Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Omitted Passages And Varied Readings
by [?]


In London and other great capitals it is well known that new diseases have manifested themselves of late years: and more would be known about them, were it not for the tremulous delicacy which waits on the afflictions of the rich. We do not say this invidiously. It is right that such forbearance should exist. Medical men, as a body, are as manly a race as any amongst us, and as little prone to servility. But obviously the case of exposure under circumstances of humiliating affliction is a very different thing for the man whose rank and consideration place him upon a hill conspicuous to a whole city or nation, and for the unknown labourer whose name excites no feeling whatever in the reader of his case. Meantime it is precisely amongst the higher classes, privileged so justly from an exposure pressing so unequally upon their rank, that these new forms of malady emerge. Any man who visits London at intervals long enough to make the spectacle of that great vision impressive to him from novelty and the force of contrast, more especially if this contrast is deepened by a general residence in some quiet rural seclusion, will not fail to be struck by the fever and tumult of London as its primary features. Struck is not the word: awed is the only adequate expression as applied to the hurry, the uproar, the strife, the agony of life as it boils along some of the main arteries among the London streets. About the hour of equinoctial sunset comes a periodic respite in the shape of dinner. Were it not for that, were it not for the wine and the lustre of lights, and the gentle restraints of courtesies, and the soothing of conversation, through which a daily reaction is obtained, London would perish from excitement in a year. The effect upon one who like ourselves simply beholds the vast frenzy attests its power. The mere sympathy, into which the nerves are forced by the eye, expounds the fury with which it must act upon those who are acting and suffering participators in the mania. Rome suffered in the same way, but in a less degree: and the same relief was wooed daily in a brilliant dinner (caena), but two and a half hours earlier.

The same state of things exists proportionately in other capitals–Edinburgh, Dublin, Naples, Vienna. And doubtless, if the curtain were raised, the same penalties would be traced as pursuing this agitated life; the penalties, we mean, that exist in varied shapes of nervous disease.


Mr. Bennett personally is that good man who interests us the more because he seems to be an ill-used one. By the way, here is a combination which escaped the Roman moralist: Vir bonus, says he, mala fortuna compositus, is a spectacle for the gods. Yet what is that case, the case of a man matched in duel with the enmity of a malicious fellow-creature–naturally his inferior, but officially having means to oppress him? No man is naturally or easily roused to anger by a blind abstraction like Fortune; and therefore he is under no temptation to lose his self-command. He sustains no trial that can make him worthy of a divine contemplation. Amongst all the extravagancies of human nature, never yet did we hear of a person who harboured a sentiment of private malice against Time for moving too rapidly, or against Space for being infinitely divisible. Even animated annoyers, if they are without spite towards ourselves, we regard with no enmity. No man in all history, if we except the twelfth Caesar, has nourished a deadly feud against flies[1]: and if Mrs. Jameson allowed a sentiment of revenge to nestle in her heart towards the Canadian mosquitoes, it was the race and not the individual parties to the trespass on herself against whom she protested. Passions it is, human passions, intermingling with the wrong itself that envenom the sense of wrong. We have ourselves been caned severely in passing through a wood by the rebound, the recalcitration we may call it, of elastic branches which we had displaced. And passing through the same wood with a Whitehaven dandy of sixty, now in Hades, who happened to wear a beautiful wig from which on account of the heat he had removed his hat, we saw with these eyes of ours one of those same thickets which heretofore had been concerned in our own caning, deliberately lift up, suspend, and keep dangling in the air for the contempt of the public that auburn wig which was presumed by its wearer to be simular of native curls. The ugliness of that death’s head which by this means was suddenly exposed to daylight, the hideousness of that grinning skull so abruptly revealed, may be imagined by poets. Neither was the affair easily redressed: the wig swung buoyantly in the playful breezes: to catch it was hard, to release it without injuring the tresses was a matter of nicety: ladies were heard approaching from Rydal Mount: the dandy was agitated: he felt himself, if seen in this condition, to be a mere memento mori: for the first time in his life, as we believe, he blushed on meeting our eye: he muttered something, in which we could only catch the word ‘Absalom’: and finally we extricated ourselves from the cursed thicket barely in time to meet the ladies. Here were insufferable affronts: greater cannot be imagined: wanton outrages on two inoffensive men: and for ourselves, who could have identified and sworn to one of the bushes as an accomplice in both assaults, it was not easy altogether to dismiss the idea of malice. Yet, because this malice did not organize and concentrate itself in an eye looking on and genially enjoying our several mortifications, we both pocketed the affronts. All this we say to show Mr. Bennett how fully we do justice to his situation, and allow for the irritation natural to such cases as his, where the loss is clothed with contumely, and the wrong is barbed by malice. But, for all that, we do not think such confidential communications of ill-usage properly made to the public.