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off his expectant auditory with “Whoop, do me no harm, good man!” But, above all, that conceit arrided us most at that time, and still tickles our midriff to remember, where allusively to the flight of Astræa-ultima Celestům terras reliquit—we pronounced-in reference to the stockings still—that MODESTY, TAKING HER FINAL LEAVE OF MORTALS, HER LAST BLUSH WAS VISIBLE IN HER ASCENT TO THE HEAVENS BY THE TRACT OF THE GLOWING INSTEP. This might be called the crowning conceit; and was esteemed tolerable writing in those days.
But the fashion of jokes, with all other things, passes away; as did the transient mode which had so favoured us. The ankles of our fair friends in a few weeks began to reassume their whiteness, and left us scarce a leg to stand upon. Other female whims followed, but none, methought, so pregnant, so invitatory of shrewd conceits, and more than single meanings.
Somebody has said, that to swallow six crossbuns daily, consecutively for a fortnight, would surfeit the stoutest digestion. But to have to furnish as many jokes daily, and that not for a fortnight, but for a long twelvemonth, as we were constrained to do, was a little harder exaction. “Man goeth forth to his work until the evening
- from a reasonable hour in the morning, we presume it was meant. Now, as our main occupation took us up from eight till five every day in the City; and as our evening hours, at that time of life, had generally to do with any thing rather than business, it follows, that the only time we could
spare for this manufactory of jokes—our supplementary livelihood, that supplied us in every want beyond mere bread and cheese-was exactly that part of the day which (as we have heard of No Man's Land) may be fitly denominated No Man's Time; that is, no time in which a man ought to be up, and awake, in. To speak more plainly, it is that time, of an hour, or an hour and a half's duration, in which a man, whose occasions call him up so preposterously, has to wait for his breakfast.
O those headaches at dawn of day, when at five, or half-past five in summer, and not much later in the dark seasons, we were compelled to rise, having been perhaps not above four hours in bed -(for we were no go-to-beds with the lamb, though we anticipated the lark oftimes in her rising—we like a parting cup at midnight, as all young men did before these effeminate times, and to have our friends about us—we were not constellated under Aquarius, that watery sign, and therefore incapable of Bacchus, cold, washy, bloodless—we were none of your Basilian water-sponges, nor had taken our degrees at Mount Ague—we were right toping Capulets, jolly companions, we and they)—but to have to get up, as we said before, curtailed of half our fair sleep, fasting, with only a dim vista of refreshing Bohea in the distance-to be necessitated to rouse ourselves at the detestable rap of an old hag of a domestic, who seemed to take a diabolical pleasure in her announcement that it was “time to rise ;” and whose chappy knuckles we have often yearned to amputate, and string
them up at our chamber-door, to be a terror to all such unreasonable rest-breakers in future
“Facil” and sweet, as Virgil sings, had been the “descending" of the over-night, balmy the first sinking of the heavy head upon the pillow; but to get up, as he goes on to say,
-revocare gradus, superasque evadere ad aurasand to get up moreover to make jokes with malice prepended-there was the “labour," there the “ work."
No Egyptian taskmaster ever devised a slavery like to that, our slavery. No fractious operants ever turned out for half the tyranny, which this necessity exercised upon us. Half a dozen jests in a day, (bating Sundays too), why, it seems nothing! We make twice the number every day in our lives as a matter of course, and claim no Sabbatical exemptions. But then they come into our head. But when the head has to go out to them-when the mountain must go to Mahomet
Reader, try it for once, only for one short twelvemonth.
It was not every week that a fashion of pink stockings came up; but mostly, instead of it, some rugged, untractable subject; some topic impossible to be contorted into the risible; some feature, upon which no smile could play ; some flint, from which no process of ingenuity could procure a distillation. There they lay; there your appointed tale of brick-making was set before you, which you must finish, with or without straw, as it.happened. The craving Dragon-the Public-like him in Bel's
temple--must be fed; it expected its daily rations ; and Daniel, and ourselves, to do us justice, did the best we could on this side bursting him.
While we were wringing out coy sprightlinesses for the Post, and writhing under the toil of what is called “easy writing,” Bob Allen, our quondam schoolfellow, was tapping his impracticable brains in a like service for the “Oracle.” Not that Robert troubled himself much about wit. If his paragraphs had a sprightly air about them, it was sufficient. He carried this nonchalance so far at last, that a matter of intelligence, and that no very important one, was not seldom palmed upon his employers for a good jest ; for example sake" Walking yesterday morning casually down Snow Hill, who should we meet but Mr. Deputy Humphreys! we rejoice to add that the worthy Deputy appeared to enjoy a good state of health. We do not ever remember to have seen him look better.” This gentleman so surprisingly met upon Snow Hill, from some peculiarities in gait or gesture, was a constant butt for mirth to the small paragraph-mongers of the day; and our friend thought that he might have his fling at him with the rest. We met A. in Holborn shortly after this extraordinary rencounter, which he told with tears of satisfaction in his eyes, and chuckling at the anticipated effects of its announcement next day in the paper. We did not quite comprehend where the wit of it lay at the time; nor was it easy to be detected, when the thing came out, advantaged by type and letterpress. He had better have met any thing that morning than a Common Council Man. His ser
vices were shortly after dispensed with, on the plea that his paragraphs of late had been deficient in point. The one in question, it must be owned, had an air, in the opening especially, proper to awaken curiosity; and the sentiment, or moral, wears the aspect of humanity and good neighbourly feeling But somehow the conclusion was not judged altogether to answer to the magnificent promise of the premises. We traced our friend's pen afterwards in the “ True Briton," the “Star," the “ Traveller,”—from all which he was successively dismissed, the Proprietors having “ further occasion for his services.” Nothing was easier than to detect him. When wit failed, or topics ran low, there constantly appeared the following—“ It is not generally known that the three Blue Balls at the Pawnbrokers' shops are the ancient arms of Lombardy. The Lombards were the first money-brokers in Europe." Bob has done more to set the public right on this important point of blazonry, than the whole College of Heralds.
The appointment of a regular wit has long ceased to be a part of the economy of a Morning Paper. Editors find their own jokes, or do as well without them. Parson Este, and Topham, brought up the set custom of “witty paragraphs
» first in the “ World.” Boaden was a reigning paragraphist in his day, and succeeded poor Allen in the Oracle. But, as we said, the fashion of jokes passes away; and it would be difficult to discover in the Biographer of Mrs. Siddons, any traces of that vivacity and fancy which charmed the whole town at the commencement of the present century. Even the