Would to Heaven, say we, thou hadst thought right to keep it secret! Who is there now that can read the five columns of Presentations in his Morning Newspaper without a shudder? Hypochondriac men, and all men are to a certain extent hypochondriac, should be more gently treated. With what readiness our fancy, in this shattered state of the nerves, follows out the consequences which Teufelsdrockh, with a devilish coolness, goes on to draw:—
“What would Majesty do, could such an accident befall in reality; should the buttons all simultaneously start, and the solid wool evaporate, in very Deed, as here in Dream? Ach Gott! How each skulks into the nearest hiding-place; their high State Tragedy (Haupt- und Staats-Action) becomes a Pickleherring-Farce to weep at, which is the worst kind of Farce; the tables (according to Horace), and with them, the whole fabric of Government, Legislation, Property, Police, and Civilized Society, are dissolved, in wails and howls.”
Lives the man that can figure a naked Duke of Windlestraw addressing a naked House of Lords? Imagination, choked as in mephitic air, recoils on itself, and will not forward with the picture. The Woolsack, the Ministerial, the Opposition Benches—infandum! infandum! And yet why is the thing impossible? Was not every soul, or rather every body, of these Guardians of our Liberties, naked, or nearly so, last night; “a forked Radish with a head fantastically carved”? And why might he not, did our stern fate so order it, walk out to St. Stephen’s, as well as into bed, in that no-fashion; and there, with other similar Radishes, hold a Bed of Justice? “Solace of those afflicted with the like!” Unhappy Teufelsdrockh, had man ever such a “physical or psychical infirmity” before? And now how many, perhaps, may thy unparalleled confession (which we, even to the sounder British world, and goaded on by Critical and Biographical duty, grudge to reimpart) incurably infect therewith! Art thou the malignest of Sansculottists, or only the maddest?
“It will remain to be examined,” adds the inexorable Teufelsdrockh, “in how far the SCARECROW, as a Clothed Person, is not also entitled to benefit of clergy, and English trial by jury: nay perhaps, considering his high function (for is not he too a Defender of Property, and Sovereign armed with the terrors of the Law?), to a certain royal Immunity and Inviolability; which, however, misers and the meaner class of persons are not always voluntarily disposed to grant him.”
“O my Friends, we are [in Yorick Sterne’s words] but as ’turkeys driven, with a stick and red clout, to the market:’ or if some drivers, as they do in Norfolk, take a dried bladder and put peas in it, the rattle thereof terrifies the boldest!”