Other Tales and Sketches
The Antique Ring
"Yes, indeed: the gem is as bright as a star, and curiously set," said Clara Pembertou,
examining an antique ring, which her betrothed lover had just presented to her, with a
very pretty speech. "It needs only one thing to make it perfect."
"And what is that?" asked Mr. Edward Caryl, secretly anxious for the credit of his gift.
"A modern setting, perhaps?"
"O, no! That would destroy the charm at once," replied Clara. "It needs nothing but a
story. I long to know how many times it has been the pledge of faith between two lovers,
and whether the vows, of which it was the symbol, were always kept or often broken. Not
that I should be too scrupulous about facts. If you happen to be unacquainted with its
authentic history, so much the better. May it not have sparkled upon a queen's finger? Or
who knows but it is the very ring which Posthumus received from Imogen? In short, you
must kindle your imagination at the lustre of this diamond, and make a legend for it."
Now such a task--and doubtless Clara knew it--was the most acceptable that could have
been imposed on Edward Caryl. He was one of that multitude of young gentlemen--
limbs, or rather twigs of the law--whose names appear in gilt letters on the front of
Tudor's Buildings, and other places in the vicinity of the Court House, which seem to be
the haunt of the gentler as well as the severer Muses. Edward, in the dearth of clients, was
accustomed to employ his much leisure in assisting the growth of American Literature, to
which good cause he had contributed not a few quires of the finest letter-paper,
containing some thought, some fancy, some depth of feeling, together with a young
writer's abundance of conceits. Sonnets, stanzas of Tennysonian sweetness, tales imbued
with German mysticism, versions from Jean Paul, criticisms of the old English poets, and
essays smacking of Dialistic philosophy, were among his multifarious productions. The
editors of the fashionable periodicals were familiar with his autograph, and inscribed his
name in those brilliant bead-rolls of inkstained celebrity, which illustrate the first page of
their covers. Nor did fame withhold her laurel. Hillard had included him among the lights
of the New England metropolis, in his Boston Book; Bryant had found room for some of
his stanzas, in the Selections from American Poetry; and Mr. Griswold, in his recent
assemblage of the sons and daughters of song, had introduced Edward Caryl into the
inner court of the temple, among his fourscore choicest bards. There was a prospect,
indeed, of his assuming a still higher and more independent position. Interviews had been
held with Ticknor, and a correspondence with the Harpers, respecting a proposed volume,
chiefly to consist of Mr. Caryl's fugitive pieces in the Magazines, but to be accompanied
with a poem of some length, never before published. Not improbably, the public may yet
be gratified with this collection.
Meanwhile, we sum up our sketch of Edward Caryl, by pronouncing him, though
somewhat of a carpet knight in literature, yet no unfavorable specimen of a generation of
rising writers, whose spirit is such that we may reasonably expect creditable attempts
from all, and good and beautiful results from some. And, it will be observed, Edward was