Imatges de pÓgina

tered the list with some spirit, in the determination to make good my claim to a place among the blues, and to set myself off to advantage. But here again I was utterly thrown out: I could not tell my fair questioner whether Lady lodina Crucible was "intellectuel," I had

omitted to attend Mr. Sapphic's lecture at the Institution, I mistook the author of the Fall of Jerusalem for the American Addison, I was two novels behind hand with the “Great Unknown,” Sydney Sm—th passed without returning my bow, and I totally failed in naming the authors of the two “crack" articles of the current Quarterly. Need I add that I was, after five minutes effort at conversation, deserted by my companion, whose contemptuous dejection of countenance, as she whispered her next neighbour, and glanced her eye hastily

, at my person, convinced me that I was already black-balled, at least by this member of Lady Mary's squad of Selects.

Hurrying down stairs, with the speed of a detected pickpocket, I stumbled upon Tom Headlong, of Jesus, the 'Squire's nephew of Headlong Hall; who found much favour in my sight by voting my aunt a quiz, and her party the blue devils ; and on this account he had the less difficulty in carrying me to the club, of which I had just been elected a member. There, I thought, I should at least be welcome ; for my credit is good, and my money as acceptable as another's. But all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Notwithstanding that Newmarket is within fourteen miles of Cambridge, my ignorance of the technicalities of a horse-race was sufficient to exclude me from the conversation of the night, which ran almost exclusively upon Epsom. My ominous silence on this interesting topic boded me no good. Then I could not name the odds at some point of the game, when asked; I mistook the round in which Gas had his “ lights doused;" was totally out about his opponent's head being “in chancery." In short, I shewed myself up as a complete Spooney, fell out of the conversation, and was left to eat my supper in silence with what appetite I might.

The next disappointment I encountered was at the house of a maiden relation, whom I had not seen for some years., The

memory of her good-natured and unpretending simplicity, of her moderate endowments, and still more moderate acquirements, assured me that I might make myself" quite at home” with her. On arriving at her house I found a formidable circle of Quaker-looking ladies, in the midst of which stood a sprace and punctiliously dressed gentleman in black, who somehow or other brought to my mind a certain necessary personage in a sabbath of witches. My entrance interrupted the reading of some book, and as my fair relation came forward to greet me, I could not but observe that though her reception was friendly, it was more measured and subdued than childish recollections induced me to expect. After the customary inquiries after absent friends, &c. the conversation seemed to lapse into a train of ideas inspired by the now suspended “ readings." Its subject seemed to me religious, but it was so wrapped up in something between technical jargon and cant, as to be nearly unintelligible; and I sunk by degrees into a reverie, in which my unfitness for society, and very imperfect education, formed a prominent and a painful part.

Mortified by such repeated failures I began to lower my expectations, and to look no higher than the forming one amongst those



cyphers which swell the sum total of a " squeeze," fill up door-ways and staircases, and obstruct the king's highway by their attendant carriages. But, "non cuiris homini,it is not every one's lot to enter at once even this numerous corps. In order to be asked every where, one must be seen every where, and known to every body; and there are those who after spending a fortune in ices and wax-lights, are, at the end of a twenty years' struggle, only just creeping on. To be distinguished in this " genre," and to carry the place by a coup de main, is morally impossible; because where nothing is expected, where no qualification is required, there is no advantage-ground afforded for attracting the attention of an “ admiring public.

As a last resource, I determined to advance myself by the merits of my dancing-master, to ride into society on a demiqueue de chat," and to wind myself round the hearts of my friends by a " chaine Angloise." But this also is not to be done at will; for it requires much patience and more intrigue to get enlisted into a set, or to be received in morning practising-parties. As, however, I am an eldest son, and the family estate is unembarrassed, my probation, in this particular, was considerably shortened. The sort of society to which I was thus introduced was not altogether " le bun genre." It was made up, for the most part, of what are called “respectable families ;" i. e. families whose easy circumstances, Heaven knows how acquired, prevent their ranking absolutely as nobody, without very distinctly proving that they are any body :-East India baronets, military and civic knights, the small fry of country gentlemen, (who spend a year's revenue in a two months' visit to London or to some fashionable watering-place, living all the rest of the year in their lair at Clodpole-hall, as Cobbett would call it) together with those successful mercantile families and speculators, who, according to the same authority, are elbowing the said country gentlemen out of their estates. Though pleasure and dissipation are the objects of some of these personages in mixing with the world, and seem to be so with all, yet the fonde of the society consists of a class who unite business with amusement; or rather, under the guise of pleasure, carry on an unremitting effort to strike a great stroke in life. These are the mothers who have

marriageable daughters to dispose of, and whose views upon the persons of bachelors are any thing but disinterested.

Being myself, as I have already hinted, one of those enviable young men who have" every qualification for making the married state happy, I was eagerly seized on as a proper victim of this systematic conspiracy of mothers to get off their daughters; and I soon got a pretty near insight into the whole affair. Very few houses indeed are opened to a regular ball, or even to " an early dance,” in which there is not a daughter or a niece to be disposed of. The money lavished on gaudy decorations, soups, wild fowl, ices, and champaign, is therefore merely put out at usance, to be returned in a good settlement; insomuch that, the more apparently wanton the profusion, the closer may be deemed the calculation : seeming hospitality being nothing on earth but a well-baited trap.

On these occasions every body is asked for something ; Lords. Baronets, &c. for their titles: dragoons for their regimentals: frightful old women in blue gowns and silver tissue turbans, for their sons and

[ocr errors]

heirs; handsome married women to draw the men; ugly girls as foils; and pretty girls because the ball cannot go on without them. Some are invited to make up a card-table for the rich dowager mother of an heir at law : some because they have an air of fashion, or write “ Albany" on their card. Every thing, in short, is measured, to the minutest particular that can proceed or retard the great event, which is the mainspring of the whole.

Although it is a part of good policy in a hawking mamma, to fly her girls generally at all young fellows or old fellows of decent fortune, yet she has, for the most part, some individual in view, who is more particularly the object of pursuit : and it is truly astonishing how uniformly that favoured individual finds himself, in spite of himself, in contact with the “ young lady" who has him in chase. Tall, thin, pale girls are my aversion; yet for two months I was nightly haunted by such a spectre, who forced me to ask her to dance by“ meeting my eye in an early hour of the debate,” by planting herself assiduously at my side, and engaging me in a series of innocent questions at the first preparatory scrape of the violins.

Somehow or other I was always obliged, too, to band her down to supper, and consequently to sit beside her at the table. From this persecution I fortunately escaped by a lucky équivoque, which seemed to hint that I was engaged to a girl in the country, whose estate joins ours; and the next evening, I had the happiness to see the stately galley bear down on another prize.

It is a curious, but a melancholy sight, to behold the long rows of overdressed girls, many of them, I hope, unconscious of the purpose for which they are thus launched on society,—with their fidgety, anxious mothers, settling from time to time their hair and dress, nodding disapprobation, or smiling encouragement (as the puppet contradicts or favours the purpose in hand by her carriage and demeanour) and having no eyes, no ears but for the one object of painful solicitude. Still more melancholy is it to witness the last struggles of an unfortunate" abandonata," whose tenth season is passing in vain, with “nobody coming to marry her, nobody coming to woo-00-00-!” (I hope the reader can whistle the tune for that last desponding monosyllable)—while each causeless giggle, intended to display a dimple, bears evidence of another accident in the “human face divine,” which I forbear to name ; and a profusion of finery eclipses charms, that it is no longer prudence to expose to the broad glare of lamps and wax-lights.

When a gudgeon is observed to rise freely to the bait, he is asked to dinner, and engaged on riding-parties in the mornings. A luncheon also is regularly set out as a rallying-point for young men, whose appetites are often more ductile than their passions. Hearts are thus ensnared through the medium of cold tongue and bread and butter, and a. sure love-potion is Madeira and soda-water. When all else fails, the good old lady herself hints very plainly her reasonable expectations, and strives hard to carry an hesitating swain by a barefaced innuendo.

As I have my own reasons for not giving into these schemes, and prefer taking a wife (when I shall take one) from purer sources, I have ever been more annoyed than flattered by such distinctions. And this probably has made me feel the more keenly the general ill-effects on society arising from these maternal intrigues, in which the married and the

poor go for nothing. If one, belonging to either of these classes, engages a girl's attention and distracts her from the business of the night, you may see the moiher prowling about with fretful uneasiness, like a cat whose kitten is in the paws of some unlucky urchin, and at last fairly breaking in on the conversation to hurry her daughter away from the troublesome interloper. I have felt the deepest compassion for many a worthy fellow, whose accomplishments, talents, and virtues should have made him a most desirable match, thus warned off the premises like an unqualified sportsman, and treated with contempt in the quarter in which contempt is most insufferable, merely for the want of a little dross. Where these practices are carrying on in a family, all agreeable and instructive conversation is banished the house. Even in the most intimate sociality, the necessity of knocking up a quadrille to the piano-forte, or of engaging the musical misses in the display of their acquirements, cuts short all sweet converse. All the dust of the carpet is beaten into your eyes and throat, your ears are stunned, your person pushed about the narrow room, or you are condemned to listen for the five thousandth time to Bid me discourse," and a “ Di tanti palpiti," sung in that time and tune which it pleaseth fortune, or the no less capricious tempers of the melodious exhibitants.

For these and a thousand other reasons, which for brevity I must now omit, it becomes a point of prudence and good policy to adopt a plan that shall consign matrimony, like all other trades, to the forenoon, and to the commercial part of the city, leaving the haunts of pleasure and the hours of recreation to their legitimate purposes. In France, marriage is transacted " by private contract." The unmarried whey faces are kept in the back-ground, and talking does not spoil conversation in the saloons. This arrangement, however, in which the young folks are not “ brought out," is too foreign for our habits, and cannot be recommended. But nothing could be more convenient than the erection of an Exchange exclusively appropriated to matrimonial speculation. The neighbourhood of Mark-lane would afford a good site, as country gentlemen might then dispose of their corn and their children at the same time. Or a room might be hired in the Auction-mart, or at Tattersall's, for the purpose. The fitting up of show-rooms or Bazaars in the neighbourhood of Bond-street might have its utility, in which each girl might be ticketed, and “no second price be taken." This would answer the better, as in Bazaars "no credit can possibly be given," and "no goods are returned after they have left the shop." Subservient to this scheme, registers might be opened, by which an inspector might at a glance know how far any number in the catalogue would suit. By such arrangements we might have our evenings to ourselves; and mammas, their daughters, and young gentlemen of good expectations, might each and all enjoy the delights of social intercourse, undisturbed by anxious speculation, and unbarassed by the dread of spring-guns and steel-traps in concerts, dances, and opera suppers. As things are now conducted, we must marry in one's own defence, and run the risk of perpetual annoyance at home in order to obtain some chance of a little tranquil enjoyment abroad. This certainly requires reform, and something might be done in the shape of a rider to some of the many marriage acts which are daily passing the two houses of Parliament. Let the members look to it, at their leisure.

C. M.


The project of a Royal Society of Literature which so long lay mysteriously in embryo, has again presented itself to the world, or, to use parliamentary language, assumed somewhat of " a tangible shape." Never was the origin of a society, which might naturally be expected to receive its concoction among the most celebrated literati of the country, so obscure or so little known to those interested in its proceedings. Vacillation and uncertainty have marked its progress hitherto, and whether the present ancouncement of its constitution is to be regarded as the final result of the deliberations of its founders, or to be considered only as an initiament to be followed by another interval of silence ere its transactions be again visible to the public eye, remains for time to decide. Its commencement has been any thing but auspicious ; and if the future be to be judged by the past, the hopes of its founders are likely to suffer disappointment from the very nature of the course they have been pursuing.

A recent announcement of the transactions of a meeting held on the 17th of June, has disclosed to the community the operations which have consumed two or three years in completing. A reference is easily made to these at length in some of the diurnal publications. It appears that a president (the Bishop of St. David's), eight vice-presidents, a council of sixteen fellows,* a treasurer, librarian, and secretary, have been elected. Very few of these individuals can be considered immediately connected with literature. The Society is described as being “ under the patronage and endowed by the munificence of his Majesty King George the Fourth, for the advancement of literature—by the publication of inedited remains of ancient literature, and of such works, as may be of great intrinsic value, but not of that popular character which usually claims the attention of publishers-by the promotion of discoveries in literature-by endeavours to fix the standard, as far as is practicable, and to preserve the purity of our language, by the critical improvement of our lexicography-by the reading, at public meetings, of interesting papers on history, philosophy, poetry, philology, and the arts, and the publication of such of those papers, as shall be approved of, in the society's transactions—by the assigning of honorary rewards to works of great literary merit, and to important discoveries in literature ; and by establishing a correspondence with learned men in foreign countries, for the purpose of literary inquiry and information.” The two prizes, of one hundred and of fifty pounds, first proposed to be given for literary compositions, are changed into two gold medals of fifty guineas each, to be adjudged annually to persons of eminent literary merit. The society consists of fellows and associates : of the last are two classes-royal associates and associates of the society; the former to be elected from among the latter. Ten of these associates are to receive one hundred a year each from the privy purse, and ten others a like sum from the funds of the society. There are also to be honorary associates. The persons elected as associates are to

In the council of the Society, we believe, the Reverend Mr. Croly is the only one widely known as a literary character ; and to that gentleman's merits as an author we are ardently disposed to hear testimony, VOL. VIII. NO. XXXII.


« AnteriorContinua »