« PreviousContinue »
to be obliged by those who endeavor to oblige me; and therefore, in requital for his kindness, and to set the conversation a-going, I took the best occasion I could to put him upon telling us the story of old Gantlett, which he always does with very particular concern. He traced up his descent on both sides for several generations, describing his diet and manner of life, with his several battles, and particularly the one in which he fell. This Gantlett was a game-cock, upon whose head the knight, in his youth, had won five hundred pounds and lost two thousand. This naturally set the Major upon the account of Edge-hill fight, and ended in a duel of Jack Ogle's.
Old Reptile was extremely attentive to all that was said, though it was the same he had heard every night for these twenty years, and upon all occasions winked upon his nephew to mind what passed.
This may suffice to give the world a taste of our innocent conversation, which we spun out till about ten of the clock,
maid came with a lantern to light me home. I could not but reflect with myself, as I was going out, upon the talkative humor of old men, and the little figure which that part of life makes in one who cannot employ his natural propensity in discourses which would make him venerable. I must own it makes me very melancholy in company when I hear a young man begin a story; and have often observed, that one of a quarter of an hour long in a man of five-andtwenty, gathers circumstances every time he tells it, until it grows into a long Canterbury tale of two hours by the time he is threescore.
The only way of avoiding such a trifling and frivolous old age, is to lay up in our way to it such stores of knowledge and observation as make us useful and agreeable in our declining years. The mind of man in a long life will become a
magazine of wisdom or folly, and will consequently discharge itself in something impertinent or improving. For which reason, as there is nothing more ridiculous than an old trifling story-teller, so there is nothing more venerable than one who has turned his experience to the entertainment and advantage of mankind.
In short, we, who are in the last stage of life, and are apt to indulge ourselves in talk, ought to consider if what we speak be worth being heard, and endeavor to make our discourse like that of Nestor, which Homer compares to the flowing of honey for its sweetness.
I am afraid I shall be thought guilty of this excess I am speaking of, when I cannot conclude without observing, that Milton certainly thought of this passage in Homer, when, in his description of an eloquent spirit, he says
“His tongue dropped manna."*
* We cannot miss the opportunity of adding to this account of the members of the Trumpet Club, that of another associate, whose character is drawn by Steele in a previous number, and is one of the finest that ever proceeded from his pen. It shows his contempt of that absurdest of all the passions of mortality-Pride. The reader will take notice of the exquisite expression“ insolent benevolence ;" and the “very insignificant fellow, but exceeding gracious.”
“ The most remarkable (he says) of the persons whose disturbance arises from Pride, and whom I shall use all possible diligence to cure, are such as are hidden in the appearance of quite contrary habits and dispositions. Among such, I shall in the first place take care of one who is under the most subtle species of pride that I have observed in my whole experience.
“ This patient is a person for whom I have great respect, as being an old courtier and a friend of mine in my youth. The man has but a bare subsistence, just enough to pay his reckoning with us at the Trumpet; but, by having spent the beginning of his life in the hearing of groat men and persons in power, he is always promising to do good GOLDSMITH'S CLUBS.
FROM THE ESSAYS.
THE first club I entered upon coming to town was that of
the Choice Spirits. The name was entirely suited to my taste; I was a lover of mirth, good-humor, and even sometimes of fun, from my
childhood. As no other passport was requisite but the payment of two shillings at the door, I introduced myself without farther ceremony to the members, who were already assembled, and had for some time begun upon business. The grand, with a mallet in his hand, presided at the head of the table. I could not avoid, upon my entrance, making use of all my skill in physiognomy, in order to discover that superiority of genius in men who had taken a title so superior to the rest of mankind. I expected to see the lines of every face marked with strong thinking; but, though I had some skill in this science, I could for my life discover nothing but a pert simper, fat or profound stupidity.
My speculations were soon interrupted by the grand, who offices, to introduce every man he converses with into the world ; will desire one of ten times his substance to let him see him sometimes, and hints to him that he does not forget him. He answers to matters of no consequence with great circumspection; but, however, maintains a general civility in his words and actions, and an insolent benevolence to all whom he has to do with. This he practises with a grave tone and air; and though I am his senior by twelve years, and richer by forty pounds per annum, he had yesterday the impudence to commend me to my face, and tell me 'he should always be ready to encourage me.' In a
rd, he is a very insignificant fellow, but exceeding gracious. The best return I can make him for his favors is to carry him myself to Bedlam, and see him well taken care of.”—Tatler, No. 127.
had knocked down Mr. Spriggins for a song. I was upon this whispered by one of the company who sat next me, that I should now see something touched off to a nicety, for Mr. Spriggins was going to give us Mad Tom in all its glory. Mr. Spriggins endeavored to excuse himself; for, as he was to act a madman and a king, it was impossible to go through the part properly without a crown and chains. His excuses were over-ruled by a great majority, and with much vociferation. The president ordered up the jack-chain ; and, instead of a crown, our performer covered his brows with an inverted jordan. After he had rattled his chain and shook his head, to the great delight of the whole company, he began his song. As I have heard few young fellows offer to sing in company that did not expose themselves, it was no great disappointment to me to find Mr. Spriggins among the number : however, not to seem an odd fish, I rose from my seat in rapture, cried out, “ Bravo! encore !” and slapped the table as loud as any of the rest.
The gentleman who sat next me seemed highly pleased with my taste, and the ardor of my approbation; and, whispering, told me I had suffered an immense loss, for, had I come a few minutes sooner, I might have heard “ Geeho Dobbin" sung in a tip-top manner, by the pimple-nosed spirit at the president's right elbow; but he was evaporated before
As I was expressing my uneasiness at this disappointment, I found the attention of the company employed upon a fat figure, who, with a voice more rough than the Staffordshire giant's, was giving us the “Softly sweet, in Lydian measure," of Alexander's Feast. After a short pause of admiration, to this succeeded a Welsh dialogue, with the humors of Teague and Taffy; after that came on Old Jackson, with a story between every stanza; next was sung the DustCart, and then Solomon's Song. The glass began now to circulate pretty freely; those who were silent when sober would now be heard in their turn; every man had his song, and he saw no reason why he should not be heard as well as any of the rest; one begged to be heard while he gave Death and the Lady in high taste ; another sung to a plate which he kept trundling on the edges; nothing was now heard but singing; voice rose above voice, and the whole became one universal shout, when the landlord came to acquaint the company that the reckoning was drunk out. Rabelais calls the moments in which a reckoning is mentioned, the most melancholy of our lives; never was so much noise so quickly quelled, as by this short but pathetic oration of our landlord. “ Drunk out!" was echoed in a tone of discontent round the table; “ drunk out already! that was very odd ! that so much punch could be drunk out already! impossible !" The landlord, however, seeming resolved not to retreat from his first assurances, the company was dissolved, and a president chosen for the night ensuing.
A friend of mine, to whom I was complaining some time after of the entertainment I have been describing, proposed to bring me to the club that he frequented, which he fancied would suit the gravity of my temper exactly. “We have, at the Muzzy Club,” says he, “no riotous mirth, nor awkward ribaldry, no confusion or bawling, all is conducted with wisdom and decency; besides, some of our members are worth forty thousand pounds, men of prudence and foresight every one of them; these are the proper acquaintance, and to such I will to-night introduce you.” I was charmed at the proposal. To be acquainted with men worth forty thousand pounds, and to talk wisdom the whole night, were offers that threw me into rapture.
At seven o'clock I was accordingly introduced by my