both happen to be his acquaintances. The way in which he tramples
n the miserable wretches in the streets, is the very rage and triumph of hard-heartedness, furious at seeing its own vices reflected on it, unredeemed by the privileges of law, divinity, and success. But the truth is, John is no more responsible for his opinions than health itself, or a high-mettled racer. He only “thinks he's thinking." He does, in reality, nothing at all but eat, drink, talk, and enjoy himself. Amory, Buncle's creator, was in all probability an honest man, or he would hardly have been innocent enough to put such extravagances on paper.
What Mrs. Amory thought of the seven wives does not appear. Probably he invented them before he knew her; perhaps was not anxious to be reminded of them afterwards. When he was in the zenith of his health and spirits, he must have been a prodigious fellow over a bottle and beefsteak.
It is hardly necessary to say, that by the insertion of
from this fantastical book no disrespect is intended to the respectable sect of Unitarians; who, probably, care as little for Buncle's friendship as the Trinitarians do for his enmity. There is apt to be too little real Christianity in polemics of any kind; and John is no exception to the remark. He contrives to be so absurd, even when most reasonable, that the charms of Nature herself and of animal spirits would suffer under his admiration and example, if readers could not easily discern the difference; and even the youngest need scarcely be warned against overlooking it. Our volumes are intended to include all the phases of humanity that can be set before them without injury; and among these were not to be omitted the eccentric.
Delights of Banks of Travel.
FROM WILLIAM DE RUBRUQUIS, MARCO POLO, LEDYARD, AND MUNGO PARK.
In an old honse, or new house, or any house, but particularly in a house in the country, where there are storms at night, and the wind is thundering in the trees, and the rain comes dashing against the windows in the gusts of it, who does not think of men at sea, of disasters by shipwreck, of husbands and sons far away, struggling perhaps in breakers on the shore, or clinging to icy shrouds, while we are lying in the safe and warm bed ? It seems as if none of us ought to be comfortable on such occasions; and yet, provided we do our duty to the unfortunate, we ought to be as much so as we can; for, in the first place, none of our friends may be in danger; and, secondly, Nature, in the course of her harshest but always beneficent operations, never desires more suffering to be inflicted than can be helped.
Now, homes have always a tendency to make us think of remote places; comfortable beds remind us of travellers by night; and comfortable books, of travellers at all hours who cannot get any; but of all books, those which are written by travellers themselves give us a quintessence of all these feelings: and the older the books are, and the remoter the countries they treat of, the completer becomes our satisfaction, because the antiquity itself has become a sort of reverend novelty, and danger is over with all parties except in the happy shuddering sense of it on the part of the reader.
“ With many a tempest had his beard been shaken,"
says Chaucer of his sezaman. It had been shaken, observe. So have all the beards of travellers of old; and the older or more ancient they were, the more bearded one fancies them. An old folio book of ro
mantic yet credible voyages and travels to read, an old bearded traveller for its hero, a fireside in an old country-house to read it by, curtains drawn, and just wind enough stirring out of doors to make an accompaniment to the billows or forests we are reading of, this surely is one of the perfect moments of existenee.
English reading of this kind, we mean the reading of books of travels in the English language, may be said to commence with the travels of good old William de Rubruquis and accomplished Marco Polo. See how instinctively our good friend Dr. John Harris, thorough disinterested bookworm, and one of the fathers of these collections of knowledge, intimates their superiority over their precursors, in the Table of Contents prefixed to his huge folio volumes, one of which is now before us:
“An account of the Several Passages to the Indies, both by sea and land, that have been attempted, discovered, or practised by the Ancients.
"An account of the Travels of two Mahommedans through India and China in the ninth century.
“The Travels of Rabbi Benjamin, the son of Jonas of Tudela, through Europe, Asia, and Africa, from Spain to China, from the year of our Lord 1160 to 1173; from the Latin versions of Benedict Arias Montanus, and Constantine l’Empereur, compared with other Translations into different languages."
“The remarkable Travels of William de Rubruquis, a monk, sent by Louis IX., king of France, commonly styled St. Louis, ambassador into different parts of the East, particularly into Tartary and China, A.D. 1253, containing abundance of curious Particulars relating to those Countries, written by the Ambassador, and addressed to his Royal Master King Louis.
“The curious and remarkable Voyages and Travels of Marco Polo, a gentleman of Venice, who, in the middle of the thirteenth century, passed through a great part of Asia, all the dominions of the Tartars, and returned home by sea through the Islands of the East Indies; taken chiefly from the accurate edition of Ramusio, compared with an original manuscript in His Prussian Majesty's library, and with most of the translations hitherto published.”
The very tables of contents in these good folio writers, who give “full measure, pressed down and running over," are a kind of books in themselves, and save us the trouble of stating who their heroes