Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

don't bite me now. All the house at present seems to me excellently clean.) “ 'Tis absurd to affect this indifference. If you are thin-skinned, and the reptiles bite, they keep you from sleep.”

" There are some men who cry out at a flea-bite as loud as if they were torn by a vulture,” I growl.

"Men of the genus irritabile, my worthy good gentleman ! —and you are one."

“Yes, sir, I am of the profession, as you say ; and I dare say make a great shouting and crying at a small hurt.”

“ You are ashamed of that quality by which you earn your subsistence, and such reputation as you have? Your sensibility is your livelihood, my worthy friend. You feel a pang of pleasure or pain? It is noted in your memory, and some day or other makes its appearance in your man

anuscript. Why, in your last Roundabout rubbish you mention reading your first novel on the day when King George IV. was crowned.

I remember him in his cradle at St. James's, a lovely little babe; a gilt Chinese railing was before him, and I dropped the tear of sensibility as I gazed on the sleeping cherub."

“A tear—a fiddlestick, Mr. STERNE,” I growled out, for of course I knew my friend in the wig and satin breeches to be no other than the notorious, nay, celebrated Mr. Laurence Sterne.

“Does not the sight of a beautiful infant charm and melt you, mon ami ?

If not, I pity you. Yes, he was beautiful. I was in London the year he was born. I used to breakfast at the · Mount Coffee-house.' I did not become the fashion until two years later, when my “Tristram’ made his appearance, who has held his own for a hundred years. By the way, mon bon monsieur, how many authors of your present time will last till the next century? Do you think Brown will?

I laughed with scorn as I lay in my bed (and so did the ghost give a ghastly snigger).

“ Brown !” I roared. “ One of the most overrated men that ever put pen to paper!”

“What do you think of Jones ?”

I grew indignant with this old cynic. “As a reasonable ghost, come out of the other world, you don't mean," I said, “ to ask me a serious opinion of Mr. Jones ? His books may be very good reading for maid-servants and school-boys, but you don't ask me to read them ?• As a scholar yourself you must know that—" “Well, then, Robinson?"

“Robinson, I am told, has merit. I dare say; I never have been able to read his books, and can't, therefore, form any opinion about Mr. Robinson. At least you will allow that I am not speaking in a prejudiced manner about him.'

“Ah! I see you men of letters have your cabals and jealousies, as we had in my time. There was an Irish fellow by the name of Gouldsmith, who used to abuse me ; but he went into no genteel company—and faith! it mattered little, his praise or abuse. I never was more surprised than when I heard that Mr. Irving, an American gentleman of parts and elegance, had wrote the fellow's life. To make a hero of that man, my dear sir, 'twas ridiculous! You followed in the fashion, I hear, and chose to lay a wreath before this queer little idol. Preposterous! A pretty writer, who has turned some neat couplets. Bah! I have no patience with Master Posterity, that has chosen to take up this fellow, and make a hero of him! And there was another gentleman of my time, Mr. Thiefcatcher Fielding, forsooth! a fellow with the strength, and the tastes, and the manners of a porter! What madness has possessed you all to bow before that Calvert Butt of a man ?-a creature without elegance or sensibility! The dog had spirits, certainly. 'I remember my Lord Bathurst praising them : but as for reading his books-ma foi, I would as lief go and dive for tripe in a cellar. The man's vulgarity stifles me. He wafts me whiffs of gin. Tobacco and onions are in his great coarse laugh, which choke me, paridi ; and I don't think much better of the other fellow—the Scots' gallipot purveyor-Peregrine Clinker, Humphrey Random — how did the fellow call his rubbish? Neither of these men had the bel air, the bon ton, the je ne sais quoi. . Pah! If I meet them in my walks by our Stygian river, I give them a wide berth, as that hybrid apothecary fellow would say. An ounce of civet, good apothecary ; horrible, horrible ! The mere thought of the coarseness of those men gives me the chair de poule. Mr. Fielding, especially, has no more sensibility than a butcher in Fleet Market. He takes his heroes out of alehouse kitchens, or worse places still. And this is the person whom Posterity has chosen to honor along with meme! Faith, Monsieur Posterity, you have put me in pretty company, and I see you are no wiser than we were in our time. Mr. Fielding, forsooth! Mr. Tripe and Onions ! Mr. Cowheel and Gin! Thank you for nothing, Monsieur Posterity!”

“And so," thought I, even among these Stygians this envy and quarrelsomeness (if you will permit me the word) survive ? What a pitiful meanness! To be sure, I can understand this

feeling to a certain extent; a sense of justice will prompt it. In my own case, I often feel myself forced to protest against the absurd praises lavished on contemporaries. Yesterday, for instance, Lady Jones was good enough to praise one of my works. Très bien, But in the very next minute she began, with quite as great enthusiasm, to praise Miss Hobson's last romance. My good creature, what is that woman's praise worth who absolutely admires the writings of Miss Hobson ? I offer a friend a bottle of '44 claret, fit for a pontifical supper. “This is capital wine,' says he ; ' and now we have finished the bottle, will you give me a bottle of that ordinaire we drank the other day?' Very well, my good man. You are a good judge-of ordinaire, I dare say. Nothing so provokes my anger, and rouses my sense of justice, as to hear other men undeservedly praised. In a word, if you wish to remain friends with me, don't praise anybody. You tell me that the Venus de' Medici is beautiful, or Jacob Omnium is tall. Que diable! Can't I judge for myself ? Haven't I eyes and a foot-rule ? I don't think the Venus is so handsome, since you press me. She is pretty, but she has no expression. And as for Mr. Omnium, I can see much taller men in a fair for twopence.”

“And so," I said, turning round to Mr. Sterne, "you are actually jealous of Mr. Fielding ? O you men of letters, you men of letters ! Is not the world (your world, I mean) big enough for all of you ?”

I often travel in my sleep. I often of a night find myself walking in my night-gown about the gray streets. It is awkward at first, but somehow nobody makes any remark. I glide along over the ground with my naked feet. The mud does not wet them. The passers-by do not tread on them. I am wafted over the ground, down the stairs, through the doors. This sort of travelling, dear friends, I am sure you have all of you indulged.

Well, on the night in question (and, if you wish to know the precise date, it was the 31st of September last), after having some little conversation with Mr. Sterne in our bedroom, I must have got up, though I protest I don't know how, and come down stairs with him into the coffee-room of the “ Hôtel Dessein,” where the moon was shining, and a cold supper was laid out. I forget what we had—“vol-au-vent d'eufs de Phénixagneau aux pistaches à la Barmécide,”—what matters what we had ?

“ As regards supper this is certain, the less you have of it the better."

That is what one of the guests remarked,-a shabby old man, in a wig, and such a dirty, ragged, disreputable dressinggown that I should have been quite surprised at him, only one never is surprised in dr— under certain circumstances.

“ I can't eat 'em now," said the greasy man (with his false old teeth, I wonder he could eat anything). “I remember Alvanley eating three suppers once at Carlton House-one night de petite comité.

Petit comité, sir," said Mr. Sterne.

“ Dammy, sir, let me tell my own story my own way. I say, one night at Carlton House, playing at blind-hookey with York, Wales, Tom Raikes, Prince Boothby, and Dutch Sam the boxer, Alvanley ate three suppers, and won three-and-twenty hundred pounds in ponies. Never saw a fellow with such an appetite, except Wales in his good time. But he destroyed the finest digestion a man ever had with maraschino, by Jovealways at it."

Try mine," said Mr. Sterne.
“What a doosid queer box,” says Mr. Brummell.

“I had it from a Capuchin friar in this town. The box is but a horn one ; but to the nose of sensibility Araby's perfume is not more delicate."

“I call it doosid stale old rappee,” says Mr. Brummell(as for me I declare I could not smell anything at all in either of the boxes.) “Old boy in smock-frock, take a pinch ?”

The old boy in the smock-frock, as Mr. Brummell called him, was a very old man, with long white beard, wearing not a smockfrock, but a shirt; and he had actually nothing else save a rope round his neck, which hung behind his chair in the queerest way.

"Fair sir," he said, turning to Mr. Brummell," when the Prince of Wales and his father laid siege to our town

“What nonsense are you talking, old cock ?” says Mr. Brummell; “ Wales was never here. His late Majesty George IV. passed through on his way to Hanover. My good man, you don't seem to know what's up at all. What is he talkin' about the siege of Calais ? I lived here fifteen years! Ought to know. What's his old name?”

“I am Master Eustace of Saint Peter's,” said the old gentleman in the shirt. “When my Lord King Edward laid siege to this city-"

“Laid siege to Jericho !” cries Mr. Brummell. " The old man is cracked-cracked, sir !

Laid siege to this city," continued the old man, “I

here: sorry

and five more promised Messire Gautier de Mauny that we would give ourselves up as ransom for the place. And we came before our Lord King Edward, attired as you see, and the fair queen begged our lives out of her

gramercy.” “Queen, nonsense ! you mean the Princess of Walespretty woman, petit nez retroussé, grew monstrous stout ? ” suggested Mr. Brummell

, whose reading was evidently not extensive. “Sir Sidney Smith was a fine fellow, great talker, hook nose, soʻhas Lord Cochrane, so has Lord Wellington. She was very sweet on Sir Sidney."

“Your acquaintance with the history of Calais does not seem to be considerable,” said Mr. Sterne to Mr. Brummell, with a shrug

“ Don't it, bishop?—for I conclude you are a bishop by your wig. I know Calais as well as any man. I lived here for years before I took at confounded consulate at Caen. Lived in this hotel, then at Leleux's. People used to stop here. Good fellows used to ask for George Brummell; Hertford did, so did the Duchess of Devonshire. Not know Calais indeed! That is a good joke. Had many a good dinner

I ever left it.” “My Lord King Edward," chirped the queer old gentleman in the shirt, “colonized the place with his English, after we had yielded it up to him. I have heard tell they kept it for nigh three hundred years, till my Lord de Guise took it from a fair Queen, Mary of blessed memory, a holy woman. Eh, but Sire Gautier of Mauny was a good knight, a valiant captain, gentle and courteous withal ! Do you remember his ransoming the -?

" What is the old fellow twaddlin' about?" cries Brummell. “ He is talking about some knight ? - I never spoke to a knight, and very seldom to a baronet. Firkins, my butterman, was a knight-a knight and alderman. Wales knighted him once on going into the City.”

“ I am not surprised that the gentleman should not understand Messire Eustace of St. Peter's,” said the ghostly individual addressed as Mr. Sterne. “Your reading doubtless has not been very extensive ? "

“Dammy, sir, speak for yourself !” eries Mr. Brummell, testily. “I never professed to be a reading man, but I was as good as my neighbors. Wales wasn't a reading man; York wasn't a reading man; Clarence wasn't a reading man ; Sussex was, but he wasn't a man in society. I remember reading your • Sentimental Journey, old boy: read it to the Duchess at Beau

« AnteriorContinuar »