Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

the pretty emblematic plate with the Angel issued from Mr. Middleton's, Stonecutter'sabove and the Flower beneath, takes me street, which pleases me less than the rest, mightily.

it is to find that the six pair of gloves are to The notice goes on to inform us, that be returned, that they are only lent, or, as though the society has been established but the bill expresses it, for use, on the occasion. a very few years, upwards of eleven hundred The hood, scarfs, and hat-bands, may properly persons have put down their names. It is enough be given up after the solemnity; the really an affecting consideration to think of cloaks no gentlemen would think of keeping; so many poor people, of the industrious and but a pair of gloves, once fitted on, ought not hard-working class (for none but such would in courtesy to be re-demanded. The wearer be possessed of such a generous forethought) should certainly have the fee-simple of them. clubbing their twopences to save the reproach The cost would be but trifling, and they of a parish funeral. Many a poor fellow, I would be a proper memorial of the day. dare swear, has that Angel and Flower kept This part of the Proposal wants reconfrom the Angel and Punchbowl, while, to sidering. It is not conceived in the same provide himself a bier, he has curtailed him- liberal way of thinking as the rest. I am self of beer. Many a savoury morsel has the also a little doubtful whether the limit, living body been deprived of, that the lifeless within which the burial-fee is made payable, one might be served up in a richer state to should not be extended to thirty shillings. the worms. And sure, if the body could Some provision too ought undoubtedly to understand the actions of the soul, and be made in favour of those well-intentioned entertain generous notions of things, it would persons and well-wishers to the fund, who, thank its provident partner, that she had having all along paid their subscriptions been more solicitous to defend it from dis- regularly, are so unfortunate as to die before honours at its dissolution, than careful to the six months, which would entitle them to pamper it with good things in the time of its their freedom, are quite completed. One can union. If Cæsar were chiefly anxious at his hardly imagine a more distressing case than death how he might die most decently, every that of a poor fellow lingering on in a conBurial Society may be considered as a club sumption till the period of his freedom is of Caesars.

almost in sight, and then finding himself Nothing tends to keep up, in the imagi- going with a velocity which makes it doubtnations of the poorer sort of people,a generous ful whether he shall be entitled to his funeral horror of the workhouse more than the honours : his quota to which he nevertheless manner in which pauper funerals are con- squeezes out, to the diminution of the comducted in this metropolis. The coffin nothing forts which sickness demands. I think, in but a few naked planks coarsely put together, such cases, some of the contribution money —the want of a pall (that decent and well- ought to revert. With some such modificaimagined veil, which, hiding the coffin that tions, which might easily be introduced, I hides the body, keeps that which would see nothing in these Proposals of Mr. Midshock us at two removes from us), the dleton which is not strictly fair and genteel ; coloured coats of the men that are hired, at and heartily recommend them to all persons cheap rates, to carry the body,—altogether, of moderate incomes, in either sex, who are give the notion of the deceased having been willing that this perishable part of them some person of an ill life and conversation, should quit the scene of its mortal activities some one who may not claim the entire rites with as handsome circumstances as possible. of Christian burial, one by whom some Before I quit the subject, I must guard parts of the sacred ceremony would be de- my readers against a scandal, which they may secrated if they should be bestowed upon be apt to take at the place whence these him. I meet these meagre processions some- Proposals purport to be issued. From the times in the street. They are sure to make sign of the First and the Last, they may me out of humour and melancholy all the conclude that Mr. Middleton is some pubday after. They have a harsh and ominous lican, who, in assembling a club of this aspect.

description at his house, may have a sinister If there is anything in the prospectus end of his own, altogether foreign to the

1

solemn purpose for which the club is pre- nothing to do. He leaves the friends of the tended to be instituted. I must set them dead man to form their own conjectures as right by informing them that the issuer of to the place to which the departed spirit is these Proposals is no publican, though he gone. His care is only about the exuviæ. hangs out a sign, but an honest superinten- He concerns not himself even about the dant of funerals, who, by the device of a body as it is a structure of parts internal, Cradle and a Coffin, connecting both ends of and a wonderful microcosm. He leaves such human existence together, has most ingeni- curious speculations to the anatomy proously contrived to insinuate, that the framers fessor. Or, if anything, he is averse to such of these first and last receptacles of mankind wanton inquiries, as delighting rather that divide this our life betwixt them, and that the parts which he has care of should be all that passes from the midwife to the under- returned to their kindred dust in as handtaker

may, in strict propriety, go for nothing: some and unmutilated condition as possible; an awful and instructive lesson to human that the grave should have its full and vanity.

unimpaired tribute,-a complete and just Looking over some papers lately that fell carcass. Nor is he only careful to provide into my hands by chance, and appear to have for the body's entireness, but for its accombeen written about the beginning of the last modation and ornament. He orders the century, I stumbled, among the rest, upon fashion of its clothes, and designs the symthe following short Essay, which the writer metry of its dwelling. Its vanity has an calls, The Character of an Undertaker.” It innocent survival in him. He is bed-maker is written with some stiffness and peculiari- to the dead. The pillows which he lays ties of style, but some parts of it, I think, never rumple. The day of interment is the not unaptly characterise the profession to theatre in which he displays the mysteries of which Mr. Middleton has the honour to his art. It is hard to describe what he is, or belong. The writer doubtless had in his rather to tell what he is not, on that day: mind the entertaining character of Sable, in for, being neither kinsman, servant, nor Steele's excellent comedy of The Funeral. friend, he is all in turns; a transcendant,

running through all those relations. His office is to supply the place of self-agency in

the family, who are presumed incapable of it “He is master of the ceremonies at burials through grief. He is eyes, and ears, and and mourning assemblies, grand marshal at hands, to the whole household. A draught funeral processions, the only true yeoman of of wine cannot go round to the mourners, the body, over which he exercises a dicta- but he must minister it.

A chair may torial authority from the moment that the hardly be restored to its place by a less breath has taken leave to that of its final solemn hand than his. He takes upon himcommitment to the earth. His ministry self all functions, and is a sort of ephemeral begins where the physician's, the lawyer's, major-domo! He distributes his attentions and the divine's, end. Or if some part of the among the company assembled according to functions of the latter run parallel with his, the degree of affliction, which he calculates it is only in ordine ad spiritualia. His from the degree of kin to the deceased ; and temporalities remain unquestioned. He is marshals them accordingly in the procession. arbitrator of all questions of honour which He himself is of a sad and tristful countemay concern the defunct; and upon slight nance; yet such as (if well examined) is not inspection will pronounce how long he may without some show of patience and resignaremain in this upper world with credit to tion at bottom; prefiguring, as it were, to himself, and when it will be prudent for his the friends of the deceased, what their grief reputation that he should retire. His deter- shall be when the hand of Time shall bave mination in these points is peremptory and softened and taken down the bitterness of without appeal. Yet, with a modesty pecu- their first anguish ; so handsomely can he liar to his profession, he meddles not out of fore-shape and anticipate the work of Time. his own sphere. With the good or bad Lastly, with his wand, as with another diviactions of the deceased in his life-time he has ning rod, he calculates the depth of earth

CHARACTER OF AN UNDERTAKER,

at which the bones of the dead man may in dust to dust, which is the last friendly rest, which he ordinarily contrives may be office that he undertakes to do.” at such a distance from the surface of this Begging your pardon for detaining you earth, as may frustrate the profane attempts so long among graves, and worms, and of such as would violate his repose, yet suffi- epitaphs,” ciently on this side the centre to give his

I am, Sir, friends hopes of an easy and practicable

Your humble servant, resurrection. And here we leave him, casting

MORITURUS.

ON THE DANGER OF CONFOUNDING MORAL WITH PERSONAL

DEFORMITY.

WITII A HINT TO THOSE WHO HAVE THE FRAMING OF ADVERTISEMENTS FOR APPREHENDING OFFENDERS,

G
TO THE EDITOR OF THE REFLECTOR."

MR. REFLECTOR,—There is no science in read a stupid habit of looking pleased at their pretensions to which mankind are more everything ?-if for serenity he does not read apt to commit grievous mistakes, than in the animal tranquillity, the dead pool of the supposed very obvious one of physiognomy. heart, which no breeze of passion can stir I quarrel not with the principles of this into health? Alas! what is this book of science, as they are laid down by learned the countenance good for, which when we professors ; much less am I disposed, with have read so long, and thought that we unsome people, to deny its existence altogether derstood its contents, there comes a countless as any inlet of knowledge that can be de- list of heart-breaking errata at the end ! pended upon. I believe that there is, or may But these are the pitiable mistakes to be, an art to “read the mind's construction which love alone is subject. I have inadin the face.” But, then, in every species of vertently wandered from my purpose, which reading, so much depends upon the eyes of was to expose quite an opposite blunder, into the reader; if they are blear, or apt to which we are no less apt to fall, through dazzle, or inattentive, or strained with too hate. How ugly a person looks upon whose much attention, the optic power will infal- reputation some awkward aspersion hangs, libly bring home false reports of what it and how suddenly his countenance clears up reads. How often do we say, upon a cursory with his character ! I remember being perglance at a stranger, “What a fine open suaded of a man whom I had conceived an countenance he has !” who, upon second in- ill opinion of, that he had a very bad set of spection, proves to have the exact features of teeth ; which, since I have had better oppora knave? Nay, in much more intimate tunities of being acquainted with his face and acquaintances, how a delusion of this kind facts, I find to have been the very reverse shall continue for months, years, and then of the truth. That crooked old woman, I break up all at once.

once said, speaking of an ancient gentleAsk the married man, who has been so woman, whose actions did not square altobut for a short space of time, if those blue gether with my notions of the rule of right. eyes where, during so many years of anxious Thè unanimous surprise of the company becourtship, truth, sweetness, serenity, seemed fore whom I uttered these words soon conto be written in characters which could not vinced me that I had confounded mental with be misunderstood—ask him if the characters bodily obliquity, and that there was nothing which they now convey be exactly the same ? tortuous about the old lady but her deeds. -if for truth he does not read a dull virtue This humour of mankind to deny personal (the mimic of constancy) which changes not, comeliness to those with whose moral attrionly because it wants the judgment to make butes they are dissatisfied, is very strongly a preference ?—if for sweetness he does not shown in those advertisements which stare us in the face from the walls of every street, lately of Clerkenwell. Whoever shall apand, with the tempting bait which they hang prehend, or cause to be apprehended and forth, stimulate at once cupidity and an lodged in one of his Majesty's jails, the said abstract love of justice in the breast of every John Tomkins, shall receive the above repassing peruser : I mean, the advertisements ward. He is a thickset, sturdy man, about offering rewards for the apprehension of ab- five foot six inches high, halts in his left leg, sconded culprits, strayed apprentices, bank- with a stoop in his gait, with coarse red hair, rupts who have conveyed away their effects, nose short and cocked up, with little grey debtors that have run away from their bail. eyes, (one of them bears the effect of a blow I observe, that in exact proportion to the which he has lately received,) with a pot indignity with which the prosecutor, who is belly ; speaks with a thick and disagreeable commonly the framer of the advertisement, voice; goes shabbily drest; had on when he conceives he has been treated, the personal went away a greasy shag great-coat with pretensions of the fugitive are denied, and rusty yellow buttons.” his defects exaggerated.

Now although it is not out of the compass A fellow whose misdeeds have been of possibility that John Tomkins aforesaid directed against the public in general, and may comprehend in his agreeable person all in whose delinquency no individual shall feel the above-mentioned aggregate of charms ; himself particularly interested, generally yet, from my observation of the manner in meets with fair usage. A coiner or a smug- which these advertisements are usually gler shall get off tolerably well. His beauty, drawn up, though I have not the pleasure if he has any, is not much underrated, his of knowing the gentleman, yet would I lay a deformities are not much magnified. A run- wager, that an advertisement to the following away apprentice, who excites perhaps the effect would have a much better chance of next least degree of spleen in his prosecutor, apprehending and laying by the heels this generally escapes with a pair of bandy legs; John Tomkins than the above description, if he has taken anything with him in his although penned by one who, from the good flight, a hitch in his gait is generally super- services which he appears to have done for added. A bankrupt, who has been guilty of him, has not improbably been blessed with withdrawing his effects, if his case be not some years of previous intercourse with the very atrocious, commonly meets with mild said John. Taking, then, the above adverusage. But a debtor, who has left his bail tisement to be true, or nearly so, down to in jeopardy, is sure to be described in cha- the words “left leg” inclusive, (though I racters of unmingled deformity. Here the have some doubt if the blemish there impersonal feelings of the bail, which may be plied amount to a positive lameness, or be allowed to be somewhat poignant, are ad- perceivable by any but the nearest friends of mitted to interfere ; and, as wrath and re- John) I would proceed thus:venge commonly strike in the dark, the -“ Leans a little forward in his walk ; his colours are laid on with a grossness which hair thick and inclining to auburn; his nose I am convinced must often defeat its own of the middle size, a little turned up at the purpose.

The fish that casts an inky end ; lively hazel eyes, (the contusion, as its cloud about him that his enemies may not effects are probably gone off by this time, I find him, cannot more obscure himself by judge better omitted ;) inclines to be corputhat device than the blackening representa- lent; his voice thick but pleasing, especially tions of these angry advertisers must inevi- when he sings; had on a decent shag greattably serve to cloak and screen the persons coat with yellow buttons." of those who have injured them from detec- Now I would stake a considerable wager tion. I have before me at this moment one (though by no means a positive man) that of these bills, which runs thus :

some such mitigated description would lead the beagles of the law into a much surer

track for finding this ungracious varlet, than FIFTY POUNDS REWARD.

to set them upon a false scent after fictitious “Run away from his bail, John Tomkins, ugliness and fictitious shabbiness ; though, formerly resident in Princes-street, Soho, but to do those gentlemen justice, I have no doubt their experience has taught them in world in general much more of that first all such cases to abate a great deal of the idea which you formed (perhaps in part deformity which they are instructed to ex- erroneous) of his physiognomy, than of that pect, and has discovered to them that the frightful substitute which you have suffered Devil's agents upon this earth, like their to creep in upon your mind and usurp upon master, are far less ugly in reality than they it; a creature which has no archetype except are painted.

in your own brain. I am afraid, Mr. Reflector, that I shall be 2. If you be a master that have to adverthought to have gone wide of my subject, tise a runaway apprentice, though the young which was to detect the practical errors of dog's faults are known only to you, and no physiognomy, properly so called; whereas I doubt his conduct has been aggravating have introduced physical defects, such as enough, do not presently set him down as lameness, the effects of accidents upon a having crooked ankles. He may have a good man's person, his wearing apparel, &c., as pair of legs, and run away notwithstanding. circumstances on which the eye of dislike, Indeed, the latter does rather seem to imply looking askance, may report erroneous con- the former. clusions to the understanding. But if we 3. If the unhappy person against whom are liable, through a kind or an unkind your laudable vengeance is directed be a passion, to mistake so grossly concerning thief, think that a thief may have a good things so exterior and palpable, how much nose, good eyes, good ears. It is indismore are we likely to err respecting those pensable to his profession that he be posnicer and less perceptible hints of character sessed of sagacity, foresight, vigilance ; it is in a face whose detection constitutes the more than probable, then, that he is endued triumph of the physiognomist!

with the bodily types or instruments of To revert to those bestowers of unmerited these qualities to some tolerable degree of deformity, the framers of advertisements for perfectness. the apprehension of delinquents, a sincere 4. If petty larceny be his offence, I exhort desire of promoting the end of public justice you, do not confound meanness of crime induces me to address a word to them on with diminutiveness of stature. These things the best means of attaining those ends. I have no connexion. I have known a tall will endeavour to lay down a few practical, man stoop to the basest action, a short man or rather negative, rules for their use, for my aspire to the height of crime, a fair man be ambition extends no further than to arm guilty of the foulest actions, &c. them with cautions against the self-defeating 5. Perhaps the offender has been guilty of of their own purposes :

some atrocious and aggravated murder. 1. Imprimis, then, Mr. Advertiser ! If Here is the most difficult case of all. It is the culprit whom you are willing to recover above all requisite that such a daring be one to whom in times past you have violator of the peace and safety of society shown kindness, and been disposed to think should meet with his reward, a violent and kindly of him yourself, but he has deceived ignominious death. But how shall we get your trust, and has run away, and left you at him ? Who is there among us that has with a load of debt to answer for him,-sit known him before he committed the offence, down calmly, and endeavour to behold him that shall take upon him to say he can sit through the spectacles of memory rather down coolly and pen a dispassionate descripthan of present conceit. Image to yourself, tion of a murderer ? The tales of our before you pen a tittle of his description, the nursery,—the reading of our youth,—the same plausible, good-looking man who took ill-looking man that was hired by the Uncle you in; and try to put away from your to despatch the Children in the Wood,—the mind every intrusion of that deceitful spectre grim ruffians who smothered the babes in which perpetually obtrudes itself in the the Tower,—the black and beetle-browed room of your former friend's known visage. assassin of Mrs. Ratcliffe,—the shag-haired It will do you more credit to have been villain of Mr. Monk Lewis,-the Tarquin deceived by such a one ; and depend upon it, tread, and mill-stone dropping eyes, of the traitor will convey to the eyes of the Murder in Shakspeare,—the exaggerations

« НазадПродовжити »