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to dine with him, at a cottage which he then inhabited at Colney Hatch, on the following Sunday, and bade me put my maiden production into my pocket, I felt extremely happy.
There must be constant alternations in this world of vicissitudes. I left my friend full of present gratification and future hope; I went to my rooms, and there found a letter, of which the following is a copy :
“ Great Queen-street, Lincoln's-inn-fields, May 26, 180—, “ Dear Sir, I feel very great pain in writing to you upon the subject of this letter ; but I think it my duty to do so, on account of your exemplary mother, whose anxiety for your welfare is incessant and unqualified. I have received a communication from the gentleman under whose care I placed you in Lincoln's-inn, representing to me, for her information, the absolute uselessness of your prosecuting your studies under him in the manner in which they are at present conducted. He says that he cannot consider himself justified in receiving a stipend while your utter want of attention renders it impossible that you
should benefit by his instructions, or that you should acquire either knowledge or experience from the practice of his office.
“ Unwilling, however, to take any decided step likely to wound the feelings of Mrs. Gurney, he begs me to offer you the alternative in the first instance, assuring me that, if you decide upon a sedulous application and constant attendance at his chambers, he shall be most happy to devote himself particularly to your interests; but that, if you do not feel yourself able to come to such a determination, he must beg to decline any further professional connexion with you. I assure you this is extremely painful to me; but as I said in the outset, I consider I am only doing my duty to all parties concerned.-Believe me, dear Sir, yours faithfully,
- A. G.” This was awkward-it was unpleasant. I felt I had acted wrongly. I was sure that my mother would be vexed and mortified; but I could not feel sufficient confidence in myself to promise such amendment as my task-master required. It appeared to me the wisest plan to go down to Teddington and see my mother, and explain to her my aversion from the profession for which she had destined me. The truth is, that I had no absolute necessity for any profession. I had a gentlemanly allowance (for I was yet a minor), and at my mother's death I should become possessed of an income more than treble in amount to that which I at present enjoyed; yet I could not say to her—dear, kind, excellent being !--that I anticipated any event which was to result from the loss of her. I was quite certain that I never should make a lawyer; and I resolved to take my ground upon her own history, often repeated to me, of my father's entire failure in the same pursuit. But when could I
go to her ? Here was Friday afternoon: I wanted to devote a few hours to my farce, I could not spare time on Saturday,--and on Sunday it was to be conveyed to Colney Hatch, to be read by a competent judge.
I remember, when I was at school, two of the boys proceeded to a pond, for the purpose of swimming a gallipot, which was the property of the bigger boy of the two. It chanced that, in the eagerness incidental to this exciting amusement, the smaller boy tipped into the water, and, after a good deal of struggling, sank, and was drowned. After the melancholy catastrophe, the bigger boy was questioned as to what efforts he had made to rescue his companion, and the answers made it evident that he had by no means exerted himself to the utmost. This conviction produced a severe rebuke from the master; upon which Master Simpson burst into a flood of tears, and said—“ I do think that I could have saved Green-but-if I had tried, I should have lost my gallipot."
My infernal farce was my gallipot; and, to advance the success of that parcel of trash, I made up my mind to postpone my answer to my kind friend upon a vital question, affecting my future prospects, and delay my visit to my mother, whose heart and soul were devoted to my interests. I need not say, that, having come to this resolution, I passed the whole of the following morning in revising my work; nor need I add, that, immediately after morning service on Sunday, I mounted my horse, and proceeded to the villa of my fostering patron. I reached it in good time; was presented to his amiable lady; and, shortly after, walked with mine host to a small summer-house, which commanded a most agreeable view of the country, where I began, with faltering tongue, to read my production.
I saw that the effect it produced was not disheartening. My auditor smiled, and sometimes laughed; but it struck me that his attention was somewhat too exclusively fixed upon the part which, in case the piece should be accepted, was intended for himself: indeed, my apprehensions of his peculiar partiality for this character were completely realized when, after a little hesitation, he suggested the introduction of two or three jokes—“ hits,” I recollect he called them—into the speeches of that personage, the said " hits” being to be taken out of the parts which were intended for other actors.
Suffice it here to say, since the events of this day had a great share in shaping the pursuits of the rest of my life, that I was quite satisfied with the reception of my bantling, not only from the manner of my host, but from what he said upon the subject to his better half, and still more from the announcement of his determination to take it over the day to Melina-place, where Mr. Colman then resided.
To me this was perfect happiness. I enjoyed the air and the sunshine, and the dinner, and the wine, and the conversation, which, as the party was subsequently increased to six, became extremely agreeable and animated; and the favourable impression which had been made upon me at my first meeting with my new friend was even yet more improved as I became better acquainted with him, and found, in his observations and remarks, not only all the wit and drollery for which the world so justly gave
him credit, but a depth and shrewdness to which much of the immense success with which he has been subsequently rewarded is unquestionably owing.
Having brought myself to what I call the first halting-place of my career, I shall reserve for to-morrow's task the record of occurrences which immediately followed this very agreeable beginning of my literary life, for so it must be considered. Lincoln’s-inn was fast disappearing in the distance; and I resolved that, next day, while my drama was undergoing the Colmanic ordeal in St. George's-fields, I would make such an appeal to my mother as might terminate my suspense, and cut the Gordian knot of all
THE SQUIRE OF OLD ENGLAND.
I was last year enjoying the diversion of shooting at — in the
when the tenant upon whose farm we were sporting came up to pay his respects to his-landlord. He hoped Squire found plenty of birds; his every response to my friend's many inquiries was emphasized by the same distinction. I had scarcely heard the title so applied for these forty years : and, to say the truth, I was pleased to hear it, for it brought back the memory of old times; and moreover, there is no better name for the English country gentleman, however it is fallen into disuse, or into misuse—it is, as it were, his natural appe. lation. Mark me!-the Squire is not the Esquire. No, no! There is as much difference as there is between the man of landed estate, joying in his possessions-hearty, hale, and plain in disposition, health, and manners,—and the shopkeeper, just getting above his trade-care-worn, stiff, methodical, and business-like, even in his newly-assumed refinements. Every one of the latter race is welcome to all the proud delight of reading himself Esq. on the backs of his letters, and so to be written in any bond, quittance, or obligation; but SQUIRE belongs to quite another guess sort of person, as we countrymen say.
Nor am I a whit more willing to allow this earliest and first of titles appertaining to a natural aristocracy, to belong to some to whom it has been of late in another sense applied,—to your mere sporting man, (not sportsman, observe; for there is a wide difference,)—to him of Melton Mowbray, who hunts his pack of fox-hounds, gallops straight across a strong country in search of a steeple to win a bet, or rides matches against time for the same honest and honourable purpose.
He is too nearly allied to the Greeks; from whom if he be not descended, to whom he descends. My Squire is genuine English. And since I have told you what he is not, I will tell you what he is. Yet, still a little more of what he is not; since the Squire of the novelists was not quite what he is, or ought to be. My Squire does not run against time, but goes with it; for squires are not privileged to stand still, any more than any other of God's creations.
Fielding and Goldsmith—the one of whom saw little, the other nothing at all, of country gentlemen-have succeeded in impressing all generations after them, by the easy extravagance of their portraitures, rather than by a just accordance with nature, that their Western and Lumpkin were generalizations. Colley Cibber, in his Wronghead and Squire Richard, had enlarged a little the sphere of action vouchsafed by his successors to the man of landed property, without increasing his quantum of understanding. Hence our notions of the Squire of those days grew almost into a belief that he was a strong, vulgar brute, born to devour the fruits of the earth, and destroy foxes, hares, and partridges,—to hunt and shoot till he was weary,—eat, drink, and roar till he was stupid, -and sleep till power and appetite for his boisterous and animal pleasures were renewed,—and that such, with small intervals to enact the tyranny of the Justice, was the daily course of his life, character, and behaviour. There has been a good deal of deviation from this ancient modelling of the landed gentleman in the modern writers of our imaginative domestic history; but the mind clings to the vigorous originals--the harsh, but broad and deep lines remain almost ineffaceable. Nor is it an easy task to fancy a squire of bygone days other than Squire Western: so the whole ear of Denmark is rankly abused. The writers in sporting papers and magazines, when they designate their idol “the Squire" par eminence, in their descriptions of hard runs, and harder matches, are no less at fault; and sorry am I to inculpate so ingenious a gentleman as the lively author of the sporting papers in the
Quarterly in the same charge of perverting our estimate of one of the wholesomest and best of the dramatis persone of real English life; but he, too, having taken up the cry, must be whipped off the false scent. Let me show you the Squire of England in the double meaning of the phrase, (for, thank God and a good constitution, he still exists,) and I will match him against all England--against all the world.
Picture to thyself, reader, a man of six feet-sinewy, vigorous, and active enough to show you at a glance that Nature gave him strength of body, and energy of mind to use it. His carriage is erect and lofty, as who should say, I am a man of God's own making, free to think and act for myself, and fearing the face neither of king nor kaiser.” Liberty, independence, a frank and joyous spirit, are seen in his every movement, yet with a kind and gentle courtesy, that would willingly offer no man offence or injury. His countenance is the index of his free and gallant soul; health and exercise glow in his ruddy complexion; his fair, smooth, and open forehead, undeformed by a wrinkle, his quick and spirited eye, and the smile that dimples the corners of his lips when he speaks, declare the inexhaustible good-humour and love of his kind that fill his whole heart. Everything speaks a natural gentleman; by which is meant one endowed from birth with the benignity which is the true foundation of fine manners, with good sense to direct its exercise, and with the instinctive ease which bestows the grace of deportment that belongs only to a perfect freedom from every sort of affectation.-Go with me one step farther, and imagine him to have lived with the finest spirits of his day; to have had fortune and judgment enough to gather round him the patriot, the literate, the scientific, and the man of simple, honest integrity and skill in his calling ;-to have exchanged thought for thought, and heart for heart, with these lights of his age and country; imagine such a man in his eightieth year, yet enjoying the wholesome strength of a naturally strong constitution, constantly purified by the air of " the hour of prime," confirmed by days of exercise and temperance and nights of sound sleep, and you see the Squire, not of my dreams, but such as God and his own life have moulded him.
Agriculture is the art proper to the gentleman of landed estate. “To till the earth, and to subdue it,” is a command doubled upon him, through the place where his Maker has planted him, and the possessions bestowed upon him. And it chanced that the Squire came into life at a period when all the knowledge attached to it was of practice, and the proud name of “ Science” had not yet been found amongst its additions. A farmer was then a farmer, and nothing else. His philosophy reached no further than that of Shakspeare's Corin. He knew that
good pastures make fat sheep," and little besides. But it happened, and it was amongst the best gifts of his fortune, that the pastures which fell to the Squire were not good, and so he turned himself to make them better: in a word, he could not obtain five shillings an acre for his land, and so he thought he would e'en farm it himself. With the following of the art came the love of the art. He had also the generous passion for “venerie" or field-sports-that ruralizing in all its branches, which makes the pleasure of a country life. He kept hounds, and he bred pointers. You may view him in his own hall, in his pride of pastime, surrounded by three of his silver-coated favourites, drawn to the life by the hand of Gainsborough,—tall and manly and beautiful as Meleager in the flush of youth and exercise. Mark the ease of the transition. He became enamoured of his pursuits; he perceived the large field of improvement that lay before him. His domain was vast; but it was of the poorest. He set himself to work only the more earnestly. Farming, planting, building—these were the studies, the employment, the charm of his existence. And mark, too, how he has been rewarded. He saw the sun rise every morning that he passed in the country, and he was out of it as seldom as possible. He was on horseback in his fields or in his rising woods,--he conversed familiarly with his dependents,-he learned their wants and their desires,-he found the characteristics of his followers. His maxim was, “ to live and let live;" and their habits soon came to be to love him as a patriarch. He attended to every suggestion-tried every promising experiment. Once a year, he opened his hall and his fields to the country at large. He promulgated his discoveries and his failures, and England-nay, the world-partook the benefit. Regard, I pray you, the principle. He achieved all this, because he knew his place, and he took it. He turned his natural gifts and his acquired fortune to their true intents; he did “his duty in that state of life to which it had pleased God to call him.'
I wish you could have seen him presiding in his own magnificent hall in these days,—not days of joy and gladness only, but of moral and intellectual advancement-surrounded by princes and nobles, and by that noblest work of God-by honest men. Such was his state, and this was its description :-“ To prosecute with such advantage any pursuit to such a period; to enjoy so long a duration of uninterrupted health; to see the patrimony of his ancestors improved beyond all possible computation; to know that from his example, his spirit, his skill, and his encouragement, not alone his own estate, not the county where he lives, not the country itself only, but every civilized nation on the face of the globe, may be said to owe some portion of obligation to his endeavours; to be able to assemble the curious, the scientific, and the eminent in vast numbers around him; to hear his just praises spoken from the lips, not only of men distinguished in arts, in arms, and in letters, but of princes, both of his own and foreign lands;—all these together form an aggregate of fortune that attends but a
few among those who are born and die."
Again I say mark how he has been rewarded. He has reached the age of eighty: he never had the gout in his life, and scarcely a day's illness. My last visit to him was towards the close of the year, and in the coarsest weather. He came to breakfast at nine o'clock, with his letters written, and his business for the day done and completed. Soon after ten, the party assembled before the house, and off we started for a battue in his park. The Squire led, in a small four-wheeled double chaise; with him were one or two of his guests, and his eldest boy, ten