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Chinese artist, unconscious of their symbol, or as profanely slighting their true application as the arrantest Ephesian journeyman that turned out those little shrines for the goddess) exchange them for little bits of leather (our ancestors' money) or chalk and a slate!”—
The old lady, with a smile, confessed the soundness of my logic; and to her approbation of my arguments on her favourite topic that evening, I have always fancied myself indebted for the legacy of a curious cribbage-board, made of the finest Sienna marble, which her maternal uncle (old Walter Plumer, whom I have elsewhere celebrated) brought with him from Florence :--this, and a trifle of five hundred pounds, came to me at her death.
The former bequest (which I do not least value) I have kept with religious care; though she herself, to confess a truth, was never greatly taken with cribbage. It was an essentially vulgar game, 1 have heard her say,—disputing with her uncle, who was very partial to it. She could never heartily bring her mouth to pronounce "go"—or - that's a go." She called it an ungrammatical game. The pegging teased her. I once knew her to forfeit a rubber (a five dollar stake), because she would not take advantage of the turn-up knave, which would have given it her, but which she must have claimed by the disgraceful tenure of declaring “ two for his heels." There is something extremely genteel in this sort of self-denial. Sarah Battle was a gentlewoman born. ; .
Piquet she held the best game at the cards for two persons, though she would ridicule the pedantry of the terms—such as pique—repique--the capot-othey savoured (she thought) of affectation. But games for two, or even three, she never greatly cared for. She loved the quadrate, or square. She would argue thus :—Cards are warfare : the ends are gain, with glory. But cards are war, in disguise of a sport : when single adversaries encounter, the ends proposed are too palpable. By themselves, it is too close a fight; with spectators, it is not much bettered. No looker-on can be interested, except for a bet, and then it is a mere affair of money; he cares not for your luck sympathetically, or for your play.Three are still worse ; a mere naked war of every man against every man, as in cribbage, without league or alliance; or a rotation of petty and contradictory interests, a succession of heartless leagues, and not much more hearty infractions of them, as in tradille.—But in square games (she meant whist) all that is possible to be attained in card-playing is accom
plished. There are the incentives of profit with honour, common to every species—though the latter can be but very imperfectly enjoyed in those other games, where the spectator is only feebly a participator. But the parties in whist are spectators and principals too. They are a theatre to themselves, and a looker-on is not wanted. He is rather worse than nothing, and an impertinence. Whist abhors neutrality, or interests beyond its sphere. You glory in some surprising stroke of skill or fortune, not because a cold—or even an interested—by-stander witnesses it, but because your partner sympathises in the contingency. You win for two. You triumph for two. Two are exalted. Two again are mortified; which divides their disgrace, as the conjunction doubles (by taking off the invidiousness) your glories. Two loosing to two are better reconciled, than one to one in that close butchery. The hostile feeling is weakened by multiplying the channels. War becomes a civil game.—By such reasonings as these the old lady was accustomed to defend her favourite pastime. ,
. . No inducement could ever prevail upon her to play at any game, where chance entered into the composition, for nothing. Chance, she would argue—and here again, admire the subtlety of her conclusion !—chance is nothing, but where something else depends upon it. It is obvious, that cannot be glory. What rational cause of exultation could it give to a man to turn up size ace a hundred times together by himself ? or before spectators, where no stake was depending ?—Make a lottery of a hundred thousand tickets with but one fortunate number—and what possible principle of our nature, except stupid wonderment, could it gratify to gain that number as many times successively, without a prize?—Therefore she disliked the mixture of chance in backgammon, where it was not played for money. She called it foolish, and those people idiots, who were taken with a lucky hit under such circumstances. Games of pure skill were as little to her fancy. Played for a stake, they were a mere system of over-reaching. Played for glory, they were a mere setting of one man's wit,—his memory, or combination-faculty rather—against another's; like a mock-engagement at a review, bloodless and profitless. — She could not conceive a game wanting the spritely infusion of chance, the handsome excuses of good fortune. Two people playing at chess in a corner of a room, whilst whist was stirring in the centre, would inspire her with insufferable horror and ennui. Those well-cut siimilitudes of Castles, and knights, the imagery of the board, she would argue, (and I think in this case justly) were entirely misplaced and senseless. Those hard head-contests can in no instance ally with the fancy. They reject form and colour. A pencil and dry slate (she used to say), were the proper arena for such combatants.
To those puny objectors against cards, as nurturing the bad passions, she would retort, that man is a gaming animal. He must be always trying to get the better in something or other :that this passion can scarcely be more safely expended than upon a game at cards : that cards are a temporary illusion ; in truth, a mere drama; for we do but play at being mightily concerned, where a few idle shillings are at stake, yet, during the illusion, we are as mightily concerned as those whose stake is crowns and kingdoms. They are a sort of dream-fighting; much ado ; great battling, and little bloodshed; mighty means for disproportioned ends; quite as diverting, and a great deal more innoxious, than many of those more serious games of life, which men play, without esteeming them to be such.
With great deference to the old lady's judgment on these matters, I think I have experienced some moments in my life, when playing at cards for nothing has even been agreeable. When I am in sickness, or not in the best spirits, I sometimes call lor the cards, and play a game at piquet for love with my cousin Bridget—Bridget Elia.
I grant there is something sneaking in it: but with a toothache, or a sprained ankle,—when you are subdued and humble,—you are glad to put up with an inferior spring of action.
There is such a thing in nature, I am convinced, as sickwhist.
I grant it is not the highest style of man—I deprecate the manes of Sarah Battle--she lives not, alas ! to whom I should apologise.—.
* At such times, those terms which my old friend objected to, come in as something admissible.- I love to get a tierce or a quatorze, though they mean nothing. I am subdued to an inferior interest. Those shadows of winning amuse me.
That last game 1 had with my sweet cousin (I capotted her) —(dare I tell thee, how foolish I am?)—I wished it might have lasted for ever, though we gained nothing, and lost nothing, though it was a mere shade of play: I would be content to go on in that idle folly for ever. The pipkin should be ever boiling, that was to prepare the gentle lenitive to my foot, which Bridget was doomed to apply after the game was over: and, as I do not much relish appliances, there it should ever bubble. Bridget and I should be ever playing.
...A CHAPTER ON EARS.
I Have no ear.Mistake me not, reader,nor imagine that I am by nature destitute of those exterior twin appendages, hanging ornaments, and (architecturally speaking) handsome volutes to the human eapital. Better my mother had never borne me.--I am, I think, rather delicately than copiously provided with those conduits ; and I feel no disposition to envy the mule for his plenty, or the mole for her exactness, in those ingenious labyrinthine inletsthose indispensable side-intelligencers.
Neither have I incurred, or done any thing to incur, with Defoe, that hideous disfigurement, which constrained him to draw upon assurance—to feel " quite unabashed," and at ease upon that article. I was never, I thank my stars, in the pillory; nor, if I read them aright, is it within the compass of my destiny, that I ever should be.
When therefore I say that I have no ear, you will understand me to mean—for music. To say that this heart never melted at the concourse of sweet sounds, would be a foul selflibel. "Water parted from the sea" never fails to move it strangely. So does“ In infancy.”. But they were used to be sung at her harpsichord (the old-fashioned instrument in vogue in those days) by a gentlewoman— the gentlest, sure, that ever merited the appellation—the sweetest—why should I hesitate to name Mrs. S--, once the blooming Fanny Weatheral of the Temple-—who had power to thrill the soul of Elia, small imp as he was, even in his long coats; and to make him glow, tremble, and blush with a passion, that not faintly indicated the day-spring of that absorbing sentiment, which was afterwards destined to overwhelm and subdue his nature quite, for Alice W --n.
1 even think that sentimentally I am disposed to harmony.
But organically I am incapable of a tune. I have been practising " God save the King" all my life; whistling and humming of it over to myself in solitary corners; and am not yet arrived, they tell me, within many quavers of it. Yet hath the loyalty of Elia never been impeached..
I am not without suspicion, that I have an undeveloped faculty of music within me. For, thrumming, in my wild way, on my friend A.'s, piano, the other morning, while he was engaged in an adjoining parlour,—on his return he was pleased to say, " he thought it could not be the maid !n On his first surprise at hearing the keys touched in somewhat an airy and masterful way, not dreaming of me, his suspicions had lighted on Jenny. But a grace, snatched from a superior refinement, soon convinced him that some being,—technically perhaps deficient, but higher informed from a principle common to all the fine arts-had swayed the keys to a mood which Jenny, with all her (less-cultivated) enthusiasm, could never have elicited from them. I mention this as a proof of my friend's penetration, and not with any view of disparaging Jenny.
Scientifically I could never be made to understand (yet have I taken some pains) what a note in music is; or how one note should differ from another. Much less in voices can I distinguish a soprano from a tenor. Only sometimes the thorough bass I contrive to guess at, from its being supereminently harsh and disagreeable. I tremble, however, for my misapplication of the simplest terms of that which I disclaim. While I profess my ignorance, I scarce know what to say I am ignorant of. I hate, perhaps, by misnomers. Sostenuto and adagio stand in the like relation of obscurity to me; and Sol, Fa, Mi, Re, is as conjuring as Baralipton.
It is hard to stand alone in an age like this, constituted to the quick and critical perception of all harmonious combinations, I verily believe, beyond all preceding ages, since Jubal stumbled upon the gamut)—to remain, as it were, singly unimpressible to the magic influences of an art, which is said to have such an especial stroke at soothing, elevating, and refining the passions.—Yet, rather than break the candid current of my confessions, I must avow to you, that I have received a great deal more pain than pleasure from this so dried-up faculty.
I am constitutionally susceptible of noises. A carpenter's hammer, in a warm summer noon, will fret me into more than midsummer madness. But those unconnected, unset sounds are nothing to the measured malice of music. The ear is pas