Зображення сторінки

all the by-standers, who have gone away Who has not at one time or other been at a clearly convinced that Titubus must have party of professors (himself perhaps an old been in the wrong, because he was in a offender in that line), where, after ringing a passion; and that Mr. , meaning his round of the most ingenious conceits, every opponent, is one of the fairest and at the man contributing his shot, and some there same time one of the most dispassionate the most expert shooters of the day; after arguers breathing

making a poor word run the gauntlet till it is ready to drop ; after hunting and winding

it through all the possible ambages of similar VIII.—THAT VERBAL ALLUSIONS ARE NOT WIT, sounds; after squeezing, and hauling, and


tugging at it, till the very milk of it will not

yield a drop further,—suddenly some obscure, The same might be said of the wittiest unthought-of fellow in a corner, who was local allusions. A custom is sometimes as never 'prentice to the trade, whom the comdifficult to explain to a foreigner as a pun. pany for very pity passed over, as we do by a What would become of a great part of the known poor man when a money-subscription wit of the last age, if it were tried by this is going round, no one calling upon him for test? How would certain topics, as alder- his quota—has all at once come out with manity, cuckoldry, have sounded to a Teren- something so whimsical, yet so pertinent; so tian auditory, though Terence himself had brazen in its pretensions, yet so impossible been alive to translate them ? Senator to be denied ; so exquisitely good, and so urbanus with Curruca to boot for a synonyme, deplorably bad, at the same time,—that it would but faintly have done the business. has proved a Robin Hood's shot; anything Words, involving notions, are hard enough ulterior to that is despaired of; and the to render ; it is too much to expect us to party breaks up, unanimously voting it to be translate a sound, and give an elegant version the very worst (that is, best) pun of the to a jingle. The Virgilian harmony is not evening. This species of wit is the better translatable, but by substituting harmonious for not being perfect in all its parts. What sounds in another language for it. To Latin- it gains in completeness, it loses in naturalise a pun, we must seek a pun in Latin, that ness. The more exactly it satisfies the will answer to it; as, to give an idea of the critical, the less hold it has upon some other double endings in Hudibras, we must have faculties. The puns which are most enterrecourse to a similar practice in the old taining are those which will least bear an monkish doggrel. Dennis, the fiercest op- analysis. Of this kind is the following, repugner of puns in ancient or modern times, corded with a sort of stigma, in one of Swift's professes himself highly tickled with the Miscellanies. “a stick," chiming to “ ecclesiastic." Yet An Oxford scholar, meeting a porter who what is this but a species of pun, a verbal was carrying a hare through the streets, consonance ?

accosts him with this extraordinary question :

“Prithee, friend, is that thy own hare, or a IX.-THAT THE WORST PUNS ARE THE BEST.

There is no excusing this, and no resisting IF by worst be only meant the most far- it. A man might blur ten sides of paper fetched and startling, we agree to it. A pun in attempting a defence of it against a critic is not bound by the laws which limit nicer who should be laughter-proof. The quibble wit. It is a pistol let off at the ear; not a in itself is not considerable. It is only a feather to tickle the intellect. It is an antic new turn given by a little false pronunciation, which does not stand upon manners, but to a very common, though not very courteous comes bounding into the presence, and does inquiry. Put by one gentleman to another at not show the less comic for being dragged a dinner-party, it would have been vapid ; to in sometimes by the head and shoulders. the mistress of the house it would have What though it limp a little, or prove de- shown much less wit than rudeness. We fective in one leg ?-all the better. A pun must take in the totality of time, place, and may easily be too curious and artificial. person ; the pert look of the inquiring

wig ?


scholar, the desponding looks of the puzzled impression, to be forcible, must be simultaporter : the one stopping at leisure, the other neous and undivided. hurrying on with his burden ; the innocent though rather abrupt tendency of the first

X.-THAT HANDSOME IS THAT HANDSOME DOES. member of the question, with the utter and inextricable irrelevancy of the second ; the Those who use this proverb can never place--a public street, not favourable to frivo- have seen Mrs. Conrady. lous investigations ; the affrontive quality of The soul, if we may believe Plotinus, is a the primitive inquiry (the common question) ray from the celestial beauty. As she parinvidiously transferred to the derivative (the takes more or less of this heavenly light, she new turn given to it) in the implied satire ; informs, with corresponding characters, the namely, that few of that tribe are expected fleshly tenement which she chooses, and to eat of the good things which they carry, frames to herself a suitable mansion. they being in most countries considered

All which only proves that the soul of Mrs. rather as the temporary trustees than owners Conrady, in her pre-existent state, was no of such dainties — which the fellow was great judge of architecture. beginning to understand ; but then the wig To the same effect, in a Hymn in honour again comes in, and he can make nothing of of Beauty, divine Spenser platonising, it; all put together constitute a picture : sings :Hogarth could have made it intelligible on

Every spirit as it is more pure,

And hath in it the more of heavenly light, Yet nine out of ten critics will pronounce So it the fairer body doth procure this a very bad pun, because of the

defective- To habit in, and it more fairly dight

With cheerful grace and amiable sight. ness in the concluding member, which is its

For of the soul the body form doth take : very beauty, and constitutes the surprise. For soul is form and doth the body make. The same person shall cry up for admirable the cold quibble from Virgil about the But Spenser, it is clear, never saw Mrs. broken Cremona ;* because it is made out

Conrady. in all its parts, and leaves nothing to the

These poets, we find, are no safe guides in imagination. We venture to call it cold; philosophy; for here, in his very next stanza

but because, of thousands who have admired it,

one, is a saving clause, which throws us it would be difficult to find one who has all out again, and leaves us as much to seek

as ever :heartily chuckled at it. As appealing to the judgment merely (setting the risible faculty Yet oft it falls, that many a gentle mind aside), we must pronounce it a monument of Dwells in deformed tabernacle drown'd,

Either by chance, against the course of kind, curious felicity. But as some stories are said Or through unaptness in the substance found, to be too good to be true, it may with equal Which it assumed of some stubborn ground, truth be asserted of this biverbal allusion,

That will not yield unto her form's direction,

But is performed with some foul imperfection. that it is too good to be natural. One cannot help suspecting that the incident was in- From which it would follow, that Spenser vented to fit the line. It would have been had seen somebody like Mrs. Conrady. better had it been less perfect. Like some The spirit of this good lady-her previous Virgilian hemistichs, it has suffered by filling animamust have stumbled upon one of up. The nimium Vicina was enough in these untoward tabernacles which he speaks conscience; the Cremonæ afterwards loads it. of. A more rebellious commodity of clay for It is, in fact, a double pun; and we have a ground, as the poet calls it, no gentle mind always observed that a superfætation in this -and sure hers is one of the gentlest—ever sort of wit is dangerous. When a man has had to deal with. said a good thing, it is seldom politic to follow Pondering upon her inexplicable visageit up. We do not care to be cheated a inexplicable, we mean, but by this modificasecond time; or, perhaps the mind of man tion of the theory-we have come to a con(with reverence be it spoken) is not capacious clusion that, if one must be plain, it is better enough to lodge two puns at a time. The to be plain all over, than amidst a tolerable

residue of features to hang out one that shall

• Swift.


be exceptionable. No one can say of Mrs. Mrs. Conrady has done you a service, her Conrady's countenance that it would be better face remains the same ; when she has done if she had but a nose. It is impossible to you a thousand, and you know that she is pull her to pieces in this manner. We have ready to double the number, still it is that seen the most malicious beauties of her own individual face. Neither can you say of it, sex baffled in the attempt at a selection. The that it would be a good face if it were not tout-ensemble defies particularising. It is too marked by the small pox—a compliment complete-too consistent, as we may say, which is always more admissive than excusato admit of these invidious reservations. It tory—for either Mrs. Conrady never had the is not as if some Apelles had picked out here small-pox: or, as we say, took it kindly. No, a lip—and there a chin-out of the collected it stands upon its own merits fairly. There ugliness of Greece, to frame a model by. it is. It is her mark, her token ; that which! It is a symmetrical whole. We challenge she is known by. the minutest connoisseur to cavil at any part or parcel of the countenance in question ; to

XI.—THAT WE MUST NOT LOOK A GIFT HORSE say that this, or that, is improperly placed. We are convinced that true ugliness, no less than is affirmed of true beauty, is the result Nor a lady's age in the parish register. of harmony. Like that, too, it reigns without We hope we have more delicacy than to do a competitor. No one ever saw Mrs. Con- either ; but some faces spare us the trouble rady, without pronouncing her to be the of these dental inquiries. And what if the plainest woman that he ever met with in the beast, which my friend would force upon course of his life. The first time that you my acceptance, prove, upon the face of it, a are indulged with a sight of her face, is an sorry Rosinante, a lean, ill-favoured jade, era in your existence ever after. You are whom no gentleman could think of setting glad to have seen it—like Stonehenge. No up in his stables ? Must I, rather than not one can pretend to forget it. No one ever be obliged to my friend, make her a comapologised to her for meeting her in the panion to Eclipse or Lightfoot! A horsestreet on such a day and not knowing her: giver, no more than a horse-seller, has a the pretext would be too bare. Nobody can right to palm his spavined article upon us mistake her for another. Nobody can say of for good ware. An equivalent is expected her, “I think I have seen that face some- in either case ; and, with my own good will, where, but I cannot call to mind where." I would no more be cheated out of my You must remember that in such a parlour thanks than out of my money. Some people it first struck you—like a bust. You won- have a knack of putting upon you gifts of dered where the owner of the house had no real value, to engage you to substantial picked it up. You wondered more when it gratitude. We thank them for nothing. began to move its lips—so mildly too! No Our friend Mitis carries this humour of one ever thought of asking her to sit for her never refusing a present, to the very point picture. Lockets are for remembrance ; and of absurdity—if it were possible to couple it would be clearly superfluous to hang an the ridiculous with so much mistaken deliimage at your heart, which, once seen, can cacy, and real good-nature. Not an apartnever be out of it. It is not a mean face ment in his fine house (and he has a true either ; its entire originality precludes that taste in household decorations), but is stuffed Neither is it of that order of plain faces up with some preposterous print or mirror which improve upon acquaintance. Some —the worst adapted to his panels that may very good but ordinary people, by an un-be—the presents of his friends that know wearied perseverance in good offices, put a his weakness; while his noble Vandykes cheat upon our eyes ; juggle our senses out are displaced, to make room for a set of of their natural impressions ; and set us daubs, the work of some wretched artist of upon discovering good indications in a coun- his acquaintance, who, having had them retenance, which at first sight promised nothing turned upon his hands for bad likenesses, less. We detect gentleness, which had escaped finds his account in bestowing them here us, lurking about an under lip. But when gratis. The good creature has not the heart


to mortify the painter at the expense of an friends. Caius conciliates Titius (knowing honest refusal. It is pleasant (if it did not his gout) with a leash of partridges. Titius vex one at the same time) to see him sitting (suspecting his partiality for them) passes in his dining parlour, surrounded with ob- them to Lucius ; who, in his turn, preferring scure aunts and cousins to God knows whom, his friend's relish to his own, makes them while the true Lady Marys and Lady Bettys over to Marcius ; till in their ever-widening of his own honourable family, in favour to progress, and round of unconscious circummithese adopted frights, are consigned to the gration, they distribute the seeds of harmony stair-case and the lumber-room. In like over half a parish. We are well-disposed to manner his goodly shelves are one by one this kind of sensible remembrances; and are stripped of his favourite old authors, to give the less apt to be taken by those little airy place to a collection of presentation copies— tokens—impalpable to the palate—which, the flour and bran of modern poetry. A under the names of rings, lockets, keep-sakes, presentation copy, reader—if haply you are amuse some people's fancy mightily. We yet innocent of such favours—is a copy of a could never away with these indigestible book which does not sell, sent you by the trifles. They are the very kickshaws and author, with his foolish autograph at the foppery of friendship. beginning of it; for which, if a stranger, he only demands your friendship ; if a brother

XII.--THAT HOME IS HOME THOUGH IT IS author, he expects from you a book of yours, which does sell, in return. We can speak to experience, having by us a tolerable Homes there are, we are sure, that are no assortment of these gift-horses. Not to ride homes; the home of the very poor man, and a metaphor to death-we are willing to ac- another which we shall speak to presently. knowledge, that in some gifts there is sense. Crowded places of cheap entertainment, and A duplicate out of a friend's library (where he the benches of alehouses, if they could speak, has more than one copy of a rare author) is might bear mournful testimony to the first. intelligible. There are favours, short of the To them the very poor man resorts for an pecuniary—a thing not fit to be hinted at image of the home, which he cannot find at among gentlemen—which confer as much home. For a starved grate, and a scanty grace upon the acceptor as the offerer ; the firing, that is not enough to keep alive the kind, we confess, which is most to our palate, natural heat in the fingers of so many shiveris of those little conciliatory missives, which ing children with their mother, he finds in for their vehicle generally choose a hamper the depths of winter always a blazing hearth,

- little odd presents of game, fruit, perhaps and a hob to warm his pittance of beer by. wine—though it is essential to the delicacy Instead of the clamours of wife, made of the latter, that it be home-made. We gaunt by famishing, he meets with a cheerlove to have our friend in the country sitting ful attendance beyond the merits of the thus at our table by proxy ; to apprehend trifle which he can afford to spend. He has his presence (though a hundred miles may companions which his home denies him, for be between us) by a turkey, whose goodly the very poor man has no visitors. He can aspect reflects to us his "plump corpuscu- look into the goings on of the world, and lum;

to taste him in grouse or woodcock; speak a little to politics. At home there are to feel him gliding down in the toast pecu- no politics stirring, but the domestic. All liar to the latter ; to concorporate him in a interests, real or imaginary, all topics that slice of Canterbury brawn. This is indeed should expand the mind of man, and conto have him within ourselves ; to know him nect him to a sympathy with general existintimately: such participation is methinks ence, are crushed in the absorbing considerunitive, as the old theologians phrase it. ation of food to be obtained for the family. For these considerations we should be sorry Beyond the price of bread, news is senseless if certain restrictive regulations, which are and impertinent. At home there is no larthought to bear hard upon the peasantry of der. Here there is at least a show of plenty; this country, were entirely done away with. and while he cooks his lean scrap of butcher's A hare, as the law now stands, makes many meat before the common bars, or munches

his humbler cold viands, his relishing bread nurses, it was a stranger to the patient and cheese with an onion, in a corner, where fondle, the hushing caress, the attracting no one reflects upon his poverty, he has a novelty, the costlier plaything, or the cheaper sight of the substantial joint providing for off-hand contrivance to divert the child; the the landlord and his family. He takes an prattled nonsense (best sense to it), the wise interest in the dressing of it; and while he impertinences, the wholesome lies, the apt assists in removing the trivet from the fire, story interposed, that puts a stop to present he feels that there is such a thing as beef sufferings, and awakens the passions of young and cabbage, which he was beginning to for- wonder. It was never sung to—no one ever get at home. All this while he deserts his told to it a tale of the nursery. It was wife and children. But what wife, and what dragged up, to live or to die as it happened. children? Prosperous men, who object to It had no young dreams. It broke at once this desertion, image to themselves some into the iron realities of life. A child exists clean contented family like that which they not for the very poor as any object of dalligo home to. But look at the countenance of ance; it is only another mouth to be fed, the poor wives who follow and persecute a pair of little hands to be betimes inured their good-man to the door of the public- to labour. It is the rival, till it can be the house, which he is about to enter, when co-operator, for food with the parent. It is something like shame would restrain him, never his mirth, his diversion, his solace : it if stronger misery did not induce him to never makes him young again, with recallpass the threshold. That face, ground by ing his young times. The children of the want, in which every cheerful, every con- very poor have no young times. It makes versable lineament has been long effaced by the very heart to bleed to overhear the misery,—is that a face to stay at home with ? casual street-talk between a poor woman is it more a woman, or a wild cat ? alas ! it and her little girl, a woman of the better is the face of the wife of his youth, that sort of poor, in a condition rather above the once smiled upon him. It can smile no squalid beings which we have been contemlonger. What comforts can it share ? what plating. It is not of toys, of nursery books, burthens can it lighten? Oh, 'tis a fine of summer holidays (fitting that age); of the thing to talk of the humble meal shared to promised sight, or play ; of praised suffigether! But what if there be no bread in ciency at school. It is of mangling and the cupboard ? The innocent prattle of his clear-starching, of the price of coals, or of children takes out the sting of a man's potatoes. The questions of the child, that poverty. But the children of the very poor should be the very outpourings of curiosity do not prattle. It is none of the least fright- in idleness, are marked with forecast and ful features in that condition, that there is melancholy providence. It has come to be no childishness in its dwellings. Poor people, a woman,-before it was a child. It has said a sensible old nurse to us once, do not learned to go to market ; it chaffers, it bring up their children ; they drag them up. haggles, it envies, it murmurs; it is know

The little careless darling of the wealthier ing, acute, sharpened ; it never prattles. nursery, in their hovel is transformed be- Had we not reason to say that the home of times into a premature reflecting person. the very poor is no home ? No one has time to dandle it, no one thinks There is yet another home, which we are it worth while to coax it, to soothe it, to constrained to deny to be one. It has a toss it up and down, to humour it. There is larder, which the home of the poor man none to kiss away its tears. If it cries, it wants; its fireside conveniences, of which can only be beaten. It has been prettily the poor dream not. But with all this, it is said, that “a babe is fed with milk and no home. It is—the house of a man that is praise.” But the aliment of this poor babe infested with many visitors. May we be was thin, unnourishing; the return to its branded for the veriest churl, if we deny our little baby-tricks, and efforts to engage at- heart to the many noble-hearted friends tention, bitter ceaseless objurgation. It that at times exchange their dwelling for never had a toy, or knew what a coral our poor roof! It is not of guests that meant. It grew up without the lullaby of we complain, but of endless, purposeless

« НазадПродовжити »