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minutes the same figure changed his appearance, like harlequin upon the stage, and with the same confidence again made his approaches, dressed in lace, and carrying nothing but a nosegay.(1) Upon coming near, he thrust the nosegay to the coachman's nose, grasped the brass, and seemed now resolved to enter by violence. I found the struggle soon begin to grow hot, and the coachman, who was a little old, unable to continue the contest; so, in order to ingratiate myself, I stept in to his assistance, and our united efforts sent our literary Proteus, though worsted, unconquered still, clear off, dancing a rigadoon, and smelling to his own nosegay.
The person, who after him appeared as candidate for a place in the stage, came up with an air not quite so confident, but somewhat however theatrical; and, instead of entering, made the coachman a very low bow, which the other returned, and desired to see his baggage; upon which he instantly produced some farces, a tragedy, and other miscellany productions. The coachman, casting his eye upon the cargo, assured him, at present he could not possibly have a place, but hoped in time he might aspire to one, as he seemed to have read in the book of nature, without a careful perusal of which none ever found entrance at the Temple of Fame. “What!” replied the disappointed poet, "shall my tragedy, (2) in which I have vindicated the cause of liberty and virtue!"—"Follow nature,” returned the other," and never expect to find lasting fame by topics which only please from their popularity. Had you been first in the cause of freedom, or praised in virtue more than
(1) [Hill had recently published a treatise On the Methods of raising double Flowers from single,' and was in the habit of shewing himself, splendidly dressed, at all public places. About two years before his death, which took place in 1775, he was, by the king of Sweden, created a knight of the polar star.]
(2) [Murphy's tragedy of The Orphan of China' came out in February 1759.]
an empty name, it is possible you might have gained admittance; but at present I beg, sir, you will stand aside for another gentleman whom I see approaching."
This was a very grave personage, whom at some distance I took for one of the most reserved, and even disagreeable figures I had seen; but as he approached, his appearance improved, and when I could distinguish him thoroughly, I perceived that in spite of the severity of his brow, he had one of the most good-natured countenances that could be imagined. Upon coming to open the stage door, he lifted a parcel of folios into the seat before him, but our inquisitorial coachman at once shoved them out again. "What! not take in my Dictionary!" exclaimed the other in a rage. "Be patient, sir,” replied the coachman, “I have drove a coach, man and boy, these two thousand years; but I do not remember to have carried above one dictionary during the whole time. That little book which I perceive peeping from one of your pockets, may I presume to ask what it contains ?" "A mere trifle,” replied the author; "it is called, The Rambler.""""The Rambler!" says the coachman, "I beg, sir, you'll take your place; I have heard our ladies in the court of Apollo frequently mention it with rapture; and Clio, who happens to be a little grave, has been heard to prefer it to the Spectator; though others have observed, that the reflections, by being refined, sometimes become minute."
This grave gentleman was scarcely seated, when another, whose appearance was something more modern, seemed willing to enter, yet afraid to ask. He carried in his hand a bundle of essays, of which the coachman was curious enough to enquire the contents. "These,” replied the gentleman, "are rhapsodies against the religion of my country." "And how can you expect to come into my coach, after thus choosing the wrong side of the question ?" "Ay,
but I am right,” replied the other; " and if you give me leave, I shall in a few minutes state the argument." "Right or wrong," said the coachman, “he who disturbs religion is a blockhead, and he shall never travel in a coach of mine." "If then," said the gentleman, mustering up all his courage, “if I am not to have admittance as an essayist, I hope I shall not be repulsed as an historian; the last volume of my history met with applause." "Yes," replied the coachman, "but I have heard only the first approved at the Temple of Fame; and as I see you have it about you, enter without further ceremony." My attention was now diverted to a crowd, who were pushing forward a person that seemed more inclined to the stage-coach of riches; but by their means he was driven forward to the same machine ; which he nevertheless seemed heartily to despise. Impelled however by their solicitations, he steps up, flourishing a voluminous history, and demanding admittance. "Sir, I have formerly heard your name mentioned," says the coachman, but never as an historian. Is there no other work upon which you may claim a place ?" "None," replied the other, “ except a romance; but this is a work of too trifling a nature to claim future attention." “You mistake," says the inquisitor, "a well-written romance is no such easy task as is generally imagined. I remember formerly to have carried Cervantes and Segrais, and, if you think fit, you may enter."
Upon our three literary travellers coming into the same coach, I listened attentively to hear what might be the conversation that passed upon this extraordinary occasion; when, instead of agreeable or entertaining dialogue, I found them grumbling at each other, and each seemed discontented with his companions. Strange! thought I to myself, that they who are thus born to enlighten the world, should still preserve the narrow prejudices of childhood, and, by disa
greeing, make even the highest merit ridiculous. Were the learned and the wise to unite against the dunces of society, instead of sometimes siding into opposite parties with them, they might throw a lustre upon each other's reputation, and teach every rank of subordinate merit, if not to admire, at least not to avow dislike.
In the midst of these reflections, I perceived the coachman, unmindful of me, had now mounted the box. Several were approaching to be taken in, whose pretensions I was sensible were very just. I therefore desired him to stop, and take in more passengers; but he replied, as he had now mounted the box, it would be improper to come down, but that he should take them all, one after the other, when he should return. So he drove away, and for myself, as I could not get in, I mounted behind, in order to hear the conversation on the way.
A WORD OR TWO ON THE FARCE, CALLED HIGH LIFE BELOW STAIRS." (1)
Just as I had expected, before I saw this farce, I found it formed on too narrow a plan to afford a pleasing variety. The sameness of the humour in every scene could not but at last fail of being disagreeable. The poor, affecting the manners of the rich, might be carried on through one character, or two at the most, with great propriety; but to have almost every personage on the scene almost of the same character, and reflecting the follies of each other, was unartful in the poet to the last degree.
(1) [This piece, so often ascribed to Garrick, was written by the Rev. James Townley, high master of Merchant Tailors' School. He was the close intimate of Garrick; from whom he held, for some years, the valuable vicarage of Hendon, in Middlesex. He died in 1778.]
The scene was also almost a continuation of the same absurdity; and my Lord Duke and Sir Harry (two footmen who assume these characters) have nothing else to do but to talk like their masters, and are only introduced to speak, and to shew themselves. Thus, as there is a sameness of character, there is a barrenness of incident, which, by a very small share of address, the poet might have easily avoided.
From a conformity to critic rules, which perhaps, on the whole, have done more harm than good, our author has sacrificed all the vivacity of the dialogue to nature; and though he makes his characters talk like servants, they are seldom absurd enough, or lively enough, to make us merry. Though he is always natural, he happens seldom to be humorous.
The satire was well intended, if we regard it as being masters ourselves, but, probably, a philosopher would rejoice in that liberty which Englishmen give their domestics ; and, for my own part, I cannot avoid being pleased at the happiness of those poor creatures, who, in some measure, contribute to mine.(1) The Athenians, the politest and bestnatured people upon earth, were the kindest to their slaves; and if a person may judge who has seen the world, our English servants are the best treated, because the generality of our English gentlemen are the politest under the sun.
But, not to lift my feeble voice among the pack of critics, who, probably, have no other occupation but that of cutting up every thing new, I must own, there are one or two scenes that are fine satire, and sufficiently humorous; particularly the first interview between the two footmen, which at once ridicules the manners of the great, and the absurdity of their imitators.
Whatever defects there might be in the composition, there
(1) [These considerate and kindly feelings are scattered over all Goldsmith's writings.]