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L ET TERS,
UNDER ASSUMED SIGNATURES, PUBLISHED IN
To the Editor of the Reflector.
MR. REFLECTOR-I was born under the shadow of St. Dun stan's steeple, just where the conflux of the eastern and western inhabitants of this twofold city meet and justle in friendly opposition at Temple-bar. The same day which gave me to the world, saw London happy in the celebration of her great annual feast. This I cannot help looking upon as a lively omen of the future great good-will which I was destined to bear towards the city, resembling in kind that solicitude which every chief magistrate is supposed to feel for whatever concerns her interests and well-being. Indeed, I consider myself in some sort a speculative lord mayor of London: for though circumstances unhappily preclude me from the hope of ever arriving at the dignity of a gold chain and spital sermon, yet thus much will I say of myself in truth, that Whittington with his cat (just emblem of vigilance and a furred gown) never went beyond me in affection which I bear to the citizens.
I was born, as you have heard, in a crowd. This has begot in me an entire affection for that way of life, amounting to an almost insurmountable aversion from solitude and rural scenes. This aversion was never interrupted or suspended, except for a few years in the younger part of my life, during a period in which I had set my affections upon a charming young woman. Every man, while the passion is upon him, is for a time at least addicted to groves, and meadows, and purling streams. During this short period of my existence, I contracted just familiarity enough with rural objects to understand tolerably well ever after the poets, when they declaim in such passionate erms in favour of a country life. For my own part, now the fit is past, I have no hesitation
in declaring, that a mob of happy faces crowding up at the pit door of Drury Lane Theatre, just at the hour of six, gives me ten thousand sincerer pleasures than I could ever receive from all the flocks of silly sheep that ever whitened the plains of Arcadia or Epsom Downs.
This passion for crowds is nowhere feasted so full as in London. The man must have a rare recipe for melancholy who can be dull in Fleet-street. . I am naturally inclined to hypochondria, but in London it vanishes, like all other ills. Often, when I have felt a weariness or distaste at home, have I rushed out into her crowded Strand, and fed my humour, till tears have wetted my cheek for inutterable sympathies with the multitudinous moving picture, which she never fails to present at all hours, like the scenes of a shifting pantomime.
The very deformities of London, which give distaste to others, from habit do not displease me. 'The endless succession of shops where fancy miscalled folly is supplied with perpetual gauds and toys, excite in me no Puritanical' aversion. I gladly behold every appetite supplied with its proper food. The obliging customer, and the obliged tradesman-things which live by bowing, and things which exist but for homage ---do not affect me with disgust; from habit I perceive nothing but urbanity, where other men, more refined, discover meanness: I love the very smoke of London, because it has been the medium most familiar to my vision. I see grand principles of honour at work in the dirty ring which encompasses two combatants with fists, and principles of no less eternal justice in the detection of a pickpocket. The salutary astonishment with which an execution is surveyed, convinces me more forcibly than a hundred volumes of abstract polity, that the universal instinct of man in all ages has leaned to order and good government.
Thus an art of extracting morality from the commonest incidents of a town life, is attained by the same well-natured alchymy with which the Foresters of Arden, in a beautiful country,
“ Found tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything." Where has spleen her food but in London! Humour, interest, curiosity, suck at her measureless breasts without a possibil. ity of being satiated. Nursed amid her noise, her crowds, her beloved smoke, what have I been doing all my life, if I have not lent out my heart with usury to such scenes !
I am, sir, your faithful scrvant,
ON BURIAL SOCIETIES;
AND THE CHARACTER OF AN UNDERTAKER.
To the Editor of the Reflector.
MR. REFLECTOR-I was amused the other day with having the following notice thrust into my hand by a man who gives out bills at the corner of Fleet-market.
Whether he saw any prognostics about me, that made him judge such notice seasonable. I cannot say; I might, perhaps, carry in a countenance (naturally not very florid) traces of a fever which had not long
Those fellows have a good instinctive way of guese sing at the sort of people that are likeliest to pay attention to
• A favourable opportunity now offers to any person, of either sex, who would wish to be buried in a genteel manner, by paying one shilling entrance, and twopence per week for the benefit of the stock. Members to be free in six months. The money to be paid at Mr. Middleton's, at the sign of the First and the Last, Stonecutter's-street, Fleet-market. The deceased to be furnished as follows:-A strong elm coffin, covered with superfine black, and finished with two rows, all round, close drove, best japanned nails, and adorned with ornamental drops, a handsome plate of inscription, angel above and flower beneath, and four pairs of handsome handles, with wrought gripes; the coffin to be well pitched, lined, and ruffied with fine crape; a handsome crape shroud, cap, and pillow. For use, a handsome velvet pall, three gentlemen's cloaks, three crape hat-bands, three hoods and scarts, and six pairs of gloves; two porters equipped to attend the funeral, a man to attend the same with band and gloves; also, the burial fees paid, if not exceeding one guinea."
“Man," says Sir Thomas Browne, “is a noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave.” Whoever drew up this little advertisement certainly understood this appetite in the species, and has made abundant provision for it. It really almost induces a tædium vitæ upon one to read
Methinks I could be willing to die, in death to be so atthe dr
tended. The two rows all round close-drove best black japanned nails—how feelingly do they invite and almost irresistibly persuade us to come and be fastened down! what aching head can resist the temptation to repose, which the crape shroud, the cap, and the pillow present? what sting is there in death, which the handles with wrought gripes are not calculated to pluck away? what victory in the grave, which
and the velvet pall do not render at least extremely disputable? but, above all, the pretty emblematic plate with the angel above and the flower beneath takes me mightily,
The notice goes on to inform us, that though the society has been established but a very few years, upwards of eleven hundred persons have put down their names. It is really an affecting consideration to think of so many poor people, of the industrious and hard-working class, (for none but such would be possessed of such a generous forethought,} clubbing their twopences to save the reproach of a parish funeral. Many a poor fellow, I dare swear, has that angel and flower kept from the Angel and Punch-bowl, while, to provide himself a bier, he has curtailed himself of beer. Many a savoury morsel has che living body been deprived of, that the lifeless one might be served up in a richer state to the worms. And sure, if the body could understand the actions of the soul, and entertain generous notions of things, it would thank its provident partner, that she had been more solicitous to defend it from dishonours at its dissolution, than careful to pamper it with good things in the time of its union. If Cæsar were chiefly anxious at his death how he might die most decently, every buri al society may be considered as a club of Cæsars.
Nothing tends to keep up, in the imaginations of the poorer sort of people, a generous horror of the workhouse more than the manner in which pauper funerals are conducted in this metropolis. The coffin nothing but a few naked planks coarsely put together--the want of a pall, (that decent and well-imagined veil, which, hiding the coffin that hides the body, keeps that which would shock us at two removes from us), the coloured coats of the men that are hired, at cheap rates, to carry the body- altogether, give the notion of the deceased having been some person of an ill life and conversation, some one who may not claim the entire rites of Christian burial-one by whom some parts of the sacred ceremony would be desecrated if they should be bestowed upon
him. I meet these meager processions sometimes in the street. They are sure to make me out of humour and melancholy all the dar aster. They have a harsh and ominous aspect.
If there is anything in the prospectus issued from Mr. Mid
dleton's, Stonecutter's-street, which pleases me less than the rest, it is to find, that the six pairs of gloves are to be returned, that they are only lent, or, as the bill expresses it, for use, on the occasion. The hood, scarfs, and hatbands may properly enough be given up after the solemnity: the cloaks no gentleman would think of keeping; but a pair of gloves, once fitted on, ought not in courtesy to be redemanded. The wearer should certainly have the fee-simple of them. The cost would be but trifling, and they would be a proper memorial of the day. This part of the proposal wants reconsidering. It is not conceived in the same liberal way of thinking as the rest. I am also a little doubtful whether the limit, within which the burial-fee is made payable, should not be extended to thirty shillings.
Some provision, too, ought undoubtedly to be made in favour of those well-intentioned persons and well-wishers to the fund, who, having all along paid their subscriptions regularly, are so unfortunate as to die before the six ths, which would entitle them to their freedom, are quite completed. One can hardly imagine a more distressing case than that of a poor fellow lingering on in a consumption till the period of his freedom is almost in sight, and then finding himself going with a velocity which makes it doubtful whether he shall be entitled to his funeral honours : his quota to which he nevertheless squeezes out, to the diminution of the comforts which sick. ness demands. I think, in such cases, some of the contribution-money ought to revert. With some such modifications, which might easily be introduced, I see nothing in these proposals of Mr. Middleton which is not strictly fair and genteel ; and heartily recommend them to all persons of moderate incomes, in either sex, who are willing that this perishable part of them should quit the scene of its mortal activities with as handsome circumstances as possible.
Before I quit the subject, I must guard my readers against a scandal which they may be apt to take at the place whence these proposals purport to be issued. From the sign of the First and the Last, they may conclude that Mr. Middleton is some publican, who, in assembling a club of this description ar his house, may have a sinister end of his own, altogether foreign to the solemn purpose for which the club is pretended to be instituted. I must set them right by informing them that the issuer of these proposals is no publican, though he hangs out a sign, but an honest superintendent of funerals, who, by the device of a cradle and a coffin, connecting both ends of human existence together, has most ingeniously contrived to insinuate, that the framers of these first and last re