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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 520 pages of information about The Last Man.

One other incident occurred at the end of this summer.  The Countess of Windsor, Ex-Queen of England, returned from Germany.  She had at the beginning of the season quitted the vacant city of Vienna; and, unable to tame her haughty mind to anything like submission, she had delayed at Hamburgh, and, when at last she came to London, many weeks elapsed before she gave Adrian notice of her arrival.  In spite of her coldness and long absence, he welcomed her with sensibility, displaying such affection as sought to heal the wounds of pride and sorrow, and was repulsed only by her total apparent want of sympathy.  Idris heard of her mother’s return with pleasure.  Her own maternal feelings were so ardent, that she imagined her parent must now, in this waste world, have lost pride and harshness, and would receive with delight her filial attentions.  The first check to her duteous demonstrations was a formal intimation from the fallen majesty of England, that I was in no manner to be intruded upon her.  She consented, she said, to forgive her daughter, and acknowledge her grandchildren; larger concessions must not be expected.

To me this proceeding appeared (if so light a term may be permitted) extremely whimsical.  Now that the race of man had lost in fact all distinction of rank, this pride was doubly fatuitous; now that we felt a kindred, fraternal nature with all who bore the stamp of humanity, this angry reminiscence of times for ever gone, was worse than foolish.  Idris was too much taken up by her own dreadful fears, to be angry, hardly grieved; for she judged that insensibility must be the source of this continued rancour.  This was not altogether the fact:  but predominant self-will assumed the arms and masque of callous feeling; and the haughty lady disdained to exhibit any token of the struggle she endured; while the slave of pride, she fancied that she sacrificed her happiness to immutable principle.

False was all this—­false all but the affections of our nature, and the links of sympathy with pleasure or pain.  There was but one good and one evil in the world—­life and death.  The pomp of rank, the assumption of power, the possessions of wealth vanished like morning mist.  One living beggar had become of more worth than a national peerage of dead lords—­ alas the day!—­than of dead heroes, patriots, or men of genius.  There was much of degradation in this:  for even vice and virtue had lost their attributes—­life—­life—­the continuation of our animal mechanism—­ was the Alpha and Omega of the desires, the prayers, the prostrate ambition of human race.

[1] Calderon de la Barca. [2] Wordsworth. [3] Keats. [4] Andrew Marvell. [5] The Cenci [6] The Brides’ Tragedy, by T. L. Beddoes, Esq.

CHAPTER IX.

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