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it) with tremulous fingers, as if he feared everyone about him was a defaulter; in his hypochondry, ready to imagine himself one ; haunted, at least, with the idea of the possibility of his becoming one : his tristful visage clearing up a little over his roast neck of veal at Anderton’s at two (where his picture still hangs, taken a little before his death by desire of the master of the coffee-house which he had frequented for the last five-and-twenty years), but not attaining the meridian of its animation till evening brought on the hour of tea and visiting. The simultaneous sound of his well-known rap at the door with the stroke of the clock announcing six, was a topic of never-failing mirth in the families which this dear old bachelor gladdened with his presence. Then was his forte, his glorified hour ! How would he chirp and expand over a muffin How would he dilate into secret history ! His countryman, Pennant himself, in particular, could not be more eloquent than he in relation to old and new London—the site of old theatres, churches, streets gone to decay—where Rosamond’s pond stood—the Mulberry-gardens—and the Conduit in Cheap— with many a pleasant anecdote, derived from paternal tradition, of those grotesque figures which Hogarth has immortalised in his picture of Noon—the worthy descendants of those heroic confessors, who, flying to this country from the wrath of Louis the Fourteenth and his dragoons, kept alive the flame of pure religion in the sheltering obscurities of Hog Lane and the vicinity of the Seven Dials |
Deputy, under Evans, was Thomas Tame. He had the air and stoop of a nobleman. You would have taken him for one, had you met him in one of the passages leading to Westminster Hall. By stoop, I mean that gentle bending of the body forwards, which, in great men, must be supposed to be the effect of an habitual condescending attention to the applications of their inferiors. While he held you in converse, you felt strained to the height in the colloquy. The conference over, you were at leisure to smile at the comparative insignificance of the pretensions which had just awed you. His intellect was of the shallowest order. It did not reach to a saw or a proverb. His mind was in its original state of white paper. A sucking babe might have posed him. What was it then 7 Was he rich 2 Alas, no l Thomas Tame was very poor. Both he and his wife looked outwardly gentlefolks, when I fear all was not well at all times within. She had a neat meagre person, which it was evident she had not sinned in overpampering ; but in its veins was noble blood. She traced her descent, by some labyrinth of relationship, which I never thoroughly understood, much less can explain with any heraldic certainty at this time of day, to the illustrious but unfortunate house of Derwentwater. This was the secret of Thomas's stoop. This was the thought—the sentiment—the bright solitary star of your lives, ye mild and happy pair, which cheered you in the night of intellect, and in the obscurity of your station I This was to you instead of riches, instead of rank, instead of glittering attainments; and it was worth them all together. You insulted none with it; but, while you wore it as a piece of defensive armour only, no insult likewise could reach you through it. Decus et solamen. Of quite another stamp was the then accountant, John Tipp. He neither pretended to high blood, nor in good truth cared one fig about the matter. He “thought an accountant the greatest character in the world, and hinaself the greatest accountant in it.” Yet John was not without his hobby. The fiddle relieved his vacant hours He sang, certainly, with other notes than to the Orphean lyre. He did, indeed, scream and scrape most abominably. His fine suite of official rooms in Threadneedle Street, which, without anything very substantial appended to them, were enough to enlarge a man’s notions of himself that lived in them (I know not who is the occupier of them now), resounded fortnightly to the notes of a concert of “sweet breasts,” as our ancestors would have called them, culled from club-rooms, and orchestras—chorus singers—first and second violoncellos—double basses—and clarionets— who ate his cold mutton and drank his punch and praised his ear. He sat like Lord Midas among them. But at the desk Tipp was quite another sort of creature. Thence all ideas, that were purely ornamental, were banished. You could not speak of anything romantic without rebuke. Politics were excluded. A newspaper was thought too refined and abstracted. The whole duty of man consisted in writing off dividend warrants. The striking of the annual balance in the company’s books (which, perhaps, differed from the balance of last year in the sum of £25 1s. 6d.) occupied his days and nights for a month previous. Not
that Tipp was blind to the deadness of things (as they called them in the city) in his beloved house, or did not sigh for a return of the old stirring days when South-Sea hopes were young (he was indeed equal to the wielding of any the most intricate accounts of the most flourishing company in these or those days): but to a genuine accountant the difference of proceeds is as nothing. The fractional farthing is as dear to his heart as the thousands which stand before it. He is the true actor, who, whether his part be a prince or a peasant, must act it with like intensity. With Tipp form was everything. His life was formal. His actions seemed ruled with a ruler. His pen was not less erring than his heart. He made the best executor in the world : he was plagued with incessant executorships accordingly, which excited his spleen and soothed his vanity in equal ratios. He would swear (for Tipp swore) at the little orphans, whose rights he would guard with a tenacity like the grasp of the dying hand that commended their interests to his protection. With all this there was about him a sort of timidity (his few enemies used to give it a worse name)—a something which, in reverence to the dead, we will place, if you please, a little on this side of the heroic. Nature certainly had been pleased to endow John Tipp with a sufficient measure of the principle of self-preservation. There is a cowardice which we do not despise, because it has nothing base or treacherous in its elements; it betrays itself, not you ; it is mere temperament; the absence of the romantic and the enterprising; it sees a lion in the way, and will not, with Fortinbras, “greatly find quarrel in a straw,” when some supposed honour is at stake. Tipp never mounted the box of a stage-coach in his life ; or leaned against the rails of a balcony; or walked upon the ridge of a parapet; or looked down a precipice ; or let off a gun ; or went upon a waterparty; or would willingly let you go if he could have helped it: neither was it recorded of him, that for lucre, or for intimidation, he ever forsook friend or principle. Whom next shall we summon from the dusty dead, in whom common qualities become uncommon 2 Can I forget thee, Henry Man, the wit, the polished man of
letters, the author, of the South-Sea House 2 who never
entercdst thy office in a morning or quittedst it in midday (what didst thou in an office 2) without some quirk that left a sting ! Thy gibes and thy jokes are now extinct, or survive but in two forgotten volumes, which I had the good fortune to rescue from a stall in Barbican, not three days ago, and found thee terse, fresh, epigrammatic, as alive. Thy wit is a little gone by in these fastidious days— thy topics are staled by the “new-born gauds" of the time: —but great thou used to be in Public Ledgers, and in Chronicles, upon Chatham, and Shelburne, and Rockingham, and Howe, and Burgoyne, and Clinton, and the war which ended in the tearing from Great Britain her rebellious colonies, and Keppel, and Wilkes, and Sawbridge, and Bull, and Dunning, and Pratt, and Richmond—and such small politics.
A little less facetious, and a great deal more obstreperous, was fine rattling, rattleheaded Plumer. He was descended, —not in a right line, reader (for his lineal pretensions, like his personal, favoured a little of the sinister bend)—from the Plumers of Hertfordshire. So tradition gave him out ; and certain family features not a little sanctioned the opinion. Certainly old Walter Plumer (his reputed author) had been a rake in his days, and visited much in Italy, and had seen the world. He was uncle, bachelor-uncle, to the fine old whig still living, who has represented the county in so many successive parliaments, and has a fine old mansion near Ware. Walter flourished in George the Second’s days, and was the same who was summoned before the House of Commons about a business of franks, with the old Duchess of Marlborough. You may read of it in Johnson's Life of Cave. Cave came off cleverly in that business. It is certain our Plumer did nothing to discountenance the rumour. He rather seemed pleased whenever it was, with all gentleness, insinuated. But besides his family pretensions, Plumer was an engaging fellow, and sang gloriously.
Not so sweetly sang Plumer as thou sangest, mild, childlike, pastoral M ; a flute's breathing less divinely whispering than thy Arcadian melodies, when, in tones worthy of Arden, thou didst chant that song sung by Amiens to the banished duke, which proclaims the winter wind more lenient than for a man to be ungrateful. Thy sire was old surly M , the unapproachable churchwarden of Bishopsgate. He knew not what he did, when he begat thee, like spring, gentle offspring of blustering winter:— only unfortunate in thy ending, which should have been mild, conciliatory, swan-like. Much remains to sing. Many fantastic shapes rise up, but they must be mine in private :-already I have fooled the reader to the top of his bent; else could I omit that strange creature Woollett, who existed in trying the question, and bought litigations !—and still stranger, inimitable, solemn Hepworth, from whose gravity Newton might have deduced the law of gravitation. How profoundly would he nib a pen—with what deliberation would he Wet a wafer l— But it is time to close—night’s wheels are rattling fast over me—it is proper to have done with this solemn mockery. Reader, what if I have been playing with thee all this while—peradventure the very names, which I have summoned up before thee, are fantastic—insubstantial— like Henry Pimpernel, and old John Naps of Greece :— Be satisfied that something answering to them has had a being. Their importance is from the past.
OXFORD IN THE WACATION
CASTING a preparatory glance at the bottom of this article —as the very connoisseur in prints, with cursory eye (which, while it reads, seems as though it read not), never fails to consult the quis sculpsit in the corner, before he pronounces some rare piece to be a Vivares, or a Woollet— methinks I hear you exclaim, Reader, Who is Elia 2 Because in my last I tried to divert thee with some halfforgotten humours of some old clerks defunct, in an old house of business, long since gone to decay, doubtless you have already set me down in your mind as one of the self-same college—a Votary of the desk—a notched and cropt scrivener—one that sucks his sustenance, as certain sick people are said to do, through a quill. Well, I do agnise something of the sort. I confess that it is my humour, my fancy—in the fore-part of the day, when the mind of your man of letters requires some relaxation (and none better than such as at first sight seems most abhorrent from his beloved studies)—to while away some good hours of my time in the contemplation of