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such were the frequenters of White's Chocolate House, when Swift used to visit it, and Steele described it as the centre of pleasure, gallantry and entertainment, a hundred and forty years ago!
Dennis who ran a muck at the literary society of his day, falls foul of poor Steele, and thus depicts him, “Sir John Edgar, of the County of in Ireland is of a middle stature, broad shoulders, thick legs, a shape like the picture of somebody over a farmer's chimney a short chin, a short nose, a short forehead, a broad, flat face, and a dusky countenance. Yet with such a face and such a shape, he discovered at sixty that he took himself for a beauty, and appeared to be more mortified at being told that he was ugly, than he was by any reflection made upon his honour or understanding.
“He is a gentleman born, witness himself, of very honourable family; certainly of a very ancient one, for his ancestors flourished in Tipperary long before the English ever set foot in Ireland. He has testimony of this more authentic than the Heralds' Office, or any human testimony. For God has marked him more abundantly than he did Cain, and stamped his native country on his face, his understanding, his writings, his actions, his passions, and above all his vanity. The Hibernian brogue is still upon all these, though long habit and length of days have worn it off his
* Steele replied to Dennis in an“ Answer to a Whimsical Pamphlet, called the Character of Sir John Edgar.” What Steele had to say against the cross-grained old Critic discovers a great deal of humour:
Although this portrait is the work of a man who was neither the friend of Steele, nor of any other man
“Thou never did'st let the sun into thy garret, for fear he should bring a bailiff along with him......
“Your years are about sixty-five, an ugly vinegar face, that if you had any command you would be obeyed out of fear, from your ill-nature pictured there; not from any
other motive. Your height is about some five feet five inches. You see I can give your exact measure as well as if I had taken your dimension with a good cudgel, which I promise you to do as soon as ever I have the good fortune to meet you.....
“Your doughty paunch stands before you like a firkin of butter, and your duck-legs seem to be cast for carrying burdens.
“Thy works are libels upon others, and satires upon thyself; and while they bark at men of sense call him knave and fool that wrote them. Thou hast a great antipathy to thy, own species; and hatest the sight of a fool, but in thy glass.”
Steele had been kind to Dennis, and once got arrested on account of a pecuniary service which he did him. When John heard of the fact “S’ death!” cries John; "why did not he keep out of the way as I did ?"
The "Answer” concludes by mentioning that Cibber had offered Ten Pounds for the discovery of the authorship of Dennis's pamphlet; on which, says Steele
“I am only sorry he has offered so much, because the twentieth part would have over-valued his whole carcase. But I know the fellow that he keeps to give answers to his creditors will betray him; for he gave me his word to bring officers on the top of the house that should make a hole through the ceiling of his garret, and so bring him to the punishment he deserves. Some people think this expedient out of the way, and that he would make his escape upon hearing the least noise. I say so too; but it takes him up half an hour every night to fortify himself with his old hair trunk, two or three joint stools, and some other lumber, which he ties together with cords so fast that it takes him up the same time in the morning to release himself.”
alive; yet there is a dreadful resemblance to the original, in the savage and exaggerated traits of the caricature, and every body who knows him must recognise Dick Steele. Dick set about almost all the undertakings of his life with inadequate means, and, as he took and furnished a house with the most generous intentions towards his friends, the most tender gallantry towards his wife, and with this only drawback, that he had not wherewithal to pay the rent when Quarter-day came, so, in his life he proposed to himself the most magnificent schemes of virtue, forbearance, public and private good, and the advancement of his own and the national religion; but when he had to pay for these articles so difficult to purchase and so costly to maintain poor
Dick's money was not forthcoming: and when Virtue called with her little bill, Dick made a shuffling excuse that he could not see her that morning, having a headache from being tipsy over night; or when stern Duty rapped at the door with his account, Dick was absent and not ready to pay. He was shirking at the tavern; or had some particular business (of somebody's else) at the ordinary: or he was in hiding, or worse than in hiding, in the lock-up house. What a situation for a man!
for a philanthropist for a lover of right and truth -- for a magnificent designer and schemer! Not to dare to look in the face the Religion which he adored and which he had offended: to have to shirk down back lanes and alleys, so as to avoid the friend whom he loved and who had trusted him to have the house which he had intended for his wife, whom he loved passionately, and for her ladyship's company which he wished to entertain splendidly, in the posses
sion of a bailiff's man, with a crowd of little creditors, -- grocers, butchers, and small-coal men, lingering round the door with their bills and jeering at him. Alas! for
Dick Steele! For nobody else of course. There is no man or woman in our time who makes fine projects and gives them up from idleness or want of means. When Duty calls upon us, we no doubt are always at home and ready to pay that grim taxgatherer. When we are stricken with remorse and promise reform, we keep our promise, and are never angry, or idle, or extravagant any more.
There are no chambers in our hearts, destined for family friends and affections, and now occupied by some Sin's emissary and bailiff in possession. There are no little sins, shabby peccadilloes, importunate remembrances, or disappointed holders of our promises to reform, hovering at our steps, or knocking at our door! Of course not. We are living in the nineteenth century, and poor
Dick Steele stumbled and got up again, and got into jail and out again, and sinned and repented; and loved and suffered; and lived and died scores of years ago.
Peace be with him! Let us think gently of one who was so gentle: let us speak kindly of one whose own breast exuberated with human kindness.
LECTURE THE FOURTH.
PRIOR, GAY, AND POPE.
MATTHEW Prior was one of those famous and lucky wits of the auspicious reign of Queen Anne, whose name it behoves us not to pass over. Mat was a worldphilosopher of no small genius, good nature, and acumen. * He loved, he drank, he sang. He describes
* Gay calls him .“Dear Prior .... beloved by every muse."- Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece.
Swift and Prior were very intimate, and he is frequently mentioned in the “Journal to Stella.” “Mr. Prior," says Swift, "walks to make himself fat, and I to keep myself down...... We often walk round the park together."
In Swift's works there is a curious tract called “Remarks on the Characters of the Court of Queen Anne” (Scott's edition, vol. xii.] The “Remarks” are not by the Dean; but at the end of each is an addition in italics from his hand, and these are always characteristic. Thus, to the Duke of Marlborough, he adds, “Detestably Coretous,” &c. Prior is thus noticed
“MATTHEW Prior, Esq., Commissioner of Trade. "On the Queen's accession to the throne, he was continued in his office; is very well at court with the ministry, and is an entire creature of my Lord Jersey's, whom he supports by his advice; is one of the best poets in England, but very factious in conversation. A thin, hollow-looked man, turned of 40 years old. This is near the truth.”
“Yet counting as far as to fifty his years,
His virtues and vices were as other men's are,