« PreviousContinue »
friend; not indeed to the company, for, though I made my best bow, they seemed insensible of my approach ; but to the table at which they were sitting Upon my entering the room, I could not avoid feeling a secret veneration, from the solemnity of the scene before me; the members kept a profound silence, each with a pipe in his mouth and a pewter pot in his hand, and with faces that might easily be construed into absolute wisdom. Happy society! thought I to myself, where the members think before they speak, deliver nothing rashly, but convey their thoughts to each other, pregnant with meaning, and matured by reflection.
In this pleasing speculation I continued a full half-hour, expecting each moment that somebody would begin to open his mouth. Every time the pipe was laid down, I expected it was to speak; but it was only to spit. At length, resolving to break the charm myself, and overcome their extreme diffidence, for to this I imputed their silence, I rubbed my hands, and, looking as wise as possible, observed that the nights began to grow a little coolish at this time of the year. This, as it was directed to no one of the company
in particular, none thought himself obliged to answer; wherefore I continued still to rub my hands and look wise. My next effort was addressed to a gentleman who sat next me; to whom I observed that the beer was extremely good; my neighbor made no reply, but by a large puff of tobaccosmoke.
I now began to be uneasy in this dumb society, till one of them a little relieved me by observing, that bread had not risen these three weeks. “Ah !" says another, still keeping the pipe in his mouth,“ that puts me in mind of a pleasant story about that—hem—very well; you must know—but, before I begin—sir, my service to you—where was I ?"
My next club goes by the name of the Harmonical Society; probably from that love of order and friendship which every person commends in institutions of this nature. The landlord was himself founder. The money spent is fourpence each, and they sometimes whip for a double reckoning. To this club few recommendations are requisite except the introductory fourpence and my landlord's good word, which as he gains by it, he never refuses.
We all here talked and behaved as everybody else usually does on his club-night. We discussed the topic of the day, drank each other's healths, snuffed the candles with our fingers, and filled our pipes from the same plate of tobacco. The company saluted each other in the common manner. Mr. Bellows-mender hoped Mr. Curry-comb-maker had not caught cold going home the last club-night; and he returned the compliment by hoping, that young Master Bellowsmender had got well again of the chincough. Dr. Twist told us a story of a parliament-man, with whom he was intimately acquainted; while the bagman, at the same time, was telling a better story of a noble lord, with whom he could do anything. A gentleman in a black wig and leather breeches, at the other end of the table was engaged in a long narrative of the ghost in Cock Lane ;* he had read it in the papers of the day, and was telling it to some that sat next him who could not read. Near him, Mr. Dibbins was disputing on the old subject of religion with a Jew pedler over the table; while the president vainly knocked down Mr. Leathersides for a song. Besides the combination of these voices, which I could hear altogether, and which formed an upper part to the concert, there were several others playing under-parts by themselves, and endeavoring to fasten on some luckless neighbor's ear, who was himself bent upon the same design against some other.
* An impudent imposture of that day, in which it was pretended that a ghost scratched at a bed. Johnson was weak enough to be one of its grave investigators, and Churchill's Ghost was written in derision of it.
We have often heard of the speech of a corporation, and this induced me to transcribe a speech of this club, taken in short-hand, word for word, as it was spoken by every memher of the company. It may be necessary to observe, that the man who told us of the ghost had the loudest voice, and the longest story to tell ; so that his continuing narrative filled every
chasm in the conversation. So, sir, d'ye perceive me, the ghost giving three loud raps at the bed-post”—“Says my lord to me, my dear Smokeum, you know there is no man on the face of the yearth for whom I have so high”—“A false heretical opinion of all sound doctrine and good learning; for I'll tell it aloud and spare not, that”—“Silence for a song; Mr. Leathersides for a song”—“As I was walking upon the highway, I met a
—“Then what brings you here ?' said the parson to the ghost”—“Sanconiathon, Manetho, and Berosus” “ The whole way from Islington turnpike to Dog-house bar" -“As for Abel Drugger, sir, he's low in it; my 'prentice boy has more of the gentleman than he'*_“For murder will out one time or another; and none but a ghost, you know, gentlemen, can"_" For my friend, whom you know, gentlemen, and who is a parliament-man, a man of consequence, a dear honest creature, to be sure; we were laughing last night at”—“ Upon all his posterity, by simply, barely tasting”
Sour grapes, as the fox said once when he could not reach them; and I'll, I'll tell you a story about that, that will make you burst your sides with laughing. A fox once"“Will nobody listen to the song ?"_" As I was walking upon
* A compliment to Goldsmith's friend, Garrick, in the part of Abel Drugger, which was a very low one.
the highway, I met a young damsel both buxom and gay", “No ghost, gentlemen, can be murdered; nor did I ever hear of but one ghost killed in all my life, and that was
-" “ Soul if I don't”—“ Mr. Bellows-mender, I have the honor of drinking your very good health”—“ Fire"“ Whizz"'_“ Blid”—“ Tit”—“ Rat”—“ Trip”-the rest all riot, nonsense, and rapid confusion.
Were I to be angry at men for being fools (concludes Goldsmith, with touching pleasantry), I could here find ample room for declamation ; but, alas ! I have been a fool myself, and why should I be angry with them for being something so natural to every child of humanity?
Conut Fathom's Adventure in the Lour Cottage.
The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom is one of those rare works of genius, in a very unusual sense of the epithet, which a reader of a well-constituted mind is at a loss whether to admire or to dislike. It is a history of such elaborate and unmitigated rascality, that one is surprised how the author's imagination could have consented to keep such a scoundrel company for so long a period. But there is one scene in it, which by universal consent is a masterpiece of interest; a mixture of the terrible and the probable that has often since been emulated, but never surpassed. It is to real life what the fragment of Sir Bertrand is to the ideal; and the writing is as fine as the conception. Smollett takes a delight in showing that the powers of his pen are equal to the most formidable occasions. He rejoices in “piling up an agony,” especially on a victim not so courageous as himself; and by a principle of extremes meeting, a mischievous sarcasm, and strokes of humor itself, contribute to aggravate and envenom the impression of terror.
FATHOM departed from the village that same afternoon
under the auspices of his conductor, and found himself benighted in the midst of a forest, far from the habitations
The darkness of the night, the silence and solitude of the place, the indistinct images of the trees that appeared