Imatges de pÓgina

shooting like .meteors from street to street, plying the puff morning and evening, overnight and all night, and often sacrificing their own health in ministering to the pleasures of others.

Where, indeed, is the barber of any age or coun. try against whom an imputation can be justly levelled ? His is one of the fine arts which pre-eminently "emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros." As iron, by - attrition with the magnet, obtains some of its power of attraction, so does he, by always associating with his superiors, acquire a portion of their polish and urbanity. Shoemakers, tailors, and other artisans of lonely and sedentary life, are generally morose, melancholy, atrabilarious, subject to religious hypochondriacism ; but the patron of the puff is locomotive and social in his habits, buoyant, brisk, and hilarious in his temperament.

There is not, perhaps, a single instance of a fanatic barber: and how many traits are recorded of their generous forbearance! Alfieri was so nervously sensitive, that if one hair was pulled a little tighter than the rest, he would fly into a paroxysm of rage, draw his sword, and threaten to destroy the offender; yet such was his confidence that he would the next moment submit his throat to his razor. How calm and dignified was the reply of one of this class to the pimple-faced madman, who, with a loaded pistol in his hand, compelled him to take off his beard, declaring that if he cut him in a single place, he would instantly blow out his brains. After successfully accomplishing his difficult task, he was asked whether he had not been terrified during the operation. “No, sir," he replied, “ for the moment I had drawn blood, I had made up my mind to cut your throat!

In corroboration of our estimate of this character, let it be added, that though none has been more frequently handled by authors, the barber is never placed in a degrading or unworthy light. True to


nature, they may occasionally render him ridiculous, but never odious. On the 'stage we have been de lighted with his eccentricities, from him of Seville down to Dickey Gossip, whose representative, Suett, with his rapid and ready cackle, will not easily be forgotten. Which of us has not laughed at the chattering impertinent of the Arabian Nights, who, being sent for to shave a customer in all haste, spent a long time in preparing his apparatus, took a handsome astrolabe out of his budget, very gravely mcasured the height of the sun, and exclaimed “Sir, you will be pleased to know that this day is Friday the 18th of the month Saffar, in the year 653 from the retreat of our great prophet from Mecca to Medina, and in the year 7320 of the epocha of the great Iskander with two horns," and finally drove the poor man out of his wits with his dilatory loquacity? Cervantes expressly informs us that the curate, and Mr. Nicholas the barber, were two of Don Quixote's “best friends and companions ;" and it is remarkable that he not only selects the latter, as one of the most enlightened personages in the neighbourhood, to assist the licentiate in the expurgation of the knight's library, but avails himself of his talents throughout the whole work, and mentions him upon all occasions with singular respect and affection. Moreover, upon Sancho's resolving to have a barber of his own, soon after the affair of Mambrino's helinet, Don Quixote applauds his resolution, places that functionary above a master of the horse, and exclaims, “ Truly, it is an office of greater confidence to trim the beard than to saddle the horse.” Nay, upon another occasion he even elevates it above divinity; for, when it was proposed that they should invite the curate and the barber to join them in their Arcadian scheme, and assist them in becoming pastoral and poetical, Don Quixote observes. “Of the curate I shall say nothing, though I should lay a good wager that his collars and points are truly poetical : and that master Nicholas is in the same fashion I do not at all doubt, for people of his profession are famous for making ballads and playing on the guitar."

Signor Diego, the barber of Olmedo, is represented in Gil Blas as a generous aud hospitable personage; while the sprightly, quick, witted, and faithful Fabricio the poet, inherited his virtues and his talents from old Nunez, another operator upon the chin. STRAP, the equally faithful companion and assistant of Roderick Random, will occur to all readers; and a hundred others, quos numerare tædet,” might easily be adduced; but it is quite sufficient to state, in conclusion, that honourable mention has been made of the tonsorial adept both by Shakspeare and Sir William Curtis !

What and where are they now, the representatives of this illustrious line of ancestors ? They may indeed exclaim, “Eheu! fuimus ! fuimus!" With the exception of a few who still coldly furnish forth the heads of our divinity and law professors, they are




“ Fallen! fallen ! fallen ! fallen!

Fallen from their high estate,”. and languishing in inactivity and poverty. Each supports his reverses with a meek though dignified resignation, and each, in rebuke of this ungrateful era, may proudly exclaim with lord Verulam in his will, “ For

my name and memory, I leave it to men's charitable speeches, and to foreign nations, and the next ages.”



I could write. a volume


this old white hat, and

upon the eccentric but excellent being that once

[ocr errors]

wore it. Poor Frank Chilvers ! thou wert my chosen one, in whom I had much joy; my Lycidas, with whom at morn and dewy eve I have wandered over woodland, hill, and dale ; and shalt thou go down into the darkness and corruption of the great mother, without the “meed of one melodious tear?”. Thou wert sequestered and eremitical in thy tastes and habits, finding such fulness of serene content in thine own thoughts and the contemplation of nature, that few of the bustlers upon the great stage of life knew of thy existence ; but can the chosen associates who were admitted within the sphere of thy oddities, and shared the overflowing love of thy kind heart, ever forget them ? For their own sakes they ought not, for they will have nothing so soothing and sweet to remember.

Frank Chilvers was a younger son of that respectable family which has for many ages been settled at Fordham, in Nottinghamshire ; and as he objected, upon those peculiar and fastidious notions which formed his character, to the army, navy, and church, all of which had been submitted to his adoption with reasonable prospects of advancement, his parents left him to select his own occupation and mode of life.

Various were the methods to which he now had recourse for his maintenance, for he disdained all application to friends or relations. At one tine he was an usher; at another he supported himself, like Rousseau, by copying music, in which he was a - proficient; now he translated for the booksellers; and for some time he was in the situation of a banker's clerk. It were useless to recapitulate the manifold employments in which he was engaged, or the variform difficulties he had to encounter; but it is not useless to record, that in all his trials he invariably preserved the same philosophical equanimity, nor ever suffered his reiterated disappointments to cool his philanthropic ardour, or diminish his faVOL. II.


vourable opinion of mankind. Many men, of restless and inquiring minds, are perpetually running backwards and forwards between the past and the future—those two impassable boundaries of human knowledge: and in their inability to escape from this narrow range, content themselves, like the squirrel in his cage, with repeating the unprofitable rotations which afford exercise to their faculties without advancing their progress a single step. Chilvers built up the level of his mind, and prevented himself from sinking into the slough of despond, by drawing materials from those two terminal mounds ; making the past contribute its rich store, of historic and poetical recollections, and extracting from the future those sweet and soothing åssurances, of whose truth he found daily and delicious confirmation in the beauty, accordance, and benevolent ordinations of nature. Thus he lived on, often in great poverty, but never discontented with his lot, until nearly his sixtieth year, when the death of an old bachelor cousin suddenly placed him in a state of actual independence, and comparative affluence. He immediately quitted London, and retired to C

- Row, a village about eleven miles distant from the metropolis, where he purchased a beautiful cottage, and where the writer of this memoir first had the happiness of his acquaintance.

A natural modesty, and the perfect content he found in his own reflections and occupations, gave him a disposition to segregate himself from that class of formal and heartless visitors, whose invasions of your house originate in curiosity, and are continued by ceremony ; but as the world, however little disposed to liberality upon other occasions, is seldom deficient in magnifying any sudden accession of fortune, and had exhibited its usual powers of multiplication in the present instance, he found it somewhat difficult to repress the eager advances of his neighbours, when they had regularly ascer

« AnteriorContinua »