Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Watching History Happen
From The Illustrated Belle Assemblee and Magazine of Costumes, June, 1844. Because the text is so small in the scan, we transcribe it below.
Falling into love is one thing —but falling out is another.
There were two bosom friends, say Orlando and Sempronius; their real names, indeed, were Abel Mudge, and Jeremy Huggins; but for romance-sake we’ll call them otherwise. Well, they were inseparables, bought their hats at the same shop, took the same kind of snuff, smoked the same sort of cigars, (those at six a shilling), played duets on the German flute, and, in short, went floating down life’s stream like the poet’s swan,
Swan and Shadow.”
Talking of streams, puts me in mind of the Thames; and that again brings to my recollection how truly apt an illustration of the flow of life may be found in that very identical river. Yes! though existence, in its bright juvenility, be as fair and flowery as Twickenham Reach, yet, alas! is not the decline of our days as rough and perilous as Margate Sands and the Nore Light?
As for Abel and Jerry—Orlando and Sempronius, we beg pardon, they went on merrily enough till Love came across their path, and upset everything. Abel was the first to feel the tender emotion; the earliest effects of which were his giving up cigars and Prince’s Mixture. Sempronius, who was still unscathed, (we believe we mentioned the name of Abel a while ago— Orlando was the gentleman we meant), well, Orlando, that is, Sempronius—no, Orlando,—no—yes, oh! confound it, we shall never be able to get on at this rate! Better stick to plain Abel and Jerry for the future. Well, as we said before, Jerry was at present intact, continued to puff and snuff away, laughed at Abel’s sighing and heigh!-ing, and declared love itself to be “all stuff and nonsense.”
Two years are supposed to have elapsed—vide almanac for particulars.
Abel’s suit was not worn out. On the contrary, each day seemed to throw a new gloss upon it; and his ladye-love—did we mention her name? Miss Arabella Crumpton (to be sure, we might have suppressed the “Crumpton,” but our love of veracity, and the muddle we got into with those Semproniuses and Orlando Furiosos)—Miss Arabella Crumpton, we repeat, was every thing that could be desired in a ladye-love; cherished Him with a warm affection, sewed on his buttons, pined away in his absence, made him pots of Scotch Marmalade for his breakfast, dreamt that she dwelt in marble halls—but also dreamt, which pleased Miss Arabella most, that he loved her still the same. In short, they were all in all to each other, and generally described by the country people, who saw them in their walks, as “sich an appy couple.”
Jeremy Higgins returned from walking the hospitals.
The last chapter was a rather short one; but it contained a great deal of meaning!!! for any one who knows the metamorphosis operated upon a country surgeon’s prentice by walking the London hospitals, will at once foresee that poor Abel had no chance, in the way of fascinations, beside his more travelled and Londonized friend. Alas! the reader’s worst anticipations are realized. Arabella is faithless, Jerry is triumphant, Abel is heart-broken.
Alas! a lass, alas! is but a lass!
Jeremy Huggins now has it all his own way. It is his buttons that are sewn on, his breakfast that is dulcified by the real genuine, home-made Dundee Marmalade. It is Jerry now who exhibits a blue and white, truth-and-purity silk purse: it is he who now, in his rural ramblings, forms with Miss Arabella “sich an appy couple.” Oh! woman—woman—woman!—woman! Oh! love—love—love!—love! Oh! friendship! friendship!! friendship!!! friendship!!!!
Did we say before, that Abel, the broken-hearted, was a chymist and druggist? We might, if romantically inclined, have made him a student, a poet, an author, a hero, or something else equally sublime; but, as we before intimidated—intimated, we believe, is the exact word—but, after dinner, so much precision is not looked for,—as we before imitated—oh! hang these steel pens! it’s utterly imposs • • •
Author takes a nap.
Like a phoenix from our ashes, we rise to announce that Mister Abel Mudge, chymist and druggist, being cut out by “that fellow, Jerry Huggins,” is disgusted with his sex, and has come to the conclusion that womenkind are all deceivers. He abjures love altogether, gives up marmalade at breakfast, turns his mind to scientific pursuits, and sews on his own buttons. Science, dear science, has now all his attentions. Knowledge is the only object worthy of an intelligent man’s consideration. He wonders—Abel Mudge does—how he could ever have thought otherwise. Come to my arms, dear science, and snuff the candles! he “mentally exclaims;” and draws his chair closer to the fire. —The volume he had taken in hand was a volume on chemistry, and the first paragraph he cast his eyes on, was a receipt “To make an artificial earthquake.”
The reader is left in an awful state of wonderment, as to what on earth a receipt in a chemistry book, how
to make an artificial earthquake, has got to do with the loves of Abel Mudge, Jeremy Huggins, and Arabella Crumpton.
The author enjoys the joke, and laughs in his sleeve of sleeves at Abel Mudge, Jeremy Huggins, Arabella Crumpton, and the Reader.
As Macbeth was tempted by the accidental visitation of Duncan “under his battlements,” so was poor Abel incited to evil by the accidental opening of his chymistry book at the recipe to make an artificial earthquake. It was entirely at the instigation of “dear Science,” that he had opened the volume, but ruthless Revenge soon popped his nose in, and changed the whole current of proceedings.
Now is the gentle reader requested to be in two places at once: firstly, in the grove at the end of the vale, where Arabella and her lover are sitting, as is their wont, on a bank whereon the wild thyme grows, whispering soft nothings (contradicting the adage, that Ex nihilo, nihil fit,) into each others too credulous ears; and, Secondly, in Abel Mudge’s back-laboratory, gloating over the “Receipt to make an artificial earthquake.”
“Will you ever love any other but me?” sighs Jerry Huggins on the bank, with a most walk-the-hospitaL insinuatingness.
“Steel filings, sulphur, nitric acid, lignum vitre, and carburetted hydrogen gas, in equal quantities,” mutters Abel, in his laboratory, by way of retort.
“Never, never, while the stars shine, and the moon sheddeth her light;” whispers the gentle Arabella.
“Bury the ingredients,” murmurs Abel, “two feet beneath the soil, and in two hours they will explode with the force of an earthquake or volano. It is six o’clock! the term has just expired!”
“Oh! — ah!—whew ! — bang ! —rattle !—smash!” Our readers will excuse us being more particular; for we are sure they will at once see (what, therefore, we shall not attempt to describe), how the broken-hearted Abel, tempted by the chymistry book, projected the downfall of the lovers, by blowing them up on the bank where they were in the habit of sitting, billing and cooing of a fine summer’s afternoon; and how, having mixed the steel filings, flower of sulphur, nitric acid, hydrogen gas, and carburetted lignum vitae, in the proper earthquaky proportions, he buried the whole beneath the lovers’ seat two hours before their arrival; and how, punctual to their time, the steel filings, flower-o’-brimstone, acidulated drops of nitre, carbonated aqua vitae, and so forth, blew up with the violence of an earthquake or voleano, and sent Arabella and her lover spinning into the regions where the stars were shining, and the moon shedding her light; to return, alas! to earth only as the sticks of the rockets whose coruscations are over, as the cinder of the meteor whose blaze is done.
The remains of the lovers were buried in one grave, and Abel lived happy ever after.
Moral.—Take care how you jilt chymists and druggists.