Imágenes de páginas

things at Eton now: how the Boats were manned; whether Collegers or Oppidans beat the last match at Football; and several other matters of equal importance: to all of which I had the patience to return becoming answers. I have uniformly observed that old Etonians are very like old men, inasmuch as they always maintain the superiority of things as they existed in their time; and argue that every alteration must be for the worse, although frequently they know nothing about it. Pray do not suspect that I mean to impute any uncharitableness to our predecessors, for whom I entertain the greatest respect and veneration, as well as for all their institutions. It is really a natural sort of feeling which we ourselves begin to hold towards the rising generation in our « little World,” which we suspect will be neither half so big, nor half so clever, as the one which went before it.

I had long wished to know the name of a little man, with piercing grey eyes, shaggy red eyebrows, and a cast of countenance altogether more strongly indicative of cunning than any I ever remember to have seen. After I had heard, with due fortitude, many very severe remarks upon our deficiency in divers points, about which, to tell you the truth, I cared not a farthing, such as having no bonfire on the 5th of November, being locked up in our Houses at five o'clock instead of six, and several others which I cannot remember, I returned to the charge, and demanded some particulars of the abovementioned gentleman, who was evidently smiling, to the best of his endeavours, and, in fact, playing the agreeable to a fat old lady of a most portly presence, his next neighbour. “ That,” answered young Brooke, “ is a lawyer of this place, the learned Mr. Jobson. He has the credit of having a great deal of money; but nobody pretends to say where it ever came from. In addition to this qualification, he has interest enough with his fellow-citizens to persuade them to elect for their Members whomsoever he likes best; and it is said that he always likes those best, who have no objection to fee their legal adviser handsomely. This, of course, is as much a secret as things of that sort generally are. However, he keeps a good table, and will give you a fine dinner, without charging you 6s. 8d. for your entertainment. Somebody must pay; but it is not our business to inquire who are the victims. Our good host, Mr. Hudson, has, I dare say, tasted his good cheer pretty often.”

We were relapsing fast into a discourse about the merits of a neighbouring pack of hounds, when the Master of the feast, who, by the bye, had been running about the room the whole time, came up to a gentleman seated very near us, and said, loud enough to be plainly heard, “.Mr. Bradshaw, will you do

[ocr errors]

me the favour to sit next to me at dinner. I have got a haunch of venison there, I assure you the very best that I could possibly procure; and I am sadly afraid that, unless I profit a little by your good instruction, it will suffer sadly by my awkward carving.” “ Certainly, Mr. Hudson,” was the reply. Our host was quite satisfied : and, with frightened visage, bustled away to pay his attention to some highly-favoured person on the opposite side of the room. Strangely did I wish to learn the character and vocation of this Mr. Bradshaw; and I was afraid to ask, lest he should overhear our conversation. It was very evident that he had a great share of humour in his composition, for he kept all the company around him, ladies and gentlemen, in a perpetual titter.

A most grotesque figure of a man made a very conspicuous appearance at some distance from us: his lips, his arms, in fact, his whole body moved about in unison with his words ; so much so, that I began to suspect that he was some foreigner or other, for I never saw any of our cooler-blooded nation who used such extravagant action. If you, Courtenay, were to figure in such a way at the next Election speeches, I positively think the audience would be thunderstruck : the experiment, perhaps, might be worth while. He had, too, a most particularly loud and silly kind of laugh, which uniformly followed every word of his own, though I could not perceive that anybody else joined in it, which argued badly for his powers of amusing. My companion perceived the object of my abstraction, and readily gave me a little account of them. “Pray,' said he, “ are you looking at that Buffoon who is standing opposite to us? He is Mr. Wise; a man, I assure you, of vast notoriety in this neighbourhood; some absolutely think him agreeable; an opinion which I could never accede too : however, it is not his fault if he is not so, for he spares neither himself nor his hearers in accomplishing this worthy purpose. You cannot conceive a greater bore than finding yourself seated next to him at dinner, with the consciousness that you cannot possibly escape from him for a whole hour. Such a compound of bad puns, stale stories, and conceit, I really believe never existed. His mouth is always open, and always to utter something foolish ; and even, in spite of the better and readier occupation of eating and drinking, he would not cease five minutes together from dinning your ears with some account, carefully collected from the newest Book of Anecdotes ; or with some of those miserable twists and perversions of words, such as you would never understand, unless he were to inform you by his laugh that he has cut, what we used to call at Eton in my time, a joke. This is a sufficient caution ; do pray beware of getting near him." I assure you, my dear Courtenay, as I told you in

[ocr errors]

my letter of condolence, I intend not to start a single pun after my arrival at the Club; and the example of this Hero has fully confirmed me in my resolution.

If I was so disposed, I could tell you a number of torments, to · which a professed punster or self-named wit voluntarily submits himself; such as his disappointment when people don't choose to understand his efforts, or to laugh at them. The danger he incurs of displeasing people, and making himself ridiculous ; but all this Essay will keep very well till my arrival. At present we must talk of Sir John Carter, who attracted my notice from the very important manner with which he walked across the room. I was told that he was the son of a substantial Yeoman, who got a good deal of money, and spent very little, being determined to make his son a Gentleman, or at least to give him the means of being one. Accordingly the young Squire did nothing in the world but amuse himself, and at twenty-one was the best shot, and the best rider in the country, without being able to read or write. Soon after this, he became ambitious of the Shrievalty ; and as that is a sort of dignity which almost every body wishes to escape, if possible, he soon obtained the desired honour. With a good deal of tutoring, he managed to get through his business, and most fortunately happened to present an address to his Majesty, for which he received the distinguished mark of Knighthood. In process of time he became a Magistrate, and as he always takes very good care to have Mr. Jobson or his clerk at his elbow, I have not heard that he has as yet made any very notorious blunders. He has amazing ideas of his own consequence, and preserves a most dignified silence, scarcely ever opening his mouth; I suppose because he is afraid of betraying his country accent. I forgot to tell you that he is a Captain in the Yeomanry, and I have no doubt gives the word of command to his Troop in the finest provincial twang. In addition to this, he is Commissioner of the Turnpike Roads, and is so bigoted to the old plan, that he will never hear of any new one, the consequences of which obstinacy I felt by a pretty severe jolting on my way to the Pelican. Lady Carter is infinitely worse than her husband, for she is more ridiculously conceited than you can possibly imagine. I understand that she once turned away a footman because he forgot to call her by her proper title at a party. I overheard her exclaiming how she would fit up the apartment we were setting in, if it were her own, just after the plan she had adopted at, Yatton Lodge. You won't expect me to remember all the particulars of elegant curtains, mirrors, and such like. I can only tell you, that her Ladyship's dress did not give me a yery high idea of her taste.

Scarcely had I made the abovementioned resolution, when

Dinner was announced, to the very visible joy of most of the company. I was very much surprised that nobody began to move ; and more so, when I saw the worthy Mr. Hudson, with the greatest confusion depicted in his countenance, going from one side to another, instead of escorting his chosen fair one to her place at the Dinner-table. At last he ran up to Mr. Bradshaw, his . never-failing oracle in time of trouble it appears, and asked what he should do under the following circumstances :—There were two Baronets, with their Ladies, in the room (a thing I forgot to mention before), and the question at present was, to which of these two he should give his arm ? Mr. Bradshaw's first advice was, that he should take the oldest. Now this was an impossibility : first of all, because the truth could never be ascertained ; as nobody could think of questioning a Lady upon 30 jealous a point : and, secondly, because the one who was preferred, if she were to find out the reason, would probably consider it as any thing but an honour. They spoke a few more words in whispers, and the end was, that Mr. Hudson walked boldly up to Lady Upton, and led her off in triumph ; while her rival followed next, and, as far as I could see, appeared to be very well contented with the arrangement. I brought up the rear. Mr. Bradshaw sat, as had been before arranged, on the Host's right hand; and I had the satisfaction of taking my place next but one to him-a terrible hungry-looking man separating us. He had a long hollow face, and eyes nearly starting out of his head; with which he stared round upon every thing upon the table, just as if he longed to have it in his plate. I afterwards learnt that his name was Mandle, and that he, and his wife, who was opposite to us, a vulgar woman to outward appearance, kept up a very respectable character for stinginess. I had taken very good care in the preceding part of the day, that my appetite should not be overpowering in the Evening ; as I had proposed to myself another occupation than that of eating. However, I very much suspect that my friends about me had not taken the same precaution. In fact, if we may judge by the Newspapers, we seem to be peculiarly a dinner-eating Nation. There is no meeting, however insignificant, which has not a Dinner at the end of it: witness the glorious entertainment of which Mr. Hunt and the Friends of Liberty partook after that Hero's triumph at Manchester; and for the expenses of which Dr. Watson was so unwarrantably clapped into prison. No great event can be celebrated so well as by a dinner ; we dance for Charity, speak for Charity, but, more than all, we eat for Charity's sake. No wonder, then, as I thought to myself at the time, that Mr. Hudson should have chosen so substantial and so truly English a method of returning his obligations. You must suppose this reverie to have gone on (as was really the case) while the fish and soup had both disappeared, and a huge piece of beef, and no less haunch of venison, had taken their places; the latter of which Mr. Bradshaw and the Host were busily employed in carving, and the rest of the company in eating ; among whom Mr. Mandle cut a conspicuous figure. Indeed I believe that his voracity was very well accordarit with ideas of economy; for I verily think he laid in enough to serve him for a fortnight. His wife every now and then shot some terrible glances at him from the other side of the table ; but in this respect, at least, he did not appear to regard very much the good Lady's frowns. Mr. Bradshaw took very good care that his neighbour's plate should never be empty; and at last loaded it to that degree that at last he was obliged to cry-enough. You may imagine that he was very unsociable, as his mouth was too well occupied to be opened for any minor consideration : however, this defect of his was amply made up for by a Maiden Lady past a “ certain age." But, I assure you, five and fifty years had taken away nothing from the gaiety of her dress, or the volubility of her tongue. I, as in duty bound, did every thing that was civil to her; and, to all of my attentions she returned the most engaging looks possible ; and talked a vast deal about indifferent subjects: I thought she would never have left off questioning me about Eton, as unluckily she had seen the First Number of “ The Etonian.” Of course she wanted to know if you were not a very clever boy=whether I was not a mischievous one, as she guessed by the character I bore in the Club. I assured her that it was a namesake of mine who figured so conspicuously; upon which she begged pardon, and intimated her surprise that there should be two people at school together with such a singular designation. Dear me! I never knew any lady with such a numerous acquaintance: her inquiries after the various young ones whom she knew at Eton were really unceasing, such as, “ How does young Stone go on? His aunt, Mrs. Knipe, was my most intimate friend when we lived at Wimbledon. Is Sir William Roby still at Eton? His friends had thoughts of taking him away,” &c. Then she was so curious about their characters, abilities, natures, and other things, that I really believe nobody in the world could possibly have satisfied her. She was wonderfully astonished that I should not know all these particulars ; and, in fact, the whole conversation put me very much in mind of what our friend Swinburne has justly considered one of the principal of his Christmas miseries. Well, after a short interval, she wished me to tell her whether there were not two boys of the name of Swinburne at Eton; and what sort of a person I considered the eldest to be ? « The very man I was thinking of," said I to

« AnteriorContinuar »