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their own carriages. They remember the proud exclamation of the Spaniard who fell in crossing his garden-"this comes of walking upon earth,”—and carefully abstain from noticing all such terrestrial animals. They compose friendships as Sir Richard Blackmore did his poems, to the rumbling of their carriage-wheels, and entertain a vague notion of Damon and Pythias, Pylades and Orestes, Æneas and Achates, as gentlemen in easy circumstances, who duly went to call on one another in their own chariots, and scrupulously left cards if either happened to be out. In the third class are those petty dignitaries, who, as a line must be drawn somewhere, openly maintain the double resolution of only visiting where a man-servant is kept, and a shop is not kept. The former is the grand desideratum. It was once the fashion, says the author of the Tale of a Tub, for all the world to wear shoulder-knots! " That fellow has no soul, exclaims one;—where is his shoulder-knot?” Exactly thus do their modern imitators doubt whether a man can possibly possess a soul fit for their sublime notice, unless there be a tag, rag, and bobtail, flapping from his servant's shoulder. That Desdemona should see the Moor's complexion in his mind,” and fall in love with a black, they condemn as unnatural, at the very moment when they are perhaps attaching themselves to a blackguard, because they see a bit of gold lace upon his footman's collar. Last of all come the oi polloi—the canaille-the rabble—the lower orders, as they are termed, whose social intercourse, if not so refined as that of their superiors, is probably more productive of enjoyment by its freedom, unreserve, and exemption from all heart-burning and rivalry. Knowing that “their miseries can never lay them lower,” they exemplify the meeting of extremes, and prove that the only classes who taste the true comforts of fellowship, are the few who are above jealousy, and the many who are beneath it.
Nor is this absurd arrogance by any means peculiar to the country: it exists in full force among the middling classes of London, particularly in the city, where, indeed, the virus of the disease might be expected to manifest itself with peculiar malignity. Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme is there daily enacted with even more farcical pretension than Moliêre would have ventured to delineate; and I have often seen substantial citizens, after laughing heartily in the theatre at the representation of High Life Below Stairs, return home to perform, in their own persons,
very follies which they had ridiculed in their inferiors. Some of your readers, Mr. Editor, may perhaps recollect an awful and august conclave of saltatory civic magnificos, who ycleped themselves the City Assembly, and held their solemn festivities beneath the appropriate roof of Haberdasher's Hall,
Vol. II, No. 8.-1821.
deep in the labyrinth of some lane within lanes, whose name have forgotten. It was the Selectæ è Veteris, or rather the Selectæ è Profanis, of Cheapside and Broad-street: to be a member was the summit of civic ambition, and happy was the mercantile aspirant who could even get a ticket for admission once in the season. Upon the old principle, that to be sociable you must be exclusive, brokers and persons standing behind a counter were, by the rules of the establishment, declared inadmissible, and many a long debate do I remember among these “ potent, grave, and reverend signiors," on the important points, whether certain merchant-brokers of indisputable wealth came within the first exception; and whether bankers, though avowedly within the letter, were embraced by the spirit of the second. As Tyre, Sidon, Palmyra, and Carthage, have been swept away, we cannot so much wonder that the City Assembly, with all its plums, diamonds, lord-mayors, aldermen, gorgeousness, vulgarity, and pride of dunghill aristocracy has ceased to exist; or that its equally dull and narrow-minded rival, the London, has shared its fate. But their spirit survives; even in their ashes live their wonted fires,” and the prostration of mind with which their worthy descendants fall down before any golden calf, would have done honour to the worshippers of Baal. Walking lately with one of these gentry in the City, I was astonished at finding myself suddenly thrust out into the kennel, that we might give the wall to a pompous little porpus, whom my companion saluted with a profound respect. “ That,” said he, drawing himself up with a proud consciousness of the honour he had received in being noticed, “ that is Alderman Calypash; he is worth at least ten thousand a-year.”_“I am glad of it," I replied, “ as but for that circumstance, he would not be worth any thing whatever.” But who shall describe the anxious reverence with which he approached, or the cringing and crawling with which he attempted to win the eye of some high-priest of Mammon, some Cresus of the synagogue, as we elbowed our way through Jews and Gentiles, to get a peep of him upon 'Change. "He is worth a million,” said my informant, as soon as his feelings allowed him to give utterance to the tremendous word. “Be satisfied,” I replied ; “ you are still richer, for you can afford a clean shirt.” Among women, where wealth admits of more obvious manifestation by external signs, it attracts a deference equally unqualified, and I have often amused myself with following an expensively dressed female, and marking the effect of her magnificence upon those whom she encountered. On the faces of the more amiable of her own sex, I have read unaffected admiration of the display, mixed with some shadowings of regret that they could not, by an equally costly style of dress, participate in the happiness which they conceive to be its inevitable concomitant; but it must be confessed that the greater number of countenances expressed an angry scrutiny, that seemed to measure the value, per yard, of every lace and satin, while in the eagerness to depreciate that which they could not hope to rival, I have more than once caught mutterings of the veil is only a net-lace after all;" or "the trimming of the pellisse is nothing but cotton velvet.”
One would have thought it hard enough that the insatiable demands of government should consume so much of our substance, and drink up the very life-springs of our hospitality; and certainly we might as well have had popery at once as the national debt, for it condemns us to as many fast-days without affording us any chance of absolution. It is a mill-stone around the neck of our social system ; it compels us, like Dutch malefactors, to pump ourselves to death, that we may keep our heads above water; it has destroyed more good dinners than the worst cook in Christendom; it squats itself in the middle of our kitchen-grate, like a huge night-mare, and with one hand stops the smoke-jack, while with the other it rakes out the fire; -it compels us to shut the door in the faces of our friends, that we may open them to the tax-gatherer. And yet, as if the bounds of joviality and companionship were not sufficiently circumscribed by this voracious monster, we must voluntarily narrow them still further, by acknowledging the supremacy of a new fiend—the dæmon of Luxury. Enjoyment of our friends' society was formerly considered the rational object of a dinnerparty; but you now invite them that you may exhibit your superior magnificence, and, by exciting their envy anger,
do your best towards converting them into enemies. Sir Balaam's frugal but substantial meals have been long exploded, and the reign of alternate fasts and feasts has been substituted:-servants and horses are half-starved, and friends wholly excluded for a month, that the doors may be thrown open for one day of emulous ostentation. I never sit beside a silver plateau, (too often a compound of meanness and vanity—a showy, but sorry substitute for solid fare) without fancying that I hear the grumbling of the numerous stomachs at whose expense it has been purchased; nor can I be easily brought to acknowledge the wisdom of either giving or receiving one grand dinner where there were formerly five pleasant ones. Here, again, is another pervading cause of the sullenness and unsociability of which we are accused ;-conviviality is exchanged for competitionhospitality, unless it mean to finish its career in the King's Bench, must be frequently niggardly, that it may be occasionally gorgeous ;-and the apple of discord is thrown down upon every table long before the appearance of the dessert. Tomkins ré
fuses to visit Simkins, because the latter gives French wines, which he cannot afford to retaliate ; and Huggins withholds the light of his countenance from Briggs, because he never gives him a second course, although he always provided one for the said Briggs at his own house. Nay, so minute are these balancings and calculations, that they even take cognizance of fractional parts. “Excessively shabby of Mrs. Brown,” I once heard a lady exclaim,“ to give us a dinner of five and seven, when she had two courses of seven and nine at my house, and her party more numerous than mine too." Upon inquiry, I learnt that these accurate numbers had reference to the dishes with which the table was covered. All the infinite combinations of the kaleidoscope are produced by the same few materials; and on peeping into the heart of an Englishman, it will be found that all the disguises, changes, and varieties, of which we have been endeavouring to afford a partial glimpse, are but new modifications of the old element-pride.
Misfortunes never come single. Taxation and luxury had no sooner laid their benumbing hands on our social system, than fashion introduced late dinner-hours; and these, as if to give the death-blow to all that remained of genuine unsophisticated sociability, exploded suppers. Suppers—those unpretending, economical parties which could be often afforded, and yet never seemed to be sufficiently frequent,—those only meals to which women, by their continued presence, imparted a thousand charms, substituting the Muses and the Graces for the worship of Bacchus, uniting decorum with hilarity, compelling their male associates to forego the eternal discussion of politics and business, and condescend, for once, to be unanimous in the determination to be vivacious and happy. Then was it that the song went round, and the hastily prepared dance, doubly delightful because unpremeditated, afforded sufficient gratification to the most resolute votaries of Terpsichore, and yet allowed them to scek their beds in sober time, without injuring their health or encroaching upon their next day's duties. I am old enough to remember when these truly festive entertainments were common as the flowers in May; and vulgar enough to regret the temperate bowl of punch which in many families was duly administered, when the party was not sufficiently numerous to justify more vigorous demonstrations of enjoyment. Routs, ices, and sour negus are miserable substitutes for these noctes cænæque Deúm. They have passed away, and with them has fied the soul of all gallant and hilarious sociality.
Even in our domestic circles we resemble the asymptotical lines, which perpetually approach without ever effecting a complete union. We have little family cordiality after we become old enough to set up a pride of our own. Sons will not marry until they can maintain a separate establishment; they would hold it a degradation to bring their wives under the paternal roof; and as they cannot afford to gratify their anti-social feelings without a considerable independence, many, of course, remain unmarried. Hence the number of profligate young men, and disappointed and unhappy young women inevitably destined to become old maids. In France, the married sons and daughters are frequently collected together in the large old family mansion; and in those patriarchal establishments I have often found a harmony and domestic happiness for which I have looked in vain in the disunited union by which the different branches of an English family are flimsily held together. By the arrangement that prevails abroad, the venerable parents of the society insure solace and protection until they die, in the midst of their descendants; while in England their offspring fly from them one by one, until they are left in the utmost social need of their old age, lonely and desolate. Affection in the one country seems to be centripetal; while with us it is centrifugal. Pride, churlishness, and hauteur, are equally perceptible in our demeanour towards inferiors and domestics, as compared with the frank benignity and condescension which they invariably experience upon the Continent.—“Surely," exclaims some starch personification of cold pride and ignorant prejudice,“ surely you would not recommend familiarity with servants. Familiarity, thou most rigid formalist, is a comparative term. My old schoolmaster used often to tell me that there were many degrees of intermediate solidity between a Westphalia ham and a whip-syllabub; so are there between the familiarity that breeds contempt and that which generates an unreserved but respectful attachment. How often have I seen Italians shrug up their shoulders, and utter exclamations of surprise, when an English barouche passed them, with its broad-shouldered owner lolling at his ease inside, while the lady's maid was tanning in the sun, or biding the pelting of the storm in the dickey outside. Their respect for the sex knows not these paltry distinctions of rank; theirs is the genuine gallantry of feeling; ours is the spurious one of manners and externals. Proofs crowd upon me: but I have occupied enough of your pages, and I feel that I have established my assertion. I have weighed thee, John Bull, in the scale of nations; I have tried thee by a foreign test, and of pride and unsociableness thou art finally convicted.