« PreviousContinue »
its source in this feeling.-He bestows no small quantity of his tediousness upon M on whose mind all these formulas and diagrams fall like seed on stony ground: “ while the manna is descending,” he shakes his ears, and in the intervals of the debate, insinuates an objection, and calls for another half-pint. I have sometimes said to him—" Any one to come in here without knowing you, would take
for the most disputatious man alive, for you are always engaged in an argument with somebody or other.” The truth is, that M— is a goodnatured, gentlemanly man, who notwithstanding, if appealed to, will not let an absurd or unjust proposition pass without expressing his dissent; and therefore he is a sort of mark for all those (and we have several of that stamp) who like to teaze other people's understandings, as wool-combers teaze wool. He is certainly the flower of the flock. He is the oldest frequenter of the place, the latest sitter-up, wellinformed, inobtrusive, and that sturdy old English character, a lover of truth and justice. I never knew Mapprove of any thing unfair or illiberal. There is a candour and uprightness about his mind which can neither be wheedled nor brow-beat into unjustifiable complaisance. He looks strait-forward as he sits with his glass
in his hand, turning neither to the right nor the left, and I will venture to say that he has never had a sinister object in view through life. Mrs. Battle it is recorded in her Opinions on Whist) could not make up her mind to use the word “ Go.” M- from long practice has got over this difficulty, and uses it incessantly. It is no matter what adjunct follows in the train of this despised monosyllable :—whatever liquid comes after this prefix is welcome. Mwithout being the most communicative, is the most conversible man I know. The social principle is inseparable from his person. If he has nothing to say, he drinks your health ; and when you cannot from the rapidity and carelessness of his utterance catch what he says, you assent to it with equal confidence: you know his meaning is good. His favourite phrase is, “ We have all of us something of the coxcomb;' and yet he has none of it himself. Before I had exchanged half a dozen sentences with M-, I found that he knew several of my old acquaintance (an immediate introduction of itself, for the discussing the characters and foibles of common friends is a great sweetener and cement of friendship)--and had been intimate with most of the wits and men about town for the last twenty years. He knew Tobin, Words
worth, Porson, Wilson, Paley, Erskine, and many
others. He speaks of Paley's pleasantry and unassuming manners, and describes Porson's long potations and long quotations formerly at the Cider-Cellar in a very lively way. He has doubts, however, as to that sort of learning. On my saying that I had never seen the Greek Professor but once, at the Library of the London Institution, when he was dressed in an old rusty black coat, with cobwebs hanging to the skirts of it, and with a large patch of coarse brown paper covering the whole length of his nose, looking for all the world like a drunken carpenter, and talking to one of the Proprietors with an air of suavity, approaching to condescension, M—could not help expressing some little uneasiness for the credit of classical literature. “ I submit, Sir, whether common sense is not the principal thing? What is the advantage of genius and learning if they are of no use in the conduct of life?"-M is one who loves the hours that usher in the morn, when a select few are left in twos and threes like stars before the break of day, and when the discourse and the ale are “aye growing better and better.” W—, M, and myself were all that remained one evening. We had sat
together several hours without being tired of one another's company.
The conversation turned on the Beauties of Charles the Second's Court at Windsor, and from thence to Count Grammont, their gallant and gay historian. We took our favourite passages in turn-one preferring that of Killigrew's country-cousin, who having been resolutely refused by Miss Warminster (one of the Maids of Honour) when he found she had been unexpectedly brought to bed, fell on his knees and thanked God that now she might take compassion on him—another insisting that the Chevalier Hamilton's assignation with Lady Chesterfield, when she kept him all night shivering in an old out-house, was better. Jacob Hall's prowess was not forgotten, nor the story of Miss Stuart's garters. I was getting on in my way with that delicate endroit, in which Miss Churchill is first introduced at court and is besieged (as a matter of course) by the Duke of York, who was gallant as well as bigoted on system. His assiduities however soon slackened, owing (it is said) to her having a pale, thin face; till one day, as they were riding out hunting together, she fell from her horse, and was taken up almost lifeless. The whole assembled court were
thrown by this event into admiration that such a body should belong to such a face* (so transcendant a pattern was she of the female form) and the Duke was fixed. This I contended was striking, affecting, and grand, the sublime of amorous biography, and said I could conceive of nothing finer than the idea of a young person in her situation, who was the object of indifference or scorn from outward appearance, with the proud suppressed consciousness of a Goddess-like symmetry, locked up by “fear and niceness, the hand-maids of all women,” from the wonder and worship of mankind. I said so then, and I think so now: my tongue grew wanton in the praise of this passage,
and I believe it bore the bell from its competitors. W-- then spoke of Lucius Apuleius and his Golden Ass, which contains the story of Cupid and Psyche, with other matter rich and rare, and went on to the romance of Heliodorus, Theagenes and Chariclea. This, as he affirmed, opens with a pastoral landscape equal to Claude, and in it the presiding deities of Love and Wine appear in all their pristine strength, youth and grace, crowned and wor
* “ Ils ne pouvoient croire qu’un corps de cette beauté fût de quelque chose au visage de Mademoiselle Churchill." MEMOIRES DE GRAMMONT, Vol. II. p. 254.