Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

Walter flourished in George the Second's days, and was the same who was summoned before the house of commons about a business of franks, with the old Duchess of Marlborough. You may read of it in Johnson's life of Cave. Cave came off cleverly in that business. It is certain our Plumer did nothing to discountenance the rumour. He rather seemed pleased whenever it was, with all gentleness, insinuated. But, besides his family pretensions, Plumer was an engaging fellow, and sang gloriously.

Not so sweetly sang Plumer as thou sangest, mild, childlike, pastoral M—; a flute's breathing less divinely whispering than thy Arcadian melodies, when, in tones worthy of Arden, thou didst chant that song sung by Amiens to the banished duke, which proclaims the winter wind more lenient than for a man to be ungrateful. Thy sire was old surly M-, the unapproachable church warden of Bishopsgate. He knew not what he did when he begat thee, like spring, gentle offspring of blustering winter-only unfortunate in thy ending, which should have been mild, conciliatory, swanlike.

Much remains to sing. Many fantastic shapes rise up, but they must be mine in private : already I have fooled the reader to the top of his bent-else could I omit that strange creature Woollet, who existed in trying the question, and bought litigations ?—and still stranger, inimitable, solemn Hepworth, from whose gravity Newton might have deduced the law o. gravitation. How profoundly would he nib a pen—with wha deliberation would he wet a waser !

But it is time to close-night's wheels are rattling fas over me, it is proper to have done with this solemn mockery

Reader, what if I have been playing with thee all this while -peradventure the very names which I have summoned up before thee are fantastic--unsubstantial--like Henry Pimpernel and old John Naps of Greece.

Be satisfied that something answering to them has had a being. Their importance is from the past.

OXFORD IN THE VACATION.

Casting a preparatory glance at the bottom of this article --as the wary connoisseur in prints, with cursory eye, (which, while it reads, seems as though it read not,) never fails to

[ocr errors]

consult the quis sculpsit in the corner, before he pronounces some rare piece to be a Vivares, or a Woollet-methinks ] hear you exclaim, reader, Who is Elia?

Because in my last I tried to divert thee with some half-forgotten humours of some old clerks defunct, in an old house of business, long since gone to decay, doubtless you have already set me down in your mind as one of the selfsame college-a votary of the desk—a notched and cropped scrivener -one that sucks his sustenance, as certain sick people are said to do, through a quill.

Well, I do agnize something of this sort. I confess that it is my humour--my fancy in the fore part of the day, when the mind of your man of letters requires sonu relaxation-(and none better than such as at first sight seems most abhorrent from his beloved studies)—to while away some good hours of my time in the contemplation of indigoes, cottons, raw silks, piece goods, flowered or otherwise. In the first place

and then it sends you home with such increased appetite to your books

not to say that your outside sheets, and waste wrappers of foolscap, do receive into them, most kindly and naturally, the impression of sonnets, epigrams, essaysso that the very parings of a counting house are, in some sort, the settings up of an author. T'he enfranchised quill, that has plodded all the morning among the cart-rucks of figures and ciphers, frisks and curvets so at its ease over the flowery carpet ground of a midnight dissertation. It feels its promotion.

So that you see, upon the whole, the literary dignity of Elia is very little, if at all, compromised in the condescension.

Not thai; in my anxious detail of the many commodities incidental to the life of a public office, I would be thought blind to certain flaws, which a cunning carper might be able to pick in this Joseph's vest. And here I must have leave, in the fulness of my soul, to regret the abolition, and doing away with altogether, of those consolatory interstices, and sprinklings of freedom, through the four seasons—the red-letter days, now become, to all intents and purposes, dead-letter days. There was Paul, and Stephen, and Barnabas

“ Andrew and John, men famous in old times”— we were used to keep all their days holy, as long back as ) was at school at Christs. I remember their effigies, by the same token, in the old basket Prayer Book. There hung Peter in bis uneasy posture ; holy Bartlemy in the troublesome act of flaying, after the famous Marsyas by Spagnolette. I honcured them all, and could almost have wept the defalcation of

非 *

*

[merged small][ocr errors]

Iscariot, so much did we love to keep holy memories sacred; only methought I a little grudged at the coalition of the herder Jude with Simon, clubbing (as it were) their sanctities together, to make up one poor gaudy-day between them, as an economy unworthy of the dispensation.

These were bright visitations in a scholars and a clerk's life, “ far off their coming shone.” I was as good as an almanac in those days. I could have told you such a saint's day falls out next week, or the week after. Peradventure the Epiphany, by some periodical infelicity, would, once in six years, merge in a Sabbath. Now am I little better than one of the profane. Let me not be thought to arraign the wisdom of my civil superiors, who have judged the further observation of these holy tides to be Papistical, superstitious. Only in a custom of such long standing, methinks, if their holinesses the bishops had, in decency, been first sounded—but I am wading out of my depths. I am not the man to decide the limits of civil and ecclesiastical authority—I am plain Elia-no Selden, nor Archbishop Usher, though at present in the thick of their books, here in the heart of learning, under the shadow of the mighty Bodley.

I can here play the gentleman, enact the student. To such a one as myself, who has been defrauded in his young years of the sweet food of academic institution, nowhere is so pleasant, to while away a few idle weeks at, as one or other of the universities. Their vacation, too, at this time of the year,

falls in so pat with ours. Here I can take my walks unmolested, and fancy myself of what degree or standing I please. I seem admitted ad eundum. I fetch up past opportunities. I can rise at the chapel bell, and dream that it rings for me. moods of humility, I can be a sizer or a servitor. When the peacock vein rises, I strut a gentleman commoner. moments, I proceed master of arts. Indeed, I do not think I am much unlike that respectable character. I have seen your dim-eyed vergers, and bedmakers in spectacles, drop a bow or courtesy as I pass, widely mistaking me for something of the sort. I go about in black, which favours the notion. Only in Christ Church reverend quadrangle, I can be content to pass for nothing short of a seraphic doctor.

The walks at these times are so much one's own the tall trees of Christ's, the groves of Magdalen! The halls deserted, and with open doors inviting one to slip in unperceived, and pay a devoir to some founder, or noble or royal benefactress (that should have been ours) whose portrait seems to smile upon

their overlooked beadsman, and to adopt me for their own.

Then, to take a peep in, by-the-way, at the but

In

In graver getting that they were “certainly not to return from «e coun try before that day week,”) and, disappointed a second time inquires for pen and paper as before : again the book is brought, and in the line just above that in which he is about to print his second name, (his rescript,) his first name (scarco dry) looks out upon him like another Sosia, or as if a man should suddenly encounter his own duplicate! The effect may be conceived-D. made many a good resolution against such lapses in future. I hope he will not keep them too rigorously.

For with G. D. to be absent from the body, is sometimes (not to speak it profanely) to be present with the Lord. At the very time when, personally encountering thee, he passes on with no recognition ; or, being stopped, starts like a thing surprised : at that moment, reader, he is on Mount Tabor, or Parnassus; or co-sphered with Plato : or, with Harrington, framing“ immortal commor wealths ;” devising some plan of amelioration to thy country, or thy species ; peradventure meditating some individual kindness or courtesy, to be done to thee thyself, the returning consciousness of which made him to start so guiltily at thy obtruded personal presence.

D. is delightful anywhere, but he is at the best in such places as these. He cares not much for Bath. He is out of his element at Buxton, at Scarborough, or Harrowgate. The Cam and the Isis are to him “better than all the waters of Damascus.” On the muses' hill he is happy, and good, as one of the shepherds on the Delectable Mountains ; and when he goes about with you to show you the halls and col. leges, you think you have with you the Interpreter at the House Beantiful.

CHRIST'S HOSPITAL

FIVE-AND-THIRTY YEARS AGO.

In Mi. Lamb's “Works,” published a year or two since, I And a magnificent eulogy on my old school,* such as it was, or now appears to him to have been, between the

1782 and 1789. It happens, very oddly, that my own standmg at Christ's was nearly corresponding with his; and, with all gratitude to him for his enthusiasm for the cloisters, I think he has contrived to bring together whatever can be said in praise of them, dropping all the other side of the argument most ingeniously.

years

* Recollections of Christ's Hospital.

I remember L. at school; and can well recollect that he had some peculiar advantages, which I and others of his schoolfellows had not. His friends lived in town, and were near at hand ; and he had the privilege of going to see them, almost as often as he wished, through some invidious distinction, which was denied to us. The present worthy subtreasurer to the Inner Temple can explain how that happened. He had his tea and hot rolls in a morning, while we were battening upon our quarter of a penny loaf-our crug-moistened with attenuated small beer, in wooden piggins, smacking of the pitched leathern jack it was poured from. Our Monday's milk porridge, blue and tasteless, and the pease soup of Saturday, coarse and choking, were enriched for him with a slice of “ extraordinary bread and butter,” from the hot loaf of the Temple. The Wednesday's mess of millet, somewhat less repugnant, (we had three banyan lo four meat days in the week,) was endeared to his palate with a lump of double refined, and a smack of ginger (to make it go down the more glibly) or the fragrant cinnamon. In lieu of our half-pickled Sundays, or quite fresh boiled beef on Thursdays, (strong as caro equina,) with detestable marigolds floating in the pail to poison the broth--our scanty mutton crags on Fridays—and rather more savoury, but grudging, portions of the same flesh, rotten-roasted or rare, on the Tuesdays-(the only dish which excited our appetites, and disappointed our stomachs, in almost equal proportion)—he had his hot plate of roast veal, or the more tempting griskin (exotics unknown to our palates) cooked in the paternal kitchen, (a great thing,, and brought him daily by his maid or aunt! I remember the good old relative (in whom love forbade pride) squatting down upon some odd stone in a by-nook of the cloisters, disclosing the viands, (of higher regale than those cates which the ravens ministered to the Tishbite,) and the contending passions of L. at the unfolding. There was love for the bringer ; shame for the thing brought and the manner of its bringing ; sympathy for those who were too many to share in it; and, at top of all, hunger (eldest, strongest of the passions !) predominant, breaking down the stony fences of shame, and awkwardness, and a troubling over-consciousness.

I was a poor friendless boy. My parents, and those who should care for me, were far away. Those few acquaintances of theirs, which they could reckon vpon being kind to me in

« НазадПродовжити »