Page images
PDF
EPUB

He entereth smiling and embarrassed. He holdeth out his hand to you to shake, and draweth it back again. He casually looketh in about dinner-time—when the table is full. He offereth to go away, seeing you have companybut is induced to stay. He filleth a chair, and your visitor's two children are accommodated at a side table. He never cometh upon open days, when your wife says with some complacency, My dear, perhaps Mr. will drop in today.” He remembereth birth-days—and professeth he is fortunate to have stumbled upon one. He declareth against fish, the turbot being small--yet suffereth himself to be importuned into a slice against his first resolution. He sticketh by the port-yet will be prevailed upon to empty the remainder glass of claret, if a stranger press it upon him. He is a puzzle to the servants, who are fearful of being too obsequious, or not civil enough, to him. The guests think “they have seen him before.” Every one speculateth upon his condition; and the most part take him to bea tide waiter. He calleth you by your Christian name, to imply that his other is the same with your own.

He is too familiar by half, yet you wish he had less diffidence. With half the familiarity he might pass for a casual dependent; with more boldness he would be in no danger of being taken for what he is. He is too humble for a friend, yet taketh on him more state than befits a client. He is a worse guest than a country tenant, inasmuch as he bringeth up no rent—yet ’tis odds, from his garb and demeanour, that your guests

take him for one. He is asked to make one at the whist table ; refuseth on the score of poverty, and-resents being left out.

When the company break up, he proffereth to go for a coach-and lets the servant go. He recollects your grandfather ; and will thrust in some mean, and quite unimportant anecdote of the family. He knew it when it was not quite so flourishing as “he is blest in seeing it now.” He reviveth past situations, to institute what he calleth-favourable comparisons. With a reflecting sort of congratulation, he will inquire the price of your furniture: and insults you with a special commendation of your window-curtains. He is of opinion that the urn is the more elegant shape, but, after all, there was something more comfortable about the old teakettle-which you must remember. He dare say you must find a great convenience in having a carriage of your own, and appealeth to your lady if it is not so. Inquireth if you have had your arms done on vellum yet; and did not know, till lately, that such-and-such had been the crest of the family. His memory is unseasonable ; his compliments perverse ; his talk a trouble; his stay pertinacious; and when he goeth away, you dismiss his chair into a corner, as precipitately as possible, and feel fairly rid of two nuisances.

There is a worse evil under the sun, and that is —a female Poor Relation. You may do something with the other ; you may pass him off tolerably well ; but your indigent she-relative is hopeless. “He is an old humourist,” you may say, “and affects to go threadbare. His circumstances are

case.

better than folks would take them to be. You are fond of having a Character at your table, and truly he is one." But in the indications of female poverty there can be no disguise. No woman dresses below herself from caprice. The truth must out without shuffling. “She is plainly related to the L-s; or what does she at their house?” She is, in all probability, your wise's cousin. Nine times out of ten, at least, this is the

Her garb is something between a gentlewoman and a beggar, yet the former evidently predominates. She is most provokingly humble, and ostentatiously sensible to her inferiority. He may require to be repressed sometimesaliquando sufflaminandus erat—but there is no raising her. You send her soup at dinner, and she begs to be helped-after the gentlemen. Mr. requests the honour of taking wine with her ; she hesitates between Port and Madeira, and choses the former - because he does. She calls the servant Sir; and insists on not troubling him to hold her plate. The housekeeper patronizes her. The children's governess takes upon her to correct her, when she has mistaken the piano for harpsichord.

Richard Amlet, Esq., in the play, is a notable instance of the disadvantages, to which this chimerical notion of affinity constituting a claim to acquaintance, may subject the spirit of a gentle

A little foolish blood is all that is betwixt him and a lady with a great estate. His stars are perpetually crossed by the malignant maternity of an old woman, who persists in calling him “her son Dick.” But she has wherewithal in the end

man,

to recompense his indignities, and float him again upon the brilliant surface, under which it had been her seeming business and pleasure all along to sink him. All men, besides, are not of Dick's temperament. I knew an Amlet in real life, who, wanting Dick’s buoyancy, sank indeed. Poor Wwwas of my own standing at Christ's, a fine classic, and a youth of promise. If he had a blemish, it was too much pride; but its quality was inoffensive ; it was not of that sort which hardens the heart, and serves to keep inferiors at a distance ; it only sought to ward off derogation from itself. It was the principle of self-respect carried as far as it could go, without infringing upon that respect, which he would have every one else equally maintain for himself. He would have you to think alike with him on this topic. Many a quarrel have I had with him, when we were rather older boys, and our tallness made us more obnoxious to observation in the blue clothes, because I would not thread the alleys and blind ways of the town with him to elude notice, when we have been out together on a holiday in the streets of this sneering and prying metropolis. W- went, sore with these notions, to Oxford, where the dignity and sweetness of a scholar's life, meeting with the alloy of a humble introduction, wrought in him a passionate devotion to the place, with a profound aversion from the society. The servitor's gown (worse than his school array) clung to him with Nessian venom. He thought himself ridiculous in a garb, under which Latimer must have walked

[l Favell, see note, vol. i. p. 40.)

erect ; and in which Hooker, in his young days, possibly flaunted in a vein of no discommendable vanity. In the depth of college shades, or in his lonely chamber, the poor student shrunk from observation. He found shelter among books, which insult not; and studies, that ask no questions of a youth's finances. He was lord of his library, and seldom cared for looking out beyond his domains. The healing influence of studious pursuits was upon him, to soothe and to abstract. He was almost a healthy man ; when the way. wardness of his fate broke out against him with a second and worse malignity. The father of W had hitherto exercised the humble profession of house-painter at N---, near Oxford. A supposed interest with some of the heads of colleges had now induced him to take up his abode in that city, with the hope of being employed upon some public works which were talked of. From that moment I read in the countenance of the young man, the determination which at length tore him from academical pursuits for ever. To a person unacquainted with our Universities, the distance between the gownsmen and the townsmen, as they are called—the trading part of the latter especially-is carried to an excess that would appear harsh and incredible. The temperament of W -'s father was diametrically the reverse of his own. Old W was a little, busy, cringing tradesman, who, with his son upon his arm, would stand bowing and scraping, cap in hand, to any thing that wore the semblance of a gown-insensible to the winks and opener remonstrances of the young man,

« PreviousContinue »