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It was but with that dawning morn
I AGREE with the poet in the praise he has bestowed on the welcome of an inn. Appear at one in the garb of a gentleman, and with the purse of a prodigal ; obsequious ceremony bows to you down to the ground, as my lord of the King's Arms, anticipating attention, removes your wants in the form of humble servility, and you see smiling invitation in the bright face of my lord's lady. But where, in this cold world, can you be more at ease than in a news-room? Enter one in November, you are cheered with the curling blaze of Wigan ; in the dog-days, you have an airy and spacious apartment, where your spleen may evaporate in denouncing heat. If inclined to know how the world is moving, you may abstract mind from your own centre, and travel to the poles. Should you be in a humour to indulge reflections on eye and ear views, there is generally, in a news-room, fertility without disappointment. In short, you may study character by fixing sight on the door, and judge of manner and feeling by what you hear.
It has been frequently observed, that a strong feature of every man's mind appears when he enters a room. This may be doubted, as dancingmasters have shaded the physiognomy of manner with sameness, so that we can no more distinguish a difference in systematized bows, than in the handwriting of boarding-school misses. Let a young lady, however, be quite at ease, and she forgets the curves of her writing-master in sweet contemplation of herself; so, when we enter a news-room, being quite unguarded, like Dante's cat, we drop the light of education, and show the cloven foot of nature;
therefore, phrenological properties may be looked for occasionally in penmanship, and generally with successful certainty at the door of a news-room.
When I see a man, on his entrance or exit, assume a self-sufficient air, crash the door behind him without feeling for its hinges, and dash in or out with the importance of somebody, I enter him in the tablet of my observation as a character willing to make a noise in the world, and anxious to be thought a person of consequence, of which there is doubt in his own mind. If, on the contrary, I see awkward hesitation in the address of a stranger at the door; if I observe that he is afraid to use a privilege which, at the same time, he knows belongs to him, I book that man as acting, not from a feeling of modesty, but from something in himself of which he is ashamed. Between these two extremes lie all the shades of character. You may detect vanity in turning at the door ; pride, in a haughty condescending nod when entering; humility, in a noiseless approach ; modesty, in an evident care not to disturb others; impudence, in a rattling careless manner; and the perfect gentleman in that happy medium which at once commands your respect and approbation.
In like manner, character may be scanned by what you
hear in a news-room. See that grave gentleman in black, how earnestly he pores on the page before him! His lips move as he gulps down the political feast, and ever and anon you hear a smack: “ I perfectly agree with that”—“ It meets my entire approbation”—“A most excellent plan, indeed !" with many other phrases of general complacency. What do you think of this approving reader ? I suspect, and afterwards find, him to be a neophyte of one of the great party organs, without an idea of his own; he would think himself contaminated by reading the other side of the question. His noddle is completely crammed with prejudice; which, like the cuckoo's egg, dropped into any nest, produces what kicks out every thing but itself.
Next behold that sharp-faced, eagle-nosed, hawkeyed, sprucely dressed personage, who slapped the door to with a bang that made the room bounce; see how he furls his wrinkled brow over a page
common sense; and hear, with what a contemptuous yawn he sneers—“ Downright stuff-nonsense fudge !"
The Lord keep me from such a critic as he would make ! He would act upon me as the sun does upon fire, I should be put out by his blaze; but he would, in the same breath, do that which the sun does not, he would freeze the young buds of my green-house. In short, he is a man bursting with absolute opinion; wise but in conceit, secretly thinking nothing out of himself worth thought.
To be brief, reflect upon the interruptions you hear in a news-room; upon the follies you see in a news-room ; and on the variety that amuses both
you cannot resist my advice to frequent one.
A news-room is now what an ordinary at an inn was four hundred years ago. All ranks mingle together round a table covered with political dishes. The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales does not give a more faithful picture of manners in the
age of Chaucer, than might be drawn from describing character as it appears in a modern reading-room. The nobleman and the grocer; the priest and the