« PreviousContinue »
all contemporary Authors, and an elogium on the performance just about to be represented. The sentiments in all these are very little varied, nor is it possible they should; and indeed I have often wondered at the great invention of Authors, who have been capable of finding such various phrases to express the same thing.
In like manner I apprehend, some future historian (if any one shall do me the honour of imitat. ing my manner) will, after much scratching his pate, bestow some good wishes on my memory, for having first established these several initial chapters; most of which, like modern prologues, may as properly be prefixed to any other book in this history as to that which they introduce, or indeed to any other history as to this.
But however Authors may suffer by either of these inventions, the reader will find sufficient emolument in the one, as the spectator hath long found in the other.
First, it is well known, that the prologue serves the critic for an opportunity w try his faculty of hissing, and to tune his catcall to the best advantage; by which means, I have known tliose musical instruments so well prepared, that they have been able to play in full concert at the first rising of the curtain.
The same advantages may be drawn from these chapters, in which the critic will be always sure of meeting with something that may serve as a whetstone to his noble spirit; so that he may fall with a more hungry appetite for censure on the history itself. And here his sagacity must make it needless to observe how artfully these chapters are calculated for that excellent purpose; for in these we have always taken care to intersperse somewhat of the sour or acid kind, in order to sharpen and stimulate the said spirit of criticism.
Again, the indolent reader, as well as spectator, finds great advantage from both these; for as they are not obliged either to see the one or read the others, and both the play and the book are thus protracted, by the former they have a quarter of an hour longer allowed them to sit at dinner, and by the latter they have the advantage of beginning to read at the fourth or fifth page instead of the first, a matter by no means of trivial consequence to persons who read books with no other view than to say they have read them, a more general motive to reading than is commonly imagined; and from which not only law books, and good books, but the pages of Homer and Virgil, of Swift and Cervantes, have been often turned over.
Many other are the emoluments which arise from both these, but they are for the most part so obvious, that we shall not at present stay to enumerate them; especially since it occurs to us that the principal merit of both the prologue and the preface is that they be short.
CHAP. II. A whimsical Adventure which befel the 'Squire,
with the distressed Situation of Sophia. We must now convey the reader to Mr. Western's lodgings, which were in Piccadilly, where he was placed by the recommendation of the landlord at the Hercules Pillars at Hyde Park Corner; for at the inn, which was the first he saw on his arrival in town, he placed his horses, and in those lodgings, which were the first he heard of, he deposited himself.
Here wlien Sophia alighted from the hackneycoach, which brought her from the house of lady Bellaston, she desired to retire to the apartment provided for her; to which her father very readily agreed, and whither he attended her himself. A short dialogue, neither very material nor pleasant to relate minutely, then passed between them, in which he pressed her vehemently to give her consent to the marriage with Blifil, who, as he acquainted her, was to be in town in a few days; but instead of complying, she gave a more peremptory and resolute refusal than she had ever done before. This so incensed her father, that after many bitter vows, that he would force her to have him whether she would or no, he departed from her with many hard words and curses, locked the door and put the key into his pocket.
While Sophia was left with no other company than what attend the closest state prisoner, namely, fire and candle, the 'squire sat down to regale himself over a bottle of wine, with his parson and the landlord of the Hercules Pillars, who, as the 'squire said, would make an excellent third man, and could inform them of the news of the town, and how affairs went; for to be sure, says he, he knows a great deal since the horses of many of the quality stand at his house.
In this agreeable society Mr. Western passed that evening and great part of the succeeding day, during which period nothing happened of sufficient consequence to find a place in this history. All this time Sophia passed by herself; for her father swore she should never come out of her chamber alive, unless she first consented to marry Blitil; nor did he ever suffer the door to be unlocked, unless to convey her food, on which occa. sions he always attended himself.
The second morning after his arrival, while he and the parson were at breakfast together on a toast and tankard, he was informed that a gentleman was below to wait on him.
A geneleman!' quoth the 'squire, who the "devil can he be? Do, doctor, go down and see • who 'tis. Mr. Blifil can hardly be come to town yet. ---Go down, do, and know what his business is.' The doctor returned with an account that it was
a very well drest man, and by the ribbon in his hat he took him for an officer of the army; that he said he had some particular business, which he could deliver to none but Mr. Western himself.
“An officer! cries the 'squire, what can any • such fellow have to do with me? If he wants an ‘order for baggage waggons, I am no justice of peace here, nor can I grant a warrant. come up then, if he must speak to me.'
A very genteel man now entered the room; who having made his compliments to the 'squire, and desired the favour of being alone with him, delivered himself as follows:
"Sir, I come to wait upon you by the command “of my lord Fellamar; but with a very different
message from what I suppose you expect, after "what passed the other night.”
'My lord who?' cries the 'squire, 'I never heard the
name o'un.' • His lordship,' said the gentleman, 'is willing to impute every thing to the effect of liquor, and ' the most trifling acknowledgeinent of that kind
will set every thing right; for as he hath the most • violent attachment to your daughter, you, Sir, are
the last person upon earth from whom he would resent an affront; and happy is it for you both ' that he hath given such public demonstrations of ' his courage, as to be able to put up an affair of • this kind, without danger of any imputation on
his honour. All he desires therefore, is, that you ' will before me make some acknowledgement; the
slightest in the world will be sufficient; and he * intends this afternoon to pay his respects to you, ' in order to obtain your leave of visiting the young lady on the footing of a lover.'
• I don't understand much of what you say, Sir,' said the 'squire, “but I suppose, by what you talk * about my daughter, that this is the lord which ' my cousin lady Bellaston mentioned to me, and * said something about his courting my daughter.
· If so be, that how, that be the case--you may
give my service to his lordship, and tell un the 'girl is disposed of already.'
Perhaps, Sir,' said the gentleman, “you are not * sufficiently apprised of the greatness of this offer. "I believe such a person, title, and fortune would • be no where refused.'
* Looke, Sir,' answered the 'squire, “to be very plain, my daughter is bespoke already; but if she was not, I would not marry her to a lord upon any account; I hate all lords; they are a parcel ' of courtiers and Hanoverians, and I will have nothing to do with them.'
Well, Sir,' said the gentleman, “if that is your resolution, the message I am to deliver to you is, that my lord desires the favour of your company * this morning in Hyde Park.'
* You may tell my lord,' answered the 'squire, that I am busy and cannot come. I have enough 'to look after at home, and can't stir abroad on any account.'
· I am sure, Sir,' quoth the other, you are too much a gentleman to send such a message; you will not, I am convinced, have it said of you, that after having affronted a noble peer, you re* fuse him satisfaction. His lordship would have 'been willing, from his great regard to the young
lady, to have made up matters in another way; .but unless he is to look on you as a father, his 'honour will not suffer his putting up such an in' dignity as you must be sensible you offered him.'
I offered him ! cries the 'squire; “it is a d-n'd • lie, I never offered him any thing.'
Upon these words the gentleman returned a very short verbal rebuke, and this he accompanied at the same time with some manual remonstrances, which no sooner reached the ears of Mr. Western, than that worthy 'squire began to caper very briskly about the room, bellowing at the same time with all his might, as if desirous to summon