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CH. XXII.] PORSON IN THE ROOMS AT BATH.
who introduced him to the Rev. Richard Warner.* When Porson separated from Warner, King, the master of the ceremonies, stepped forward and said, "Pray, Mr. Warner, who is that man you have been speaking to? I can't say I much like his appearance." "To own the truth," says Warner, "Porson, with lank uncombed locks, a loose neckcloth, and wrinkled stockings, exhibited a striking contrast to the gorgeous crowd around. I replied, however," he continues, "Who is that gentleman, Mr. King? The greatest man that has visited your rooms since their first erection. It is the celebrated Porson; the most profound scholar in Europe; who has more Greek under that mop of hair than can be found in all the heads in the room, ay, if we even include those of the orchestra." "Indeed," said the dancing-master, and went off to attend to his dancing, having no more conception of what is contained in the head of a scholar than the cat that looks at a king has of the value of the jewels in his crown.
Dr. Raine said that he had known him to be so very dirty at times that he has been refused admittance by servants at the houses of his friends. †
He was in this plight, on one occasion, in the "Morning Chronicle" office, when a schoolmaster came to speak to Perry about some passage in a Greek author. When the schoolmaster had expressed his notions of it, Porson, who overheard it, said, " "You are wrong, sir." The schoolmaster, being startled, and glancing at Porson's mean appearance, asked Perry who he was. Perry told him, when, without venturing to defend his opi
* Warner's Lit. Recollections, vol. ii. p. 6.
† Barker's Lit. Anecd. vol. ii. p. 14.
nion, he took his hat and walked off in reverential silence.*
He once walked out of town with Beloe to Highgate; and, as they were returning, they were overtaken by a violent shower of rain, and both drenched to the skin. As soon as they arrived at Beloe's residence, warm and dry clothes were prepared for them, but Porson obstinately refused to make any change in his dress. He drank three glasses of brandy, but sat in his wet garments the whole evening. "The exhalation, of course,” says Beloe,"was not the most agreeable; but he did not apparently suffer any subsequent inconvenience." +
The redness of his nose, to which he alludes in the letter above, proceeded greatly from his indulgence in port, which he preferred to every other wine, as well at dinner as after it. Of liquors his favourite was brandy, the drink of heroes. Mrs. Parr said that more brandy was drunk during three weeks that Porson spent at Hatton than during all the time that she had kept house before.§
For tea and coffee he had no liking. At breakfast his favourite beverage was porter. One Sunday morning, when he was at Eton, he met Dr. Goodall, the provost, going to church, and asked him where Mrs. Goodall was? "At breakfast," replied the Doctor. "Very well, then," rejoined Porson, "I'll go and breakfast with her." He accordingly presented himself at Mrs. Goodall's table, and being asked what he chose to
*Barker's Lit. Anecd. vol. ii. p. 18.
† Sexagenarian, vol. i. p. 225.
Rogers's Table Talk, "Porsoniana," p. 301.
§ Barker's Parriana, vol. i. p. 542.
take, answered "Porter." Porter was in consequence sent for, pot after pot, and the sixth pot was just being carried into the house, when Dr. Goodall returned from church.*
Mr. Upcott used to say that he was often to be seen at breakfast with a pot of porter and bread and cheese ; and, in the latter part of his life, in the dirtiest attire, and with black patches on his nose.†
Of his capacities of drinking, and of sitting up at nights, extraordinary stories are told. He appears to have been, like Dr. Johnson, a bad sleeper, and to having been the readier, on that account, to consort with those who were willing to sit late. He had manifested his love of late hours even in his boyhood, at a visit to Mr. Norris, who, having invited him to spend an afternoon with him, expected him to take his leave in the evening, but finding him, after a hint or two as to the time, unwilling to move, was at last obliged to have him put to bed in the house. "In the former period of his early residence in the metropolis," says Beloe‡, "the absence of sleep hardly seemed to annoy him. The first evening which he spent with Horne Tooke, he never thought of retiring till the harbinger of day gave warning to depart. Horne Tooke, on another occasion, contrived to find out the opportunity of requesting his company when he knew that he had been sitting up the whole of the night before. This, however, made no difference; Porson sat up the second night also till the hour of sunrise."
* Rogers's Table Talk, "Porsoniana," p. 301.
† Barker's Lit. Anecd. vol. ii. p. 5.
Sexagenarian, vol. i. p. 229.
His compotations with Horne Tooke, in the narrative of Mr. Maltby, assume a still more formidable aspect. "Horne Tooke told me," he states, "that he once asked Porson to dine with him in Richmond Buildings; and, as he knew that Porson had not been in bed for the three preceding nights, he expected to get rid of him at an early hour. Porson, however, kept Tooke up the whole night; and in the morning the latter, in perfect despair, said, 'Mr. Porson, I am engaged to meet a friend at breakfast at a coffee-house in Leicester Square.' 'Oh,' replied Porson, 'I will go with you;' and he accordingly did so. Soon after they had reached the coffeehouse, Tooke contrived to slip out, and, running home, ordered his servant not to let Mr. Porson in, even if he should attempt to batter down the door. A man,' observed Tooke, 'who could sit up four nights successively, could sit up forty.'
Porson called one day on Horne Tooke at Wimbledon, and accepted an invitation to stay to dine. Some dispute and ill-feeling arose between them at table, and Porson, after dinner, being called upon for a toast, said "I will give you the man who is just the reverse of John Horne Tooke." This provoked recrimination from Tooke, and Porson was at last so exasperated that he threatened to "kick and cuff" his host. Tooke, as Mr. Stephens relates the affair, "after exhibiting his own brawny chest, sinewy arms, and muscular legs, to the best possible advantage, endeavoured to evince the prudence of deciding the question as to strength by recurring to a different species of combat. Accordingly,
*Rogers's Table Talk, "Porsoniana," p. 301.
setting aside the port and sherry, then before them, he ordered a couple of quarts of brandy; and by the time the second bottle was half-emptied, the Greek fell vanquished under the table. On this, the victor at this new species of Olympic game, taking hold of his antagonist's limbs in succession, exclaimed, 'This is the foot that was to have kicked, and the hand that was to have cuffed me;' and then, drinking one glass more to the speedy recovery of his prostrate adversary, ordered 'that great care should be taken of Mr. Professor Porson;' after which he withdrew to the adjacent apartment, where tea and coffee had been prepared, with the same seeming calmness as if nothing had occurred. I should not have mentioned this scene," adds Stephens, "but that it is well known to all Mr. Tooke's friends, and almost to every one that ever visited Wimbledon."
How many times in his life Horne Tooke offered such challenges, I cannot say; but he had previously proposed one of the same kind to James Boswell, with whom, on some occasion, he had had some serious altercation. Boswell, happening to meet him, not long after, at a gentleman's house, expressed his willingness to be reconciled to him, but only on condition that between the toasts given after dinner they should each drink a bottle of wine. Horne Tooke refused to assent, unless for wine should be substituted brandy. Boswell agreed, but, by the time he had swallowed a quart, fell sprawling under the table.*
"I had once the pleasure of dining in company with Porson," says one of Dr. Parr's old pupils, in a letter to E. H. Barker, "in Benet-Combination, when I was a
* Stephens's Mem. of Horne Tooke, vol. ii. p. 439,