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.His gaiety was always accompanied with dignity.It was the gaiety of the hero and the scholar.It was chastened with reflection and sensibility, and never lost sight either of good taste or humanity.Such as it was however, it denoted a genuine hilarity of heart, imparted an inconceivable brilliancy to his company and conversation, and rendered him the perpetual delight of the diversified circles he then willingly frequented.You see nothing of him, my dear Williams, but the ruin of that Falkland who was courted by sages, and adored by the fair.His youth, distinguished in its outset by the most unusual promise, is tarnished.His sensibility is shrunk up and withered by events the most disgustful to his feelings.His mind was fraught with all the rhapsodies of visionary honour; and, in his sense, nothing but the grosser part, the mere shell of Falkland, was capable of surviving the wound that his pride has sustained."These reflections of my friend Collins strongly tended to inflame my curiosity, and I requested him to enter into a more copious explanation.With this request he readily complied; as conceiving that whatever delicacy it became him to exercise in ordinary cases, it would be out of place in my situation; and thinking it not improbable that Mr.Falkland, but for the disturbance and inflammation of his mind, would be disposed to a similar communication.I shall interweave with Mr.Collins's story various information which I afterwards received from other quarters, that I may give all possible perspicuity to the series of events.To avoid confusion in my narrative, I shall drop the person of Collins, and assume to be myself the historian of our patron.To the reader it may appear at first sight as if this detail of the preceding life of Mr.Falkland were foreign to my history.Alas! I know from bitter experience that it is otherwise.My heart bleeds at the recollection of his misfortunes, as if they were my own.How can it fail to do so? To his story the whole fortune of my life was linked: because he was miserable, my happiness, my name, and my existence have been irretrievably blasted.* * *CHAPTER II.Among the favourite authors of his early years were the heroic poets of Italy.From them he imbibed the love of chivalry and romance.He had too much good sense to regret the times of Charlemagne and Arthur.But, while his imagination was purged by a certain infusion of philosophy, he conceived that there was in the manners depicted by these celebrated poets something to imitate, as well as something to avoid.He believed that nothing was so well calculated to make men delicate, gallant, and humane, as a temper perpetually alive to the sentiments of birth and honour.The opinions he entertained upon these topics were illustrated in his conduct, which was assiduously conformed to the model of heroism that his fancy suggested.With these sentiments he set out upon his travels, at the age at which the grand tour is usually made; and they were rather confirmed than shaken by the adventures that befel him.By inclination he was led to make his longest stay in Italy; and here he fell into company with several young noblemen whose studies and principles were congenial to his own.By them he was assiduously courted, and treated with the most distinguished applause.They were delighted to meet with a foreigner, who had imbibed all the peculiarities of the most liberal and honourable among themselves.Nor was he less favoured and admired by the softer sex.Though his stature was small, his person had an air of uncommon dignity.His dignity was then heightened by certain additions which were afterwards obliterated,—an expression of frankness, ingenuity, and unreserve, and a spirit of the most ardent enthusiasm.Perhaps no Englishman was ever in an equal degree idolised by the inhabitants of Italy.It was not possible for him to have drunk so deeply of the fountain of chivalry without being engaged occasionally in affairs of honour, all of which were terminated in a manner that would not have disgraced the chevalier Bayard himself.In Italy, the young men of rank divide themselves into two classes,—those who adhere to the pure principles of ancient gallantry, and those who, being actuated by the same acute sense of injury and insult, accustom themselves to the employment of hired bravoes as their instruments of vengeance.The whole difference, indeed, consists in the precarious application of a generally received distinction.The most generous Italian conceives that there are certain persons whom it would be contamination for him to call into the open field.He nevertheless believes that an indignity cannot be expiated but with blood, and is persuaded that the life of a man is a trifling consideration, in comparison of the indemnification to be made to his injured honour.There is, therefore, scarcely any Italian that would upon some occasions scruple assassination.Men of spirit among them, notwithstanding the prejudices of their education, cannot fail to have a secret conviction of its baseness, and will be desirous of extending as far as possible the cartel of honour.Real or affected arrogance teaches others to regard almost the whole species as their inferiors, and of consequence incites them to gratify their vengeance without danger to their persons.Mr.Falkland met with some of these.But his undaunted spirit and resolute temper gave him a decisive advantage even in such perilous rencounters.One instance, among many, of his manner of conducting himself among this proud and high-spirited people it may be proper to relate.Mr.Falkland is the principal agent in my history; and Mr.Falkland in the autumn and decay of his vigour, such as I found him, cannot be completely understood without a knowledge of his previous character, as it was in all the gloss of youth, yet unassailed by adversity, and unbroken in upon by anguish or remorse [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]