Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

and we soon had him with us. Mr. Arnold gave him the kindest reception, and I received him with my usual transport; for I could never counterfeit false resentment. Miss Wilmot’s reception was mixed with seeming neglect, and yet I could perceive she acted a studied part. The tumult in her mind seemed not yet abated ; she said twenty giddy things that looked like joy, and then laughed loud at her own want of meaning. At intervals she would take a sly peep at the glass, as if happy in the consciousness of irresistible beauty, and often would ask questions without giving any manner of attention to the answers.

CHAP. XX.

THE HISTORY OF A PHILOSOPHIC VAGABOND PURSUING NOVELTY,

BUT LOSING CONTENT.

AFTER we had supped, Mrs. Arnold politely offered to send a couple of her footmen for my son's baggage, which he at first seemed to decline; but upon her pressing the request, he was obliged to inform her, that a stick and a wallet were all the moveable things upon this earth that he could boast of. “Why ay, my son,” cried I, "you left me but poor, and

I find you are come back; and yet I make no doubt you have seen a great deal of the world.”_" Yes, sir,” replied my son, “but travelling after Fortune is not the way to secure her; and indeed of late I have desisted from the pursuit.”—“I fancy, sir," cried Mrs. Arnold, “ that the account of your adventures would be amusing : the first part of them I have often heard from my niece; but could the company

poor

prevail for the rest, it would be an additional obligation.”—“ Madam,” replied my son, I promise you the pleasure you have in hearing, will not be half so great as my vanity in repeating them, and yet in the whole narrative I can scarcely promise you one adventure, as my account is rather of what I saw than what I did. The first misfortune of my life, which you all know was great; but though it distressed, it could not sink me. No person ever had a better knack at hoping than I. The less kind I found Fortune at one time, the more I expected from her another, and being now at the bottom of her wheel, every new revolution might lift, but could not depress me. I proceeded therefore, towards London in a fine morning, no way uneasy about to-morrow, but cheerful as the birds that carolled by the road, and comforted myself with reflecting, that London was the mart where abilities of every kind were sure of meeting distinction and reward.

Upon my arrival in town, sir, my first care was to deliver

your letter of recommendation to our cousin, who was himself in little better circumstances than I. My first scheme, you know, sir, was to be usher at an academy, and I asked his advice on the affair. Our cousin received the proposal with a true Sardonic grin. “Ay,' cried he, this is indeed a very pretty career that has been chalked out for you. I have been an usher at a boarding-school myself; and may I die by an anodyne necklace, but I had rather be an under turnkey in Newgate. I was up early and late : I was browbeat by the master, hated for my ugly face by the mistress, worried by the boys within, and never permitted to stir out to meet civility abroad. But

[ocr errors]

are you sure you are fit for a school ? Let me examine you a little. Have you been bred apprentice to the business ?'—'No.'— Then you won't do for a school. Can you dress the boys’ hair ?'—

!_ No.'-Then you won't do for a school. Have you had the smallpox ?! -No.'—' Then you won't do for a school. Can you lie three in a bed ?--'No.'— Then you will never do for a school. Have you got a good stomach ?'• Yes.'- Then you will by no means do for a school. No, sir, if you are for a genteel easy profession, bind yourself seven years as an apprentice to turn a cutler's wheel ; but avoid a school by any means. Yet come,' continued he, “I see you are a lad of spirit and some learning, what do you think of commencing author, like me? You have read in books, no doubt, of men of genius starving at the trade: at present I'll show you forty very dull fellows about town that live by it in opulence. All honest jogtrot men, on smoothly and dully, and write history and politics, and are praiseda: men, sir, who, had they been bred cobblers, would all their lives have only mended shoes, but never made them.'

“Finding that there was no great degree of gentility affixed to the character of an usher, I resolved to accept his proposal: and having the highest respect for literature, hailed the antiqua Mater of Grub-street with reverence. I thought it my glory to pursue a tract which Dryden and Otway trod before me. I considered the goddess of this region as the parent of excellence; and however an intercourse with the world might give us good sense, the poverty she entailed I supposed to be the nurse of genius! Big with these reflections, I sat down, and finding that the best

who go

things remained to be said on the wrong side; I resolved to write a book that should be wholly new. I therefore dressed up three paradoxes with some ingenuity. They were false, indeed, but they were new. The jewels of truth have been so often imported by others, that nothing was left for me to import but some splendid things that at a distance looked every bit as well. Witness, you powers, what fancied importance sat perched upon my quill while I was writing. The whole learned world, I made no doubt, would rise to oppose my systems; but then I was prepared to oppose the whole learned world. Like the porcupine I sat self-collected, with a quill pointed against every opposer.”

“Well said, my boy,” cried I, “and what subject did you treat upon ? I hope you did not pass over the importance of monogamy. But I interrupt; go on; you published your paradoxes; well, and what did the learned world say to your paradoxes ?” Sir," replied my son,

" the learned world said nothing to my paradoxes; nothing at all, sir. Every man of them was employed in praising his friends and himself, or condemning his enemies; and unfortunately as I had neither, I suffered the cruellest mortification, neglect.

“As I was meditating one day in a coffee-house on the fate of my paradoxes, a little man, happening to enter the room, placed himself in the box before me, and after some preliminary discourse, finding me to be a scholar, drew out a bundle of proposals, begging me to subscribe to a new edition he was going to give to the world of Propertius, with notes. This demand necessarily produced a reply that I had

66

no money; and that concession led him to inquire into the nature of my expectations. Finding that my expectations were just as great as my purse, 'I see,' cried he, ‘you are unacquainted with the town; I'll teach you a part of it. Look at these proposals ; upon these very proposals I have subsisted very comfortably for twelve years. The moment a nobleman returns from his travels, a Creolian arrives from Jamaica, or a dowager from her country seat, I strike for a subscription. I first besiege their hearts with flattery, and then pour in my proposals at the breach. If they subscribe readily the first time, I renew my request to beg a dedication fee. If they let me have that, I smite them once more for engraving their coat of arms at the top. Thus,' continued he, ' I live by vanity, and laugh at it. But, between ourselves, I am now too well known; I should be glad to borrow your face a bit: a nobleman of distinction has just returned from Italy; my face is familiar to his porter ; but if you bring this copy of verses, my life for it you succeed, and we divide the spoil.””

“ Bless us, George,” cried I, “and is this the employment of poets now? Do men of their exalted talents thus stoop to beggary? Can they so far disgrace their calling, as to make a vile traffic of praise for bread ?”

“O no, sir," returned he,“ a true poet can never be so base; for wherever there is genius there is pride. The creatures I now describe are only beggars in rhyme. The real poet, as he braves every hardship for fame, so he is equally a coward to contempt ; and none but those who are unworthy protection condescend to solicit it.

“Having a mind too proud to stoop to such indig.

« AnteriorContinua »