« PreviousContinue »
participate in his favourite beverage, and to pass a few hours in rational conversation. From every thing in the nature of a club, as the reader will perceive, on a reference to that word in the present work, my friend recoiled with an insurmountable aversion, only consenting to be named President of the Tea Party, on condition that it should consist of both
and be governed by the rules that he had drawn up for its regulation. These exhibited, in several instances, their author's characteristic whimsicality. To avoid the use of a hammer, which was associated, in his mind, with the chairman of a club, it was his good pleasure to suspend from his neck a small Tin Trumpet, by sounding an alarum upon which he procured order, when there was the smallest irregularity or deviation from a punctilious courtesy on the
member. The same Tin Trumpet, with a transferable steel-pen affixed to its narrow end, served to register the proceedings of the society in a book kept for that purpose; as well as to write on a slip of paper, for the information of the associates, the subjects upon which they were to converse at their next meeting. Not in any degree, however, could this friendly party be assimilated to a debating society, though its founder was anxious to avoid the common trivialities of chitchat, by devoting an hour and a half of their meeting to the consideration of some specific objects, of which several were sometimes proposed for a single night.
The remaining hour and a half, for they met at seven, and parted at ten, was given to tea, and such passing topics as might be spontaneously suggested, and which generally assumed a greater latitude, and more playful character, from the previous limitation and partial restraint upon the general volubility. In the presence of the Doctor, indeed, it was almost impossible not to sympathise with his remarkably cheerful temperament.
It was the founder's custom to note down in a common-place book, such brief heads, or extracts, or allusions as might bear upon the subject next to be considered; for it will readily be conjectured that he himself was the principal speaker. Loving truth better even than my late friend, I am bound to confess that apophthegms, epigrammatical turns, terse sayings, antithetical phrases, and even puerile conceits, were his hobby-horse, and one which he occasionally rode even to a tiresome excess. Whatever of this sort was elicited at the meetings, or subsequently presented itself in his superficial reading, for he did not affect profound literature, was transferred to his commonplace book, under different alphabetical heads, a process in which he invariably employed the writing instrument to which we have already alluded. This will explain the title of “ The Tin Trumpet"--given to his book, as well as the first part of its second appellation- Heads and TALES.”
In elucidation of this latter word we must state that the most important personage of the party, after its president, was one Timothy Harrison, an independent Yorkshire yeoman, and a not less singular character, though in a different way, than his bosom friend, and latterly his almost inseparable companion—the doctor. Honest Tim, who was the installed punster and wag, or, as the reader may rather think, the Merry Andrew of the party, made it his business to cap every grave remark or serious discussion with some foolery, either in the shape of quibble, joke, anecdote, or appropriate tale, most of which found their way to the commonplace book, and were generally assigned to their author, under his initials of T. H. Many of these caudal vertebre, or tale-joints, as he himself banteringly termed them, I have ventured to expunge, as they would have swelled the work to a disproportionate size; several of his bon-mots have suffered a similar fate; though I am still apprehensive that I may be thought to have used the pruning knife much too sparingly. By his droll and flexible features, his power of mimicry, and his broad rustic humour, Tim was expressly qualified to be the wag of a provincial coterie ; but where you cannot print the countenance and manner, it is sometimes dangerous to publish the joke. Not a few of his jests, for he was as bold a plagiarist as his friend, were stolen from newspapers, or other equally accessible sources; while others may
even be traced back to Joe Miller, an authority which is occasionally acknowledged under the Latin alias of Josephus Molitor.
It will be seen, therefore, that the following little work cannot set up much claim to originality, either in its serious or jocose departments; while even its form was suggested, as I have heard its author admit, by some humorous alphabetical definitions which appeared several years ago, in one of our magazines. From the writer of those papers, as well as from all others who might serve his purpose, not excepting the Edinburgh Review, of which he was a constant reader, he borrowed without compunction.' Wherever he made verbal quotations of any extent, it will be seen that he refers to the original ; and he often regretted that the omission of noting down his authorities, prevented him from acknowledging them upon other and all occasions. With the materials thus accumulated, he interspersed, as he proceeded, his own sentiments upon every topic that called for their avowal. Knowing that they express the conscientious convictions of an eminently pious and virtuous man, I have published them without hesitation, but I think it right to put upon record my total dissent from many of his views and doctrines. Intimate, indeed, as was our friendship for a long course of years, we differed, toto coelo, upon most of the leading subjects that divide the opinions of mankind.
In his Liberal, not to say
Radical notions, I was decidedly opposed to him ; while my reverence for the Established Church, of which I am proud to call myself a member, made the discussion of its discipline and tenets, in both of which he maintained the necessity of a Reform, a forbidden subject between us.
Deeming it impious to suppose that the investigation of truth, conscientiously pursued, could possibly lead to any other results than an additional confirmation of the greatness, goodness, and glory of God, Dr. Chatfield was a fearless and zealous explorer of many questions which would have been avoided by the timid and the indifferent. Creeds, articles, and all the ceremonials of religion, he held in slight estimation, compared to heart-felt, practical, vital Christianity; yet a more devout man I never knew. His religion was a sentiment in which his whole heart was steeped, and which exhibited itself in an ever present sense of profound gratitude to the Creator, and an all embracing love of his creatures. His strange, and sometimes startling notions exposed him to occasional attacks of considerable sharpness, which he invariably bore with such a Christian meekness, and defended himself with a sweetness so conciliatory and unassuming, that even those who impugned his opinions, could not help admiring their placid and philosophic maintainer.
With such gentleness of disposition, it may seem that the satirical character, occasionally perceptible in