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I am a poor nameless egotist, who have no vanity to consult by these Confessions. I know not whether I shall be laughed at, or heard seriously. Such as they are, I com
mend them to the reader's attention, if he find his own case any way touched. I have told him what I am come to. Let him stop in time.
eminence :-"Bully Dawson kicked by half the town, and half the town kicked by Bully Dawson." This was true distributive
1.—THAT A BULLY IS ALWAYS A COWARD.
II. THAT ILL-GOTTEN GAIN NEVER PROSPERS.
THE weakest part of mankind have this saying commonest in their mouth. It is the trite consolation administered to the easy dupe, when he has been tricked out of his money or estate, that the acquisition of it will do the owner no good. But the rogues of this world-the prudenter part of them, at least,-know better; and if the observation had been as true as it is old, would
THIS axiom contains a principle of compensation, which disposes us to admit the truth of it. But there is no safe trusting to justice. dictionaries and definitions. We should more willingly fall in with this popular language, if we did not find brutality sometimes awkwardly coupled with valour in the same vocabulary. The comic writers, with their poetical justice, have contributed not a little to mislead us upon this point. To see a hectoring fellow exposed and beaten upon the stage, has something in it wonderfully diverting. Some people's share of animal spirits is notoriously low and defective. It has not strength to raise a vapour, or furnish out the wind of a tolerable bluster. These not have failed by this time to have love to be told that huffing is no part of discovered it. They have pretty sharp valour. The truest courage with them is distinctions of the fluctuating and the that which is the least noisy and obtrusive. permanent. "Lightly come, lightly go," is But confront one of these silent heroes with a proverb, which they can very well afford the swaggerer of real life, and his confidence to leave, when they leave little else, to the in the theory quickly vanishes. Pretensions losers. They do not always find manors, got do not uniformly bespeak non-performance. by rapine or chicanery, insensibly to melt A modest, inoffensive deportment does not away, as the poets will have it; or that all necessarily imply valour; neither does the gold glides, like thawing snow, from the absence of it justify us in denying that thief's hand that grasps it. Church land, quality. Hickman wanted modesty-we do alienated to lay uses, was formerly denounced not mean him of Clarissa-but who ever to have this slippery quality. But some doubted his courage? Even the poets- portions of it somehow always stuck so fast, upon whom this equitable distribution of that the denunciators have been fain to qualities should be most binding-have postpone the prophecy of refundment to a thought it agreeable to nature to depart late posterity. from the rule upon occasion. Harapha, in the "Agonistes," is indeed a bully upon the received notions. Milton has made him at once a blusterer, a giant, and a dastard. But Almanzor, in Dryden, talks of driving armies singly before him-and does it. Tom Brown had a shrewder insight into this kind of character than either of his predecessors. his own table, and commend the flavour of He divides the palm more equably, and his venison upon the absurd strength of his allows his hero a sort of dimidiate pre- never touching it himself. On the contrary,
THE severest exaction surely ever invented upon the self-denial of poor human nature! This is to expect a gentleman to give a treat without partaking of it; to sit esurient at
III. THAT A MAN MUST NOT LAUGH AT HIS
we love to see a wag taste his own joke to his party; to watch a quirk or a merry conceit flickering upon the lips some seconds before the tongue is delivered of it. If it be good, fresh, and racy-begotten of the occasion; if he that utters it never thought it before, he is naturally the first to be tickled with it; and any suppression of such complacence we hold to be churlish and insulting. What does it seem to imply but that your company is weak or foolish enough to be moved by an image or a fancy, that shall stir you not at all, or but faintly This is exactly the humour of the fine gentleman in Mandeville, who, while he dazzles his guests with the display of some costly toy, affects himself to "see nothing considerable in it."
IV.—THAT SUCH A ONE SHOWS HIS BREEDING. —THAT IT IS EASY TO PERCEIVE HE IS
A SPEECH from the poorest sort of people, which always indicates that the party vituperated is a gentleman. The very fact which they deny is that which galls and exasperates them to use this language. The forbearance with which it is usually received is a proof what interpretation the by-stander sets upon it. Of a kin to this, and still less politic, are the phrases with which, in their street rhetoric, they ply one another more grossly ;-He is a poor creature.-He has not a rag to cover &c.; though this last, we confess, is more frequently applied by females to females. They do not perceive that the satire glances upon themselves. A poor man, of all things in the world, should not upbraid an antagonist with poverty. Are there no other topics-as, to tell him his father was hanged-his sister, &c. — without exposing a secret which should be kept snug between them; and doing an affront to the order to which they have the honour equally to belong? All this while they do not see how the wealthier man stands by and laughs in his sleeve at both.
V. THAT THE POOR COPY THE VICES OF THE RICH.
A SMOOTH text to the letter; and, preached from the pulpit, is sure of a docile audience
from the pews lined with satin. It is twice sitting upon velvet to a foolish squire to be told, that he—and not perverse nature, as the homilies would make us imagine, is the true cause of all the irregularities in his parish. This is striking at the root of free-will indeed, and denying the originality of sin in any sense. But men are not such implicit sheep as this comes to. If the abstinence from evil on the part of the upper classes is to derive itself from no higher principle than the apprehension of setting ill patterns to the lower, we beg leave to discharge them from all squeamishness on that score: they may even take their fill of pleasures, where they can find them. The Genius of Poverty, hampered and straitened as it is, is not so barren of invention, but it can trade upon the staple of its own vice, without drawing upon their capital. The poor are not quite such servile imitators as they take them for. Some of them are very clever artists in their way. Here and there we find an original. Who taught the poor to steal, to pilfer? They did not go to the great for schoolmasters in these faculties surely. It is well if in some vices they allow us to be-no copyists. In no other sense is it true that the poor copy them, than as servants may be said to take after their masters and mistresses, when they succeed to their reversionary cold meats. If the master, from indisposition or some other cause, neglect his food, the servant dines notwithstanding.
"O, but (some will say) the force of example is great." We knew a lady who was so scrupulous on this head, that she would put up with the calls of the most impertinent visitor, rather than let her servant say she was not at home, for fear of teaching her maid to tell an untruth; and this in the very face of the fact, which she knew well enough, that the wench was one of the greatest liars upon the earth without teaching; so much so, that her mistress possibly never heard two words of consecutive truth from her in her life. But nature must go for nothing: example must be everything. This liar in grain, who never opened her mouth without a lie, must be guarded against a remote inference, which she (pretty casuist) might possibly draw from a form of words literally false, but essentially deceiving no one-that under some circum
stances a fib might not be so exceedingly sinful-a fiction, too, not at all in her own way, or one that she could be suspected of adopting, for few servant-wenches care to be denied to visitors.
again. His master was inclinable to keep him, but his mistress thought otherwise; and John in the end was dismissed, her ladyship declaring that she "could not think of encouraging any such doings in the county."
This word example reminds us of another fine word which is in use upon these occasions-encouragement. "People in our sphere must not be thought to give encouragement to such proceedings." To such a frantic height is this principle capable of being carried, that we have known individuals who have thought it within the scope of their influence to sanction despair, and give éclat to-suicide. A domestic in the family of a county member lately deceased, from love, or some unknown cause, cut his throat, but not successfully. The poor fellow was otherwise much loved and respected; and great interest was used in his behalf, upon his recovery, that he might be permitted to retain his place; his word being first pledged, not OUR experience would lead us to quite an without some substantial sponsors to promise opposite conclusion. Temper, indeed, is no for him, that the like should never happen test of truth; but warmth and earnestness are a proof at least of a man's own conviction of the rectitude of that which he maintains. Coolness is as often the result of an unprincipled indifference to truth or falsehood, as of a sober confidence in a man's own side in a dispute. Nothing is more insulting sometimes than the appearance of this philosophic temper. There is little Titubus, the stammering law-stationer in Lincoln's-inn— we have seldom known this shrewd little fellow engaged in an argument where we were not convinced he had the best of it, if his tongue would but fairly have seconded him. When he has been spluttering excellent broken sense for an hour together, writhing and labouring to be delivered of the point of dispute the very gist of the controversy knocking at his teeth, which like some obstinate iron-grating still obstructed its deliverance-his puny frame convulsed, and face reddening all over at an unfairness in the logic which he wanted articulation to expose, it has moved our gall to see a smooth portly fellow of an adversary, that cared not a button for the merits of the question, by merely laying his hand upon the head of the stationer, and desiring him to be calm (your tall disputants have always the advan tage), with a provoking sneer carry the argument clean from him in the opinion of
VI. THAT ENOUGH IS AS GOOD AS A FEAST.
Nor a man, woman, or child, in ten miles round Guildhall, who really believes this saying. The inventor of it did not believe it himself. It was made in revenge by somebody, who was disappointed of a regale. It is a vile cold-scrag-of-mutton sophism; a lie palmed upon the palate, which knows better things. If nothing else could be said for a feast, this is sufficient, that from the superflux there is usually something left for the next day. Morally interpreted, it belongs to a class of proverbs which have a tendency to make us undervalue money. Of this cast are those notable observations, that money is not health; riches cannot purchase everything the metaphor which makes gold to be mere muck, with the morality which traces fine clothing to the sheep's back, and denounces pearl as the unhandsome excretion of an oyster. Hence, too, the phrase which imputes dirt to acres-a sophistry so barefaced, that even the literal sense of it is
true only in a wet season. This, and abundance of similar sage saws assuming to inculcate content, we verily believe to have been the invention of some cunning borrower, who had designs upon the purse of his wealthier neighbour, which he could only hope to carry by force of these verbal jugglings. Translate any one of these sayings out of the artful metonymy which envelopes it, and the trick is apparent. Goodly legs and shoulders of mutton, exhilarating cordials, books, pictures, the opportunities of seeing foreign countries, independence, heart's ease, a man's own time to himself, are not muck-however we may be pleased to scandalise with that appellation the faithful metal that provides them for us.
VII.-OF TWO DISPUTANTS THE WARMEST IS
Who has not at one time or other been at a party of professors (himself perhaps an old offender in that line), where, after ringing a round of the most ingenious conceits, every man contributing his shot, and some there the most expert shooters of the day; after 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
BECAUSE THEY WILL NOT BEAR A TRANS-
tugging at it, till the very milk of it will not
would but faintly have done the business. Words, involving notions, are hard enough to render; it is too much to expect us to translate a sound, and give an elegant version to a jingle. The Virgilian harmony is not translatable, but by substituting harmonious sounds in another language for it. To Latinise a pun, we must seek a pun in Latin, that will answer to it; as, to give an idea of the double endings in Hudibras, we must have recourse to a similar practice in the old 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 what is this but a species of pun, a verbal
THE same might be said of the wittiest local allusions. A custom is sometimes as difficult to explain to a foreigner as a pun. What would become of a great part of the wit of the last age, if it were tried by this test? How would certain topics, as aldermanity, cuckoldry, have sounded to a Terentian auditory, though Terence himself had been alive to translate them? Senator urbanus with Curruca to boot for a synonyme, deplorably bad, at the same time, that it has proved a Robin Hood's shot; anything ulterior to that is despaired of; and the party breaks up, unanimously voting it to be the very worst (that is, best) pun of the evening. This species of wit is the better for not being perfect in all its parts. What it gains in completeness, it loses in naturalness. The more exactly it satisfies the critical, the less hold it has upon some other faculties. The puns which are most entertaining are those which will least bear an
all the by-standers, who have gone away clearly convinced that Titubus must have been in the wrong, because he was in a passion; and that Mr. meaning his opponent, is one of the fairest and at the same time one of the most dispassionate arguers breathing.
IX.-THAT THE WORST PUNS ARE THE BEST.
IF by worst be only meant the most farfetched and startling, we agree to it. A pun is not bound by the laws which limit nicer wit. It is a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect. It is an antic which does not stand upon manners, but comes bounding into the presence, and does not show the less comic for being dragged in sometimes by the head and shoulders. What though it limp a little, or prove defective in one leg -all the better. A pun may easily be too curious and artificial.
An Oxford scholar, meeting a porter who was carrying a hare through the streets, accosts him with this extraordinary question: "Prithee, friend, is that thy own hare, or a wig?"
There is no excusing this, and no resisting it. A man might blur ten sides of paper in attempting a defence of it against a critic who should be laughter-proof. The quibble in itself is not considerable. It is only a new turn given by a little false pronunciation, to a very common, though not very courteous inquiry. Put by one gentleman to another at a dinner-party, it would have been vapid; to the mistress of the house it would have shown much less wit than rudeness. We must take in the totality of time, place, and person; the pert look of the inquiring
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 member of the question, with the utter and inextricable irrelevancy of the second; the place a public street, not favourable to frivolous investigations; the affrontive quality of the primitive inquiry (the common question) invidiously transferred to the derivative (the new turn given to it) in the implied satire; namely, that few of that tribe are expected to eat of the good things which they carry, they being in most countries considered rather as the temporary trustees than owners of such dainties, which the fellow was beginning to understand; but then the wig again comes in, and he can make nothing of it; all put together constitute a picture: Hogarth could have made it intelligible on
Yet nine out of ten critics will pronounce this a very bad pun, because of the defectiveness in the concluding member, which is its very beauty, and constitutes the surprise. The same person shall cry up for admirable the cold quibble from Virgil about the broken Cremona ;* because it is made out in all its parts, and leaves nothing to the imagination. We venture to call it cold; because, of thousands who have admired it, it would be difficult to find one who has heartily chuckled at it. As appealing to the judgment merely (setting the risible faculty aside), we must pronounce it a monument of curious felicity. But as some stories are said to be too good to be true, it may with equal truth be asserted of this biverbal allusion, that it is too good to be natural. One cannot help suspecting that the incident was invented to fit the line. It would have been better had it been less perfect. Like some Virgilian hemistichs, it has suffered by filling up. The nimium Vicina was enough in conscience; the Cremona afterwards loads it. It is, in fact, a double pun; and we have always observed that a superfotation in this sort of wit is dangerous. When a man has said a good thing, it is seldom politic to follow it up. We do not care to be cheated a second time; or, perhaps the mind of man (with reverence be it spoken) is not capacious enough to lodge two puns at a time. The
X.-THAT HANDSOME IS THAT HANDSOME DOES. THOSE Who use this proverb can never have seen Mrs. Conrady.
The soul, if we may believe Plotinus, is a ray from the celestial beauty. As she partakes more or less of this heavenly light, she informs, with corresponding characters, the fleshly tenement which she chooses, and frames to herself a suitable mansion.
All which only proves that the soul of Mrs. Conrady, in her pre-existent state, was no great judge of architecture.
To the same effect, in a Hymn in honour of Beauty, divine Spenser platonising, sings :—
Every spirit as it is more pure,
To habit in, and it more fairly dight
Spenser, it is clear, never saw Mrs. Conrady.
These poets, we find, are no safe guides in philosophy; for here, in his very next stanza but one, is a saving clause, which throws us all out again, and leaves us as much to seek
Yet oft it falls, that many a gentle mind
From which it would follow, that Spenser had seen somebody like Mrs. Conrady.
The spirit of this good lady-her previous anima-must have stumbled upon 'one of these untoward tabernacles which he speaks of. A more rebellious commodity of clay for a ground, as the poet calls it, no gentle mind and sure hers is one of the gentlest-ever had to deal with
Pondering upon her inexplicable visageinexplicable, we mean, but by this modification of the theory-we have come to a conclusion that, if one must be plain, it is better to be plain all over, than amidst a tolerable residue of features to hang out one that shall