페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

excellent cider to my Lord Sparkish, which occasioned some brilliant remarks from that nobleman. When the host called for wine, he nodded to one or other of his guests, and said, “ Tom Neverout, my service to you."

After the first course came almond-pudding, fritters, which the Colonel took with his hands out of the dish, in order to help the brilliant Miss Notable; chickens, black puddings, and soup; and Lady Smart, the elegant mistress of the mansion, finding a skewer in a dish, placed it in her plate with directions that it should be carried down to the cook and dressed for the cook's own dinner. Wine and small beer were drunk during this second course; and when the Colonel called for beer, he called the butler Friend, and asked whether the beer was good. Various jocular remarks passed from the gentlefolks to the servants; at breakfast several persons had a word and a joke for Mrs. Betty, my lady's maid, who warmed the cream and had charge of the canister (the tea cost thirty shillings a pound in those days). When my Lady Sparkish sent her footman out to my Lady Match to come at six o'clock and play at quadrille, her ladyship warned the man to follow his nose, and if he fell by the way not to stay to get up again. And when the gentlemen asked the hall-porter if his lady was at home, that functionary replied, with manly waggishness, “She was at home just now, but she's not gone out yet.”

After the puddings, sweet and black, the fritters and soup, came the third course, of which the chief dish was a hot venison pasty, which was put before Lord Smart, and carved by that nobleman. Besides the pasty, there was a hare, a rabbit, some pigeons, partridges, a goose, and a ham. Beer and wine were freely imbibed during this course, the gentlemen always pledging somebody with every glass which they drank ; and by this time the conversation between Tom Neverout and Miss Notable had grown so brisk and lively, that the Derbyshire baronet began to think the young gentlewoman was Tom's sweetheart ; on which Miss remarked, that she loved Tom “like pie." After the goose, some of the gentlemen took a dram of

brandy," which was very good for the wholesomes," Sir John said ; and now having had a tolerably substantial dinner, honest Lord Smart bade the butler bring up the great tankard full of October to Sir John. The great tankard was passed from hand to hand and mouth to mouth, but when pressed by the noble host upon the gallant Tom Neverout, he said, “No, faith, my lord ; I like your wine, and won't put a churl upon a gentleman. Your honour's claret is good enough for me." And so, the dinner over, the host said, Hang saving, bring us up a ha’porth of cheese.”

The cloth was now taken away, and a bottle of burgundy was set down, of which the ladies were invited to partake before they went to their tea. When they withdrew, the gentlemen promised to join them in an hour : fresh bottles were brought; the “dead men,” meaning the empty bottles, removed; and “D’you hear, John ? bring clean glasses," my Lord Smart said. On which the gallant Colonel Alwit said, “ I'll keep my glass; for wine is the best liquor to wash glasses in.”

After an hour the gentlemen joined the ladies, and then they all sat and played quadrille until three o'clock in the morning, when the chairs and the flambeaux came, and this noble company went to bed. Such were manners six or seven score years ago.

I draw no inference from this queer picture-let all moralists here present deduce their own: Fancy the moral condition of that society in which a lady of fashion joked with a footman, and carved a sirloin, and provided besides a great shoulder of veal, a goose, hare, rabbit, chickens, partridges, black puddings, and a ham for a dinner for eight Christians. What—what could have been the condition of that polite world in which people openly ate goose after almondpudding, and took their soup in the middle of dinner? Fancy a Colonel in the Guards putting his hand into a dish of beignets d'abricot, and helping his neighbour, a young lady du monde!! Fancy a noble lord calling out to the servants, before the ladies at his table, “ Hang expense, bring us a ha’porth of cheese !” Such were the ladies of Saint James's-such were the frequenters of “White's Chocolate-House,” when Swift used to visit it, and Steele described it as the centre of pleasure, gallantry, and entertainment, a hundred and forty years ago!

Dennis, who ran amuck at the literary society of his day, falls foul of poor Steele, and thus depicts him :-“Sir John Edgar, of the county of

in Ireland, is of a middle stature, broad shoulders, thick legs, a shape like the picture of somebody over a farmer's chimney—a short chin, a short nose, a short forehead, a broad flat face, and a dusky countenance. Yet with such a face and such a shape, he discovered at sixty that he took himself for a beauty, and appeared to be more mortified at being told that he was ugly, than he was by any reflection made upon his honour or understanding.

"He is a gentleman born, witness, himself, of very honourable family; certainly of a very ancient one, for his ancestors flourished in Tipperary long before the English ever set foot in Ireland. He has testimony of this more authentic than the Herald's Office, or any human testimony. For God has marked him more abundantly than he did Cain, and stamped his native country on his face, his understanding, his writings, his actions, his passions, and, above all, his vanity. The Hibernian brogue is still upon all these, though long habit and length of days have worn it off his tongue.'

Although this portrait is the work of a man who was neither the. friend of Steele nor of any other man alive, yet there is a dreadful resemblance to the original in the savage and exaggerated traits of

* Steele replied to Dennis in an “ Answer to a Whimsical Pamphlet, called the Character of Sir John Edgar. What Steele had to say against the crossgrained old Critic discovers a great deal of humour :

“Thou never didst let the sun into thy garret, for fear he should bring a bailiff along with him. ....

“Your years are about sixty-five, an ugly, vinegar face, that if you had any command you would be obeyed out of fear, from your ill-nature pictured there ; not from any other motive. Your height is about some five feet five inches. You see I can give your exact measure as well as if I had taken your dimension with a good cudgel, which I promise you to do as soon as ever I have the good fortune to me you.

[“Your

the caricature, and everybody who knows him must recognize Dick Steele. Dick set about almost all the undertakings of his life with inadequate means, and, as he took and furnished a house with the most generous intentions towards his friends, the most tender gallantry towards his wife, and with this only drawback, that he had not wherewithal to pay the rent when quarter-day came,-so, in his life he proposed to himself the most magnificent schemes of virtue, forbearance, public and private good, and the advancement of his own and the national religion ; but when he had to pay for these articles—so difficult to purchase and so costly to maintain-poor Dick's money was not forthcoming: and when Virtue called with her little bill, Dick made a shuffling excuse that he could not see her that morning, having a headache from being tipsy overnight ; or when stern Duty rapped at the door with his account, Dick was absent and not ready to pay. He was shirking at the tavern ; or had some particular business (of somebody's else) at the ordinary: or he was in hiding, or worse than in hiding, in the lock-up house. What a situation for a man !—for a philanthropist-for a lover of right and

“Your doughty paunch stands before you like a firkin of butter, and your duck legs seem to be cast for carrying burdens.

“Thy works are libels upon others, and satires upon thyself; and while they bark at men of sense, call him knave and fool that wrote them. Thou hast a great antipathy to thy own species; and hatest the sight of a fool but in thy glass.'

Steele had been kind to Dennis, and once got arrested on account of a pecuniary service which he did him. When John heard of the fact—“S’death !” cries John ; "why did not he keep out of the way as I did ?”

The “Answer” concludes by mentioning that Cibber had offered Ten Pounds for the discovery of the authorship of Dennis's pamphlet; on which, says Steele, “I am only sorry he has offered so much, because the twentieth part would have over-valued his whole carcase. But I know the fellow that he keeps to give answers to his creditors will betray him ; for he gave me his word to bring officers on the top of the house that should make a hole through the ceiling of his garret, and so bring him to the punishment he deserves. Some people think this expedient out of the way, and that he would make his escape upon hearing the least noise. I say so too ; but it takes him up half an hour every night to fortify himself with his old hair trunk, two or three joint-stools, and some other lumber, which he ties together with cords so fast that it takes him up the same time in the morning to release himself.”.

truth—for a magnificent designer and schemer! Not to dare to look in the face the Religion which he adored and which he had offended : to have to shirk down back lanes and alleys, so as to avoid the friend whom he loved and who had trusted him ; to have the house which he had intended for his wife, whom he loved passionately, and for her ladyship's company which he wished to entertain splendidly, in the possession of a bailift's man ; with a crowd of little creditors,-grocers, butchers, and small-coal menlingering round the door with their bills and jeering at him. Alas! for poor Dick Steele ! For nobody else, of course.

There is no man or woman in our time who makes fine projects and gives them up from idleness or want of means. When Duty calls upon us, we no doubt are always at home and ready to pay that grim taxgatherer. When we are stricken with remorse and promise reform, we keep our promise, and are never angry, or idle, or extravagant any more. There are no chambers in our hearts, clestined for family friends and affections, and now occupied by some Sin's emissary and bailiff in possession. There are no little sins, shabby peccadilloes, importunate remembrances, or disappointed holders of our promises to reform, hovering at our steps, or knocking at our door! Of course not. We are living in the nineteenth century; and poor Dick Steele stumbled and got up again, and got into jail and out again, and sinned and repented, and loved and suffered, and lived and died, scores of years ago. Peace be with him! Let us think gently of one who was so gentle: let us speak kindly of one whose own breast exuberated with human kindness.

« 이전계속 »