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MUSICAL WIVES. « Omnibus hoc vitium est Cantatoribus." HORACE. OH, that unfortunate walk by the river-side! But for that ill-fated excursion I might have enjoyed connubial happiness, of which there is now, alas! but little hope. Let me not, however, be mistaken. No whiskered officer of dragoons parading the beautiful promenade at Richmond, while music melted on the waves, and the setting sun threw its glowing light through the arches of the bridge upon the wooded, hill beyond, has whispered soft nonsense in my lady's ear, and so possessed my imagination with the phantasmas of the green-eyed monster. No, I speak of a water-side stroll enacted some four or five thousand years ago by the Egyptian Mercury, the Hermes Trismegistus, or “ thrice illustrious," who, wandering forth to enjoy the cool breezes of evening upon the banks of the Nile, after its periodical overflowing, and gazing intently on the ascending moon, struck his foot against the shell of a tortoise which had been left by the retiring flood, and was astonished at hearing a melodious sound. Stooping down to ascertain the cause of this phenomenon, he found that the flesh having been dried and wasted by the burning sun, nothing but the nerves and cartilages remained, which being braced and contracted by the heat, had become sonorous; and the idea of a lyre instantly started into his imagination. Constructing the instrument in the form of a tortoise, he strung it with the dried sinews of dead animals:--such, according to Apollodorus, was the origin of music; and this ominous ramble of the moon-gazing " thrice illustrious" was, consequently, the source of all my conjugal infelicity.
This is the age for accomplishments; but in the education of our females it may be doubted whether they be not too openly and exclusively invested with those graces and attractions which may best qualify them for the matrimonial market-as a certain schoolmistress advertised “ to get up young ladies for the India department.” In music this seems more especially perceptible. Tibullus could not now exclaim, “ Ah! nimium faciles aurem præbere puellæ,” for a modern damsel, instead of lending her own ear, is more prone to exclaim with Antony, “ Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears," and sits herself down to a harpsichord to play con amore--for a husband. Brilliant fingers have superseded brilliant eyes; execution is performed by octaves not ogles; and hearts are literally carried by a coup de main. Holding a wax light instead of a torch, Hymen takes his post beside a book of canzonets ;-Cupid bestriding the keys, with one foot upon a Flat, the other upon a Natural, takes a Sharp for his arrow, which he aims at the ear, not the heart, of his victim, and of course the greatest asses present the readiest and most open mark. It is painful to enroll oneself in this asinine brotherhood, yet candour obliges me to con-. fess, that I suffered myself to be tamely caught by the auricular appendage, and led up to the hymeneal halter. My wife sang sweetly, played divinely, had brilliancy without noise, expression without affectation, science without pedantry, and many other things without many other things—at least every body said so. I received the congratula. tions of my friends, and was the happiest of men for the full period of a whole honeymoon.
Stradella, as all the world knows, saved his life by playing a tune to VOL VII. NO. XXVI.
the bravos who were hired to assassinate him; but we are now become so much more musical, that I verily believe I should incur the fate which he avoided, were I even to attempt setting limits to the passion. What a dictionary of quotations should I draw down upon my devoted head! “ Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast”—and “The man that hath not music in his soul, &c." and a thousand others would be spouted forth against me, while I should in vain contend that I was deprecating the abuse, not the use of an art; that I might love any given pursuit without having a rage for it; and that however partial I may be to sweet voices, or sweet wines, I have no ambition to be sung to death, or smothered in a butt of malmsey. Alas! those who have ears for music have none for reason. After the first bustle of visiting, introductions, singing, playing, and admiration, I naturally concluded that we should subside into a little domestic quiet and self-possession, when I might calmly prosecute my studies, and enjoy my own fireside; but
my wife's notions of enjoyment were so far from harmonizing with mine, that I found a da capo had commenced, and I was condemned to run through the same round of melodious misery. Since then, I have been in vain expecting a finale; "the cry is still they come;" fiddlers, singers, masters, and amateurs, besiege my house, and there is no end to my wife's parties, or my remonstrances. I find I have married a musician who perpetually reminds me of Dr. Pangloss's distinction between a concert and a consort, Accustomed to admiration, she cannot live without it, and her home becomes insipid, unless it is crowded with listeners and flatterers, and converted into an arena for display. I have no voice in my own house, because my wife has so much, and every body keeps time in it so rigorously, that I cannot find any for my own occupations. From morning to night I am distracted with harmony -my head seems to be a thoroughfare for crotchets, quavers, and semiquavers--a common sewer, into wbich is disgorged a perpetual stream of noise, under every possible variety which the modulation of air can produce. Even in my sleep I have a constant singing in my head ; the nerves of my brain, like an Æolian harp, vibrate of themselves; and if I dream, it is of the jarring, scraping, and tuning, of ten thousand instruments.
Man has been defined, by physiologists, as a featherless biped, but I have been sometimes struck with the capricious contrast between the human and the winged subject. In peacocks, pheasants, and all the gallinaceous tribe, it is the male who is dressed out in gorgeous colours and fine feathers, while the female is as plain and unadorned as a quakeress. Singing-birds are all small, the blackbird being the largest; there is no beaked Billington; and it is the gentleman who tunes his pipe while the domestic lady sits brooding over her eggs. Mine broods over nothing but the harpsichord, and my “callow nestlings of domestic bliss" are rondos, sonatas, and canzonettas. How can I expect ber to be a good housekeeper, in any sense of the word ? That left hand, so conversant in thorough. bass, would you desecrate it with a roll of tradesmen's bills ? those dexter fingers, such volant summoners of sound, would
condemn them to a thimble and needle, or require them to handle any keys but those of the instrument ? and that voice,“ warbling immortal verse and Tuscan air," would you have the heart to bid it scold her servants and add up accounts ?_None but a Goth or a Vandal would dream of such degradations, and yet I am ashamed to confess how much
of a barbarian I am become. “The piece which your wife is about to play, is extremelydifficult," said a friend the other night. “I wish to God it was impossible," was my reply; and shortly after I exclaimed, in the midst of a most complicated fugue—“sed fugit interea, fugit irreparabile tempus," to the great scandal of all the bystanders, the casting of angry glances from the performers, the holding up of forefingers, and the general exclamation of “Hush !”—My guests are fonder of music than I am; a great many walk away into another room to play cards or chat during the performance of any favourite piece, but they invariably return when it is finished, to cry "Bravo! charming! beautiful! divine ! --Whose composition is that? Do pray oblige us with it once more.”
Let none but the rich man aspire to the possession of a musical wife, for he must expect to pay for the luxury in proportion to its annoyance; a computation which renders it extravagant indeed. If ever a Congress of Sovereigns find themselves assembled in my pocket, they are presently dispersed for benefit tickets and subscription concerts. One meeting is no sooner over than another is announced; singers are never out of breath, fiddlers' arms never ache, my wife's tarantula is never cured, her fingers are never out of her harpsichord, and mine never out of my purse. The “No Song no Supper” of former days is now converted into “no Dinner no Song," for my table is beleaguered two or three times a week with a whole irruption of hungry harmonists, who commit grievous havock upon fish, flesh, and poultry, and cultivate the decanter as if they were drinking for a voice. At first I had no conception that a song could ever emerge from such a superincumbent mass of viands, deeming it as improbable an event as that the giants should upheave from beneath Mount Pelion, or that the bottom shelf of a tavern-larder should warble one of Moore's melodies. I found a malicious pleasure in believing, that even the ghost of a voice was laid, when lo!-with no other conjuration than a preliminary “Hem," these ventripotent melodists called up from the Red Sea of my port and claret, all their buried swells, shakes, and cadences, as loud, clear, and lively, as ever they existed before dinner!
But the crowning misery, the master mischief of the musico-mania, is the converting my dwelling into an opera-house or common hotel, for the benefit concert of some squalling Italian, when hundreds of utter strangers, upon the strength of their guinea tickets, stare me out of countenance in my own abode, hustling, elbowing, and pinioning me up into a corner where I can see and hear nothing, or compelling me to take my stand half-way down stairs with a cold wind blowing upon my back, and some gaping vulgarian treading upon my toes in front. This I hold to be so degrading, as well as offensive a proceeding, that I should never submit to be a personal witness of the outrage, but for certain considerations which I hardly know how to mention to "ears polite.” Suffice it to say, that I find it necessary to look, as well as listen upon these occasions, for among my visitants I have had amateurs of other things than music ; gentlemen, who have learned the new art of fingering, without the assistance of the chiroplast ; shrewd conveyancers, who can make a transfer from a chimney piece to a pocket in a demi-semiquaver. I accuse nobody-the whole six hundred at my last invasion were, doubtless, "all honourable men,” though I had not the honour of knowing them; and the phenomena
I am about to relate, are unquestionably attributable to the music. We know what magical effects it produced among the ancients —
Orpheus and old Amphion play'd
Strange tunes to entertain our sites,
But then we know they had their Lyres. I firmly believe that the walls of Thebes built themselves to the tune of “ The Freemasons' March," and that tigers and kids, lambs and lions, raised themselves upon their hind legs and waltzed lovingly together, when Orpheus sang to Chiron; for I have witnessed enchantments in my own house not a whit less miraculous. A small antique Apollo, that stood upon a bracket in my drawing-room, although he had but one leg, has hopped clean away, probably imagining, from the concord of sweet sounds, that he was regaining his favourite Parnassus. By what arrangement of muscles Mercury could ply the wings attached
cap, I could never comprehend, but it is obvious that he possesses the power, for a little bronze image of that god has flown away from my chimney-piece. This, however, may be the pious abduction of some one who recognised his appropriate deity, and so bore him off in triumph. A beautiful nymph skipping has jumped from my writing-table, and eloped from the paternal roof. If the gentleman with whom she has taken refuge will return her to her disconsolate owner, he may retain the rope for his own use. Philip the Fifth of Spain fell once into such a fit of low spirits, that for several months he refused to be shaved, until the soothing sweetness of Farinelli's strains induced him to submit his chin to the razor with great cheerfulness and resolution. Well, I had a large medal of this monarch in his bearded state, which must have recognised, in some of my Italian warblers, such approximation to Farinelli's notes, that it has rolled itself
for the purpose, probably, of undergoing another capillary excision. Enquiries have been made at the barbers' and perfumers' shops in the neighbourhood, which, from their number of blocks and heads without brains, ought to know something of musical matters; but I can gain no tidings of the fugitive. An Egyptian Scarabæus in blue onyx, animated by some lively tune, not only crept from under a glass case, but crawled fairly out of my hall door at the last concert. Should any of my musical visitants have been mounted on its back, like Arion on his dolphin, and an accident have occurred from their crossing the street amid the rush of carriages, I sincerely hope the poor beetle has escaped unhurt. That a Parisian shepherdess in bisquit should take French leave of my mantelpiece, is perhaps natural, and may be attributed to love of home rather than of music; nor is it wonderful that a gold box with Thieves vinegar should abscond, for the present possessor establishes his claim to the perfume by keeping its case :--but I cannot comprehend how a verd-antique pitcher with one ear, and that one bermetically sealed, should be so fascinated as to run off with one of my melodists, and thus deprive me at once of my friend and pitcher;" nor why so apparently phlegmatic and discreet an inmate as a silver candlestick, should become a “ Fanatico per la Musica," and walk off to encounter more melting strains than those to which it was nightly subjected in the performance of its duty.
My wife remarks with great originality and slirewdness, that things cannot go without hands.-Not even harpsichords, I replied ; and yet they are constantly going. However, I am a recognised amateur, and of course bound to like music, whatever effects it produces ; though I confess I should be better pleased if every visitant were compelled to give a concert in return, by which arrangement our moveables might justify their name, and after performing the tour of our circle, return to their original quarters. At all events I am an inveterate amateur, and therefore I exclaim con amore, and with infinite bitterness-Hail to that bewitching art, which lightens our bosoms as well as our brackets, eases us of our cares and candlesticks, imperceptibly steals away our vexations and valuables, and clears at the same moment our minds and our mantelpieces !
() thou undying Spirit of poetry!