« AnteriorContinuar »
shipped as of yore. The night waned, but our glasses brightened, enriched with the pearls of Grecian story. Our cup-bearer slept in a corner of the room, like another Endymion, in the pale ray of an half-extinguished lamp, and starting up at a fresh summons for a farther supply, he swore it was too late, and was inexorable to entreaty. M- sat with his hat on and with a hectic flush in his face while any hope remained, but as soon as we rose to go, he darted out of the room as quick as lightning, determined not to be the last that went.--I said some time after to the waiter, that “ Mr. Mwas no flincher.”—“ Oh! Sir,” says he, “ you should have known him formerly, when Mr. H— and Mr.' A- used to be here. Now he is quite another man: he seldom stays later than one or two.”“Why, did they keep it up much later then ?"_" Oh! yes; and used to sing catches and all sorts.”—“What, did Mr. M-- sing catches?”—“ He joined chorus, Sir, and was as merry as the best of them. He was always a pleasant gentleman !”—This Hand A- succumbed in the fight. Awas a dry Scotchman, H-- a good-natured, hearty Englishman. I do not mean that the same character applies to all Scotchmen or to all Englishmen He was of the Pipe-Office
(not unfitly appointed), and in his cheerfuller cups would delight to speak of a widow and a bowling-green, that ran in his head to the last. “ What is the good of talking of those things now?" said the man of utility. “ I don't know,” replied the other, quaffing another glass of sparkling ale, and with a lambent fire playing in his eye and round his bald forehead-(he had a head that Sir Joshua would have made something bland and genial of)—“ I don't know, but they were delightful to me at the time, and are still pleasant to talk and think of.” -Such a one, in Touchstone's phrase, is a natural philosopher; and in nine cases out of ten that sort of philosophy is the best! I could enlarge this sketch, such as it is; but to prose on to the end of the chapter might prove less profitable than tedious.
I like very well to sit in a room where there are people talking on subjects I know nothing of, if I am only allowed to sit silent and as a spectator. But I do not much like to join in the conversation, except with people and on subjects to my taste. Sympathy is necessary to society. To look on, a variety of faces, humours, and opinions is sufficient: to mix with others, agreement as well as variety is indispensable. What makes good society? I answer,
in one word, real fellowship. Without a similitude of tastes, acquirements, and pursuits (whatever may be the difference of tempers and characters) there can be no intimacy or even casual intercourse, worth the having. What makes the most agreeable party? A number of people with a number of ideas in common, “yet so as with a difference;" that is, who can put one or more subjects which they have all studied in the greatest variety of entertaining or useful lights. Or in other words, a succession of good things said with good humour, and addressed to the understandings of those who hear them, make the most desirable conversation. Ladies, lovers, beaux, wits, philosophers, the fashionable or the vulgar, are the fittest company for one another. The discourse at Randall's is the best for boxers: that at Long's for lords and loungers. I prefer H- 's conversation almost to any other person's, because, with a familiar range of subjects, he colours with a totally new and sparkling light, reflected from his own character. Elia, the grave and witty, says things not to be surpassed in essence : but the manner is more painful and less a relief to my own thoughts. Some one conceived he could not be an excellent companion, because he was seen walking down the side of the Thames, passibus iniquis, after dining at Richmond. The objection was not valid. I will however admit that the said Elia is the worst company in the world in bad company, if it be granted me that in good company he is nearly the best that can be. He is one of those of whom it may be said, Tell me your company, and I'll tell you your manners. He is the creature of sympathy, and makes good whatever opinion you seem to entertain of him, He cannot outgo the apprehensions of the circle ; and invariably acts up or down to the point of refinement or vulgarity at which they pitch him. He appears to take a pleasure in exaggerating the prejudices of strangers against him; a pride in confirming the prepossessions of friends. In whatever scale of intellect he is placed, he is as lively or as stupid as the rest can be for their lives. If you think him odd and ridiculous, he becomes more and more so every minute, à la folie, till he is a wonder gazed by all—set him against a good wit and a ready apprehension, and he brightens more and more
“ Or like a gate of steel
Its figure and its heat.”
present went away delighted with the elegance of the repast, and spoke in raptures of a servant in green livery and a patent-lamp. I thought myself that the charm of the evening consisted in some talk about Beaumont and Fletcher and the old poets, in which every one took part or interest, and in a consciousness that we could not pay our host a better compliment than in thus alluding to studies in which he excelled, and in praising authors whom he had imitated with feeling and sweetness !-I should think it may be also laid down as a rule on this subject, that to constitute good company a certain proportion of hearers and speakers is requisite. Coleridge makes good company for this reason. He immediately establishes the principle of the division of labour in this respect, wherever he comes. He takes his cue as speaker, and the rest of the party theirs as listeners-a“ Circean herd” — without any previous arrangement having been gone through. I will just add that there can be no good society without perfect freedom from affectation and constraint. If the unreserved communication of feeling or opinion leads to offensive familiarity, it is not well. But it is no better where the absence of offensive remarks arises only from formality and an assumed respectfulness of manner.