« AnteriorContinua »
paltry, it was but changing the names ; the wine became excellent, and the girls agreeable. She was also possessed of the engaging leer, the chuck under the chin, winked at a double-entendre, could nick the opportunity of calling for something comfortable, and perfectly understood the discreet moments when to withdraw. The gallants of these times pretty much resembled the bloods of ours ; they were fond of pleasure, but quite ignorant of the art of refining upon it: thus a court bawd of those times resembled the common low-lived harridan of a modern bagnio.
Witness, ye powers of debauchery, how often I have been present at the various appearances of drunkenness, riot, guilt, and brutality! A tavern is the true picture of human infirmity ; in history we find only one side of the age exhibited to our view ; but, in the accounts of a tavern, we see every age equally absurd and equally vicious.
Upon this lady's decease, the tavern was successively occupied by adventurers, bullies, pimps, and gamesters. Towards the conclusion of the reign of Henry VII, gaming was more universally practised in England than even now. Kings themselves have been known to play off at Primero, not only all the money and jewels they could part with, but the very images in churches. The last Henry played away, in this very room, not only the four great bells of St Paul's Cathedral, but the fine image of St Paul, which stood upon the top of the spire, to Sir Miles Partridge, who took them down the next day, and sold them by auction. Have you, then, any cause to regret being born in the times you now live? or do you still believe that human nature continues to run on, declining every age? If we observe the actions of the busy part of mankind, your ancestors will be found infinitely more gross, servile, and even dishonest, than you. If, forsaking history, we only trace them in their hours of amusement and dissipation, we shall find them more sensual, more entirely devoted to pleasure, and infinitely more selfish.
“ The last hostess of note I find upon record, was Jane Rouse. She was born among the lower ranks of the people ; and by frugality and extreme complaisance, contrived to acquire a moderate fortune : this she might have enjoyed for many years, had she not unfortunately quarreled with one of her neighbours, a woman who was in high repute for sanctity through the whole parish. In the times of which
I speak, two women seldom quarreled, that one did not accuse the other of witchcraft, and she who first contrived to vomit crooked pins, was sure to come off victorious. The scandal of a modern tea-table differs widely from the scandal of former times : the fascination of a lady's eyes at present, is regarded as a compliment ; but if a lady formerly should be accused of having witchcraft in her eyes, it were much better, both for her soul and body, that she had no eyes at all.
“ In short, Jane Rouse was accused of witchcraft ; and though she made the best defence she could, it was all to no purpose : she was taken from her own bar to the bar of the old Bailey, condemned, and executed accordingly.These were times, indeed, when even women could not scold in safety.
“ Since her time, the tavern underwent several revolutions, according to the spirit of the times, or the disposition of the reigning monarch. It was this day a brothel, and the next a conventicle for enthusiasts. It was one year noted for harbouring Whigs, and the next, infamous for a retreat to Tories. Some years ago it was in high vogue, but at present it seems declining. This only may be remarked, in general, that whenever taverns flourish most, the times are then most extravagant and luxurious.” - “ Lord! Mrs Quickly!” in. terrupted I, “
you have really deceived me; I expected a romance, and here you have been this half hour giving me only a description of the spirit of the times : if
have nothing but tedious remarks to communicate, seek some other hearer; I am determined to hearken only to stories."
I had scarcely concluded, when my eyes and ears seemed open to my landlord, who had been all this while giving me an account of the repairs he had made in the house, and was now got into the story of the cracked glass in the dining,
ADVENTURES OF A STROLLING PLAYER.
I Am fond of amusement, in whatever company it is to be found ; and wit, though dressed in rags, is ever pleasing to me. I went some days ago to take a walk in St James's Park, about the hour in which company leave it to go to dinner. There were but few in the walks, and those who stayed seemed, by their looks, rather more willing to forget that they had an appetite, than gain one. I sat down on one of the benches, at the other end of which was seated a man in very shabby clothes.
We continued to groan, to hem, and to cough, as usual upon such occasions; and at last ventured upon conversation. * I beg pardon, sir,” cried I, “ but I think I have seen you before; your face is familiar to me.”_" Yes, sir," replied he, “ I have a good familiar face, as my friends tell
I am as well known in every town in England, as the dromedary or live crocodile. You must understand, sir, that I have been these sixteen years Merry Andrew to a puppet-show: last Bartholomew Fair my master and I quarreled, beat each other, and parted; he to sell his puppets to the pincushion-makers in Rosemary Lane, and
in “ I am sorry, sir, that a person of your appearance should labour under any difficulties.”- Oh, sir," returned he,
my appearance is very much at your service; but, though I cannot boast of eating much, yet there are few that are merrier : if I had twenty thousand a-year I should be very merry; and, thank the Fates, though not worth a groat, I am very merry still
. If I have threepence in my pocket, I never refuse to be my three-halfpence; and if I have no money, I never scorn to be treated by any that are kind enough to pay my reckoning. What think you, sir, of a steak and a tankard ? You shall treat me now; and I will treat you again, when I find you in the Park in lote with eating, and without money to pay for a dinner."
As I never refuse a small expense for the sake of a merry companion, we instantly adjourned to a neighbouring ale,
house, and in a few moments had a frothing tankard and a smoking steak spread on the table before us. It is impossible to express how much the sight of such good cheer improved my companion's vivacity. “ I like this dinner, sir,” says he, “ for three reasons : first, because I am naturally fond of beef ; secondly, because I am hungry; and, thirdly and lastly, because I get it for nothing: no meat eats so sweet as that for which we do not pay.”
He therefore now fell to, and his appetite seemed to correspond with his inclination. After dinner was over, he observed that the steak was tough : " and yet, sir," returns he,“ bad as it was, it seemed a rump-steak to me.
Oh, the delights of poverty and a good appetite! We beggars are the very fondlings of Nature; the rich she treats like an arrant step-mother; they are pleased with nothing: cut a steak from what part you will, and it is insupportably tough ; dress it up with pickles, and even pickles cannot procure them an appetite. But the whole creation is filled with good things for the beggar; Calvert's butt out-tastes Champagne, and Sedgeley's home-brewed excels Tokay. Joy, joy, my blood! though our estates lie nowhere, we have fortunes wherever we go.
If an inundation sweeps away half the grounds of Cornwall, I am content - I have no lands there; if the stocks sink, that gives me no uneasiness - I am no Jew." The fellow's vivacity, joined to his poverty, I own, raised my curiosity to know something of his life and circumstances; and I entreated that he would indulge my desire. “ That I will, sir," said he, “ and welcome ; only let us drink to prevent our sleeping : let us have another tankard while we are awake- let us have another tankard ; for ah, how charming a tankard looks when full !
“ You must know, then, that I am very well descended : my ancestors have made some noise in the world ; for my mother cried oysters, and my father beat a drum : I am told we have even had some trumpeters in our family. Many a nobleman cannot shew so respectable a genealogy ; but that is neither here nor there. As I was their only child, my father designed to breed me up to his own employment, which was that of a drummer to a puppet-show. Thus the whole employment of my younger years was that of interpreter to Punch and King Solomon in all his glory. But though my father was very fond of instructing me in beating all the marches and points of war, I made no very great progress, because I naturally had no ear for music; so at the age of fifteen, I went and listed for a soldier. As I had ever hated beating a drum, so I soon found that I disliked carrying a musket also ; neither the one trade nor the other was to my taste, for I was by nature fond of being a gentleman : besides, I was obliged to obey my captain : he has his will, I have mine, and you have yours; now I very reasonably concluded, that it was much more comfortable for a man to obey his own will than another's.
« The life of a soldier soon, therefore, gave me the spleen. I asked leave to quit the service, but as I was tall and strong, my captain thanked ine for my kind intention, and said, because he had a regard for me, we should not part. I wrote to my father a very dismal penitent letter, and desired that he would raise money to pay for my discharge ; but the good man was as fond of drinking as I was,—sir, my
service to you,—and those who are fond of drinking never pay for other people's discharges ; in short, he never answered my letter. What could be done ? If I have not money, said I to myself, to pay for my discharge, I must find an equivalent some other way ; and that must be by running away. I deserted, and that answered my purpose every bit as well as if I had bought my discharge.
“ Well, I was now fairly rid of my military employment ; I sold my soldier's clothes, bought worse, and, in order not to be overtaken, took the most unfrequented roads possible. One evening, as I was entering a village, I perceived a man, whom I afterwards found to be the curate of the parish, thrown from his horse in a miry road, and almost smothered in the mud. He desired my assistance ; I gave it, and drew him out with some difficulty. He thanked me for my trouble, and was going off, but I followed him home, for I loved always to have a man thank me at his own door. The curate asked an hundred questions ; as, whose son I was; from whence I came ; and whether I would be faithful. I answered him greatly to his satisfaction, and gave myself one of the best characters in the world for sobriety, -sir, I have the honour of drinking your health, - discretion, and fidelity. To make a long story short, he wanted a servant, and hired me. With him I lived but two months ; we did not much like each other : I was fond of eating, and he gave me but little to eat ; I loved a pretty girl, and the old woman, my fellow-servant, was ill-natured and ugly. As they