« PreviousContinue »
years, his eminent professional skill, his time, his cheerful powers of consolation, and no small portion of his fortune, (which, since his retirement from productive practice, was restricted to rather less than five hundred a-year,) with a zeal, perseverance, and success, utterly unparalleled, as I verily believe, except in the wonders of charity, accomplished with a similar income, by the celebrated Man of Ross.
For the sake of his own health, which was now occasionally impaired, as well as for the purpose of meeting a circle of cherished friends, who usually betook themselves to Harrowgate during the season, the Doctor made that place his headquarters for a portion of every summer. Upon one of these visits he established a little society, which met weekly at his lodgings, under the name of “ The Tea Party,” to participate in his favourite beverage, and to pass a few hours in rational conversation. From everything 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 sexes, 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 part of any 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 á 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 hobbyhorse, and one which he occasionally rode even to a tiresome
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 common-place 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 not a 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 rather serious discussion with some foolery, either in the shape of quibble, joke, anecdote, or appropriate
tale, most of which found their way to the common-place book, and were generally assigned to their author, under his initials of T. H. Many of these caudal vertebræ, 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
I 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; whilst 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 cælo, 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 his book, is not altogether in accordance; but it may literally be affirmed of him, to use a homely saying, that his bark was worse than his bite. Personalities there are none throughout the whole work. Taking for his motto" parcere personis, dicere de vitiis,”-he visited the offence not the offender, regardless of the hacknied objection that, to exercise such a misplaced lenity, is to lash the dice and to spare the dicer. That predilection for point and antithesis to which we have already alluded, and which forms the besetting sin of his style, often betrayed him into a severity of expression quite foreign to his real nature. He might be caustic with his pen, especially if an epigrammatic turn were at stake; but his lips could not utier anything intentionally bitter, nor could his heart harbour a single angry feeling. This is not the place, however, to expatiate upon his character, as it is my intention to make his life, for which I had been collecting materials long before his decease, the subject of a second volume; and I avail myself of the present opportunity, to request that his Yorkshire and other correspondents will add to my large stock of his amusing letters, by forwarding any that they may possess, to the Publisher of this work, ander whose inspection they will be copied, and punctually, as well as thankfully returned, to their respective owners.
Most of the peasants and cotters in the northern and western wapentakes of Yorkshire, were familiar with the Doctor's old white-tailed dun horse, as well as with his antique broadwinged whiskey. In the boot of this rickety vehicle were usually stowed a medicine-chest, a box of linen, and other travelling indispensables, the respective packages being steadied by a few well worn books wedged in between them. Latterly he had seldom made an excursion without “ honest Tim," whose pranks, jokes, and buffooneries, lent some support to the idea entertained by many strangers, on their first appearance, that the companions were an itinerant Quacksalver and his Zany. Nor was it easy to remove this impression, so far as the Merry Andrew was concerned; but it was impossible to gaze upon the benevolent countenance of his friend, whose Quaker's attire, bald forehead, and silver side-locks descending to his shoulders, gave him altogether a most venerable appearance, without a quick conviction that his errand was one of pure philanthropy-and that his purposes, like his aspect, were high and holy.
By his will, Dr. Chatfield bequeathed to the Editor, the whole of his manuscripts, consisting of tales, ancient and modern-fugitive poems-a few essays on medical subjects,