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THOUGHTS ON INNS.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “ HILLINGDON HALL," &c.
Shall not I take mine ease in mine inn?
No doubt our recollections are very materially tinged with the character of the entertainment we receive, therefore it behoves all mayors, sheriffs, aldermen, common-councillors, &c., to pay attention to the hostelries in their respective jurisdictions. I would particularly draw their attention to the measures, it being
a notorious fact, that a private quart decanter holds three inn pints. It surely is quite as important that the wayfarer should be insured his allowance, as that butter and flour should be the right weight. If, in addition to this, the authorities aforesaid would attend to the quality, the boon would be very considerably increased. To suppose that an inn-cellar boasts a large stock of old wine is only for Oxonians and ensigns to believe—the very assertion of it on the part of a landlord would be almost tantamount to a declaration of want of trade; nevertheless, I cannot but say that I think some closer imitations of the wines they profess to have is desirable, and I really believe would be remunerative to themselves, it being scarcely possible to get any quantity of the spurious stuff they now foist off under French names down one's throat. Ports and sherries must be expected to be sweet, hot, and new ; for, notwithstanding all their professions, one never sees an inn stock of wine, &c. “ walked into” by the sheriff, without being struck by the smallness of the quantity. In London and large towns this is different, hotel-keepers often being wine-merchants as well, and precious nuisances, I may add, they sometimes are, persecuting an unfortunate inmate at every meal, until they succeed in sticking a bargain into him. These vintner inn-keepers are as bad as hair-dressers' apprentices, with their coloured and perfumed candle-ends and hog'slard, which they dignify with electrifying names, and poke so pertinaciously at their customers. “Sorry to see, sir, your hair is getting rayther thin at the top.
“Sorry to see, sir, you are getting bald on the crown”-the varlet looking in the mirror to see how that acts.
But to inns.
The head waiter at an inn generally takes all the fees, and pays the people under him. I have known more than one head waiter with a share in the concern. I have one in my mind's eye now, who, twenty years ago, when gentlemen used to get fastidious, would put on an imposing face, and recommend a bottle of the “green seal;” and I was in the same house not long ago, and heard his successor doing precisely the same thing. “ Very curious old Port, sir—what we call the green seal,” said he, setting the bottle pompously on the table, having first held it up to the light
to see it was all right. “Green seal" promises to last as long as greenhorns-most probably to the end of time.
One of the best jokes of the Reform times was with a waiter. reformers here, waiter, I suppose?" said a tory, paying his bill.
“Oh, yes! all reformers, sir--master, mistress, self, and all.”
“ Then there's the bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill,” said the gentleman, laying down his money.
It is odd what different views different people have respecting the same thing. What one thinks perfection another thinks purgatory. This applies particularly to inns. “ Capital inn!” “ Torst inn in England!" On the continent, hotel-keepers invite the expression of opinion on their establishments. Of course they expect favourable ones on their own ; but still
, keeping the sort of books they do, enable travellers to record their opinions on the entertainment at the stage, on either side. Some of the observations are very quaint, and D'Israeli might do worse than collect them for his next “ Curiosities of Literature.” In England, the freedom of the press, facetiously described at afterdinner carouses as like the air we breathe,” &c., is not encouraged to hoist the lantern, “Beware of a bad house !" about inns ; and judges and juries really are such queer things, that “ the less a man has to do with them the better," as the highwayman justly observed, when he was going to be hung.
To show, however, how differently people view the same establishment, I will relate what happened to me the other night. I was introduced to a man, who, my host on presenting, accompanied with this specification,-" The gentleman who lived a week at the Bull and Mouth'— Mr. Peter Parkinson, the gentleman who lived a week at the · Bull and Mouth'"-just as he might have introduced Mr. Van Amburgh, as the gentleman wot confides his head in the lion's mouth, or Mr. Michael Angelo Titmarsh, who stuck Punch's poster on the pyramids of Egypt.
But as I see it wants an hour to dinner, and the day is of Washington Irving's “spongy order," I will tell the story, with particulars, premising what every person, I dare say, has observed, that there are various ways in this world of becoming "famous," as Lord Byron said.
I knew a man who gained a name by upsetting the “Quicksilver” mail, and, though to have a man brought up to one, or, in conformity with the rules of the “ Book of Etiquette,” to be taken up to be intrduced to a gentleman, because he had lived a week at the “ Bull and Mouth,” ľmight, per se, appear rather ridiculous ; yet, taken in connexion with the party—all being more or less famous—the singularity in my mind vanished at once, and I looked at the interesting individual just as I should have regarded Captain Back after he had obeyed the Admiralty laconic
Ross is come-come Back ! Here, too, let me premise, that the “ Bull and Mouth,” when my hero spent his week there, was not what the “Bull and Mouth” now is, standing in stately grandeur, noble, clean, and well-proportioned, but the old original “Bull and Mouth," swarming, as it used to swarm, with coaches (if with nothing else), with its dark coffee-room, imbibing the rich odour of the proximate stable, and galleried dormitories opening to the air.
Nay, reader, turn not up your lip with the curl of contempt! Despise
not the man who has performed such a feat. Canvass your acquaintance, and see if in its whole range you can produce one who can say, “I, too, have lived a week at the • Bull and Mouth.'
But I have not yet got my train of ideas backed to the starting stationhouse of my mind. To place the matter fully and intelligibly before the reader, I should describe the person who introduced me to this eighth wonder of the world. The ceremony took place at the rooms of one Mr. Alphonso Jenkins, who lives in a style of almost Eastern splendour in a first floor (furnished) in Bidborough-street, Burton-crescent. Alphonso is a traveller, a critic, a connoisseur, a virtuoso, a sort of poet, à collector of China, a sort of wit, a guitarist, a sentimentalist, and a soap-boiler.
Luckless pen that mine is! In reading over the last sentence, I see I have strung Alphonso's qualifications together in such a way, as might lead the “ever-anxious-to-catch” critic to exclaim, “Why he's a bagsman to a soap-boiler!" No such thing, reader—no such thing. genuine traveller. Boulogue-sur-Mer is proud of his visits ; Calais has contained him. He has been at Abbéville, Amiens, Beauvais, Saint Denis-all those magnificent towns through which Paris-bound voyageurs ramble. Brussels, too, can boast of his patronage ; and I have heard, that he knows the ins and outs of Rotterdam. If he had his own way he would sink the soap-boiler, and shine forth as the virtuoso only. There he is great. From the serene retirement of Bidborough-street he issues his edicts on taste, literature, fashion, and the fine arts. make or mar an author. He is supposed to “do” the light literature criticisms for “ Grandmamma.”
Painters acknowledge his power - poets, “ ditto" -old Chinamen tremble at his coming. A spurious saucer is not safe before him—a sham Rembrandt neither.
But I hear the alarm-whistle of the editor, and the train must start, without further preface or palaverment, so here goes:
I became acquainted with Alphonso aboard one of those drowsy packetboats on the canals, somewhere about Bruges or Ghent, and running foul of him one day in Fleet-street, after mutual salutations, and wonderment at the difference of his appearance without his moustache and imperial. He presented me with his card, which, in due course of “ exchange," produced an invitation to a “conversazione.” At it Alphonso assured me I should meet the élite of London life-men renowned in arts, sciences, research, and intellect, travellers, musicians, statesmen (half-insinuating that Peel was coming), singers, dancers, philosophers, historians, sheriffs officers, trumpeters" heavenly grenadiers, and little drum-beaters," as the song says ; in short, that the world and his wife were coming. The “ Book of Étiquette,” “ Punch's Portraits," and Alphonso's reviews, had inoculated me with young Norval's complaint, and I longed for a peep into high life. Above all, I wished to see that broth of a boy, little James Graham, who, Dame Peel says, is “ always in a mess.”
True to my hour, I was bowled in a “patent safety” up the sweet retirement of Bidborough-street, and presently found myself on the landing of the first floor, at the drawing-room door whereof stood Alphonso, with Byronically or Carter Hallically arranged collar, and turn-up cuffs, surrounded by some murky-looking foreigners, while a dozen or two of devil-may-care” looking Englishmen, in every variety of costume, from a dress-coat down to a blouse, lolled against the walls, or lounged and rolled about the chairs, and horse-hair sofa.
Alphonso presented me to them in rapid succession. First, a count of the holy Roman empire ; then an out-of-luck duke from Bohemia ; next, an ex-master of the horse to the Emperor of Morocco ; then the author of " Ten Minutes' Advice on the Care of your Teeth ;” then
the author of the “ Universal Jester, or Post-chaise Companion.' Mr. Catnach, of the Seven Dials, then made his bow ; after him came Mr. Somebody, whose name I did not catch, described as the celebrated owner of the “ Happy United Family”-a miscellaneous collection of cats, mice, rats, and birds, all living in perfect harmony in one cage; Baron Nathan, and the proprietor of Gowland's Lotion ; Mr. Bradbury, the patent spectacle merchant, and Von der Hutton, the importer of piping bullfinches, &c. &c. At length it came to the turn of a very pallid-looking individual, whose tight-buttoned coat and extensive waterfall satin tie concealed the deficiency of a waistcoat, who Alphonso introduced as Mr. Peter Parkinson, the gentleman who lived a week at the “ Bull and Mouth.”
Strange and miscellaneous as some of the previous introductions had been, I confess I was most tickled with the last, and after making my obeisance to a Paddington commissioner of sewers, the clerk to the clerk of the Hampstead and Highgate trusts, and Dr. de Drake, the corns, bunions, and callosities curer, I retraced my steps to where this adventurous youth had deposited his body, face backwards, on a mock rosewood chair, against the upper rail of which he was now whetting his chin, as though he were going to shave somebody with his face. The light from a couple of Mr. Baker's “ patent composites," placed in a bracket against the wall, enabled me to scan the youth's sallow countenance, in which, so strong is the force of imagination, I fancied I traced the lineaments of intense thought and study.
Having whetted his face and chin to his liking—an operation which he performed much in the manner of a horse scratching its head on a gate -he next began to lick the rail, and this amusement also appearing popular with him, some seconds elapsed ere I could catch his eye so as to enable me to hazard an observation.
At length he looked at me. I confess I was rather disappointed with that index of his mind--the eye. It was full and clear; but after the first glance the effect gradually subsided, until it receded almost into vacuity.
Like Hamlet, junior, however, with old Hamlet's ghost, I determined to have a word with him, and forthwith observed, that it was a fine night.
“ Glad to hear it,” he said, "for I've got to go to the Cider Cellar' arter this.”
That was a step in the direction I wanted him to go-viz., towards the “Bull and Mouth.” Not that I mean to mislead country youth by insinuating that the “Cider Cellar” lies between Bidborough-street and the “Bull and Mouth;" but I mean that I wanted to get the “Bull and Mouth" story out of him, and touching on another place of public entertainment helped me on in that direction.
“We have a pleasant party here," said I, looking round on the heterogenous group.
6 What were
“ Middling,” he said.“ no drink !”
“ I think our host mentioned that you once lived a week at the ‘Bull and Mouth,'” I observed, after a pause, during which I was thinking whether it was not better to put the question at once than beat about the bush.
“I believe you there,” he said, a flash of fire at the same time shooting across his vacant eyes.
“ Was it comfortable ?" I inquired.
“Best beef-steaks in the world !” he exclaimed, giving the top of his chair a thump with his fist.
“What was the cause of your going there ?" I asked. you about ? Tell me the story-tell me all about it?"
“ Story!” he exclaimed, like Canning's needy knife-grinder to the friend of humanity—“ Story! I've none to tell, sir! I only wish the · Bull and Mouth' is as it was, and I had nothing to do but to live there."
CHAP. II. WHEN I got settled into my slippers and arm-chair at home, I thought over the curious party I had been at, and the unusual and original introduction of the stranger. That “what is one man's meat is another man's poison” seemed clearly exemplified in the case of Peter Parkinson and Asponso Jenkins; Peter Parkinson evidently considering the summit of human happiness what Alphonso Jenkins thought an extraordinary case of penance and self-endurance. I could not say I was prepossessed with Alphonso. He was evidently a notoriety-hunter-a would be. I then thought how I became acquainted with him, recalled the long tabled'hôte dinners I had seen him at-the justice he did to the viands, until, at length, by one of those circuitous journeys of the mind, I found myself involved in an inquiry, how it happens that an inn in England and an inn abroad should be two such different things.
What a “change has come over the spirit of the dreams” of these old coaching menageries—these Bulls and Mouths—these Saracens' Heads —these Belle Sauvages—these Georges and Blue Boars—these White Horses—these Swans with two Necks, and other zoological curiosities. I wonder what will become of all these old coaching-houses! One feels the same sort of interest about them that the debtor would feel for the Fleet, or any of the ex-prisons in which he had had the pleasure of being confined. They are the ports at which many Peter Parkinsons have sailed and arrived from journeys, either for good or evil. I looked in at one or two of them the other day, and was shocked at what I saw. were deserted: no bustling of bipeds—no trampling of quadrupeds,-no rolling of wheels- no tinkling of bells. A little twelve-year-old urchin, who could scarcely see over the counter, occupied the place of the row of saucy clerks who formerly could hardly deign an answer. These have, doubtless, found refuge at the different railway stations, where, in city parlance, “ impudence is still at a premium.” With the testimony of Peter Parkinson before me, it would be going too far to say that “nobody” could call these old places comfortable, but the world at large, I think, would not be inclined to look upon them in that light. On the score of comfort, however, it is to be observed, that the world has taken enormous strides within the last fifty years-grown very fastidious.
July.-VOL. LXXIV. No. ccxcv.