Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

I found the attention of the company employed upon a fat figure, who, with a voice more rough than the Staffordshire giant's, was giving us the "Softly sweet in Lydian measure;" of Alexander's Feast. After a short pause of admiration, to this succeeded a Welsh dialogue, with the humours of Teague and Taffy; after that came on " Old Jackson," with a story between every stanza: next was sung the " Dust Cart," and then "Solomon's Song." The glass began now to circulate pretty freely; those who were silent when sober, would now be heard in their turn; every man had his song, and he saw no reason why he should not be heard as well as any of the rest one begged to be heard while he gave "Death and the Lady" in high taste; another sang to a plate which he kept trundling on the edges. Nothing was now heard but singing; voice rose above voice; and the whole became one universal shout, when the landlord came to acquaint the company that the reckoning was drunk out. Rabelais calls the moments in which a reckoning is mentioned, the most melancholy of our lives: never was so much noise so quickly quelled, as by this short but pathetic oration of our landlord." Drunk out!" was echoed in a tone of discontent round the table: "Drunk out already! that was very odd that so much punch could be drunk out already -impossible!" The landlord, however, seeming resolved not to retreat from his first assurances, the company was dissolved, and a president chosen for the night ensuing.

A friend of mine, to whom I was complaining some time after of the entertainment I have been describing, proposed to bring me to the club that he frequented, which he fancied would suit the gravity of my temper exactly. "We have at the Muzzy Club," says he, "no riotous mirth nor awkward ribaldry; no confusion or bawling; all is conducted with wisdom and decency: besides, some of our members are worth forty thousand pounds-men of prudence and foresight every one of them: these are the proper acquaintance, and to such I will to-night introduce you." I was charmed at the proposal: to be acquainted with men worth forty thousand pounds, and to talk wisdom the whole night, were offers that threw me into raptures.

At seven o'clock I was accordingly introduced by my friend, not indeed to the company-for though I made my best bow, they seemed insensible of my approach—but to the table at which they were sitting. Upon my entering the

room, I could not avoid feeling a secret veneration, from the solemnity of the scene before me; the members kept a profound silence, each with a pipe in his mouth, and a pewter pot in his hand, and with faces that might easily be construed into absolute wisdom. Happy society, thought I to myself, where the members think before they speak, deliver nothing rashly, but convey their thoughts to each other pregnant with meaning, and matured by reflection!

In this pleasing speculation I continued a full half hour, expecting each moment that somebody would begin to open his mouth every time the pipe was laid down, I expected it was to speak; but it was only to spit. At length, resolving to break the charm myself, and overcome their extreme diffidence for to this I imputed their silence-I rubbed my hands, and, looking as wise as possible, observed that the nights began to grow a little coolish at this time of the year. This, as it was directed to none of the company in particular, none thought himself obliged to answer, wherefore I continued still to rub my hands and look wise. My next effort was addressed to a gentleman who sat next me; to whom I observed, that the beer was extremely good: my neighbour made no reply, but by a large puff of tobacco smoke.

I now began to be uneasy in this dumb society, till one of them a little relieved me, by observing, that bread had not risen these three weeks. "Ay," says another, still keeping the pipe in his mouth," that puts me in mind of a pleasant story about that-hem-very well; you must know-but before I begin-sir, my service to you-where was I?"

Ny next club goes by the name of the Harmonical Society; probably from that love of order and friendship which every person commends in institutions of this nature. The landlord was himself the founder. The money spent is fourpence each; and they sometimes whip for a double reckoning. To this club few recommendations are requisite, except the introductory fourpence, and my landlord's good word, which, as he gains by it, he never refuses.

We all here talked and behaved as every body else usually does on his club night; we discussed the topic of the day, drank each other's healths; snuffed the candles with our fingers; and filled our pipes from the same plate of tobacco. The company saluted each other in the common manner :

1

Mr Bellows-mender hoped Mr Currycomb-maker had not caught cold going home the last club night; and he returned the compliment by hoping that young Master Bellows-mender had got well again of the chincough. Dr Twist told us a story of a parliament-man, with whom he was intimately acquainted; while the bug-man, at the same time, was telling a better story of a noble lord with whom he could do any thing. A gentleman in a black wig and leather breeches, at the other end of the table, was engaged in a long narrative of the Ghost in Cock Lane:* he had read it in the papers of the day, and was telling it to some that sat next him, who could not read. Near him, Mr Dibbins was disputing on the old subject of religion with a Jew pedlar, over the table; while the president vainly knocked down Mr Leathersides for a song. Besides the combinations of these voices, which I could hear altogether, and which formed an upper part to the concert, there were several others playing under parts by themselves, and endeavouring to fasten on some luckless neighbour's ear, who was himself bent upon the same design against some other.

We have often heard of the speech of a corporation, and this induced me to transcribe a speech of this club, taken in short-hand, word for word, as it was spoken by every member of the company. It may be necessary to observe, that the man who told of the ghost had the loudest voice, and the longest story to tell, so that his continuing narrative filled every chasm in the conversation.

66

So, sir, d'ye perceive me, the ghost giving three loud raps at the bed-post- Says my lord to me, my dear Smokeum, you know there is no man upon the face of the yearth for whom I have so high-a damnable false heretical opinion of all sound doctrine and good learning; for I'll tell it aloud, and spare not, that—Silence for a song; Mr Leathersides

* Goldsmith here alludes to an imposture, which made a considerable noise in London in the year 1762. It was contrived by one Parsons, clerk of St Sepulchre's, and was carried on by means of a child, his daughter, with so much dexterity, as to impose upon several very respectable persons, and to obtain general credit among the common people. It was afterwards discovered to be a conspiracy against the character and life of a gentleman, who had been accused by the supposed ghost of murder. Parsons was condemned to stand in the pillory, and to be imprisoned for two years. His wife and another woman were also punished with imprisonment. This story gave occasion to Churchill's poem, The Ghost.-B.

for a song

As I was a-walking upon the highway, I met a young damsel'-Then, what brings you here? says the parson to the ghost-Sanconiathon, Manetho, and Berosus

-The whole way from Islington-turnpike to Dog-house bar Dam-As for Abel Drugger, sir, he's damn'd low in it my 'prentice boy has more of the gentleman than heFor murder will out one time or another; and none but a ghost, you know, gentlemen, can-Damme me, if I don't; for my friend, whom you know, gentlemen, and who is a parliament-man, a man of consequence, a dear honest creature, to be sure; we were laughing last night at Death and damnation upon all his posterity, by simply barely tasting

Sour grapes, as the fox said once when he could not reach them and I'll, I'll tell you a story about that that will make you burst your sides with laughing a fox onceWill nobody listen to the song-As I was a walking upon the highway, I met a young damsel both buxom and gay,' -No ghost, gentlemen, can be murdered; nor did I ever hear but of one ghost killed in all my life, and that was stabbed in the belly with a- -My blood and soul if I don't Mr Bellows-mender, I have the honour of drinking your very good health-Blast me if I do-dam-blood-bugs -fire-whiz-blid-tit-rat-trip”-The rest all riot,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

nonsense, and rapid confusion.

Were I to be angry at men for being fools, I could here find ample room for declamation; but, alas! I have been a fool myself; and why should I be angry with them for being something so natural to every child of humanity?

Fatigued with this society, I was introduced the following night to a club of fashion. On taking my place, I found the conversation sufficiently easy, and tolerably good-natured : for my Lord and Sir Paul were not yet arrived. I now thought myself completely fitted, and resolving to seek no farther, determined to take up my residence here for the winter; while my temper began to open insensibly to the cheerfulness I saw diffused on every face in the room : but the delusion soon vanished, when the waiter came to apprise us that his Lordship and Sir Paul were just arrived.

From this moment all our felicity was at an end; our new guests bustled into the room, and took their seats at the head of the table. Adieu, now, all confidence! every creature strove who should most recommend himself to our members of distinction. Each seemed quite regardless of

pleasing any but our new guests; and what before wore the appearance of friendship, was now turned into rivalry.

Yet I could not observe that, amidst all this flattery and obsequious attention, our great men took any notice of the rest of the company. Their whole discourse was addressed to each other. Sir Paul told his Lordship a long story of Moravia the Jew; and his Lordship gave Sir Paul a very long account of his new method of managing silk worms: he led him, and consequently the rest of the company, through all the stages of feeding, sunning, and hatching; with an episode on mulberry trees, a digression upon grass seeds, and a long parenthesis about his new postilion. In this manner we travelled on, wishing every story to be the last; but all in vain :

Hills over hills, and Alps on Alps arose.

The last club in which I was enrolled a member, was a society of moral philosophers, as they called themselves, who assembled twice a-week, in order to shew the absurdity of the present mode of religion, and establish a new one in its stead.

I found the members very warmly disputing when I arrived, not indeed about religion or ethics, but about who had neglected to lay down his preliminary sixpence upon entering the room. The president swore that he had laid his own down, and so swore all the company.

During this contest, I had an opportunity of observing the laws, and also the members of the society. The president, who had been, as I was told, lately a bankrupt, was a tall pale figure, with a long black wig; the next to him was dressed in a large white wig, and a black cravat; a third, by the brownness of complexion, seemed a native of Jamaica, and a fourth, by his hue, appeared to be a blacksmith. But their rules will give the most just idea of their learning and principles.

I. We, being a laudable society of moral philosophers, intends to dispute twice a-week about religion and priestcraft; leaving behind us old wives' tales, and following good learning and sound sense and if so be, that any other persons has a mind to be of the society, they shall be entitled

« AnteriorContinua »