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carefully deposits the change in his waistcoat-pocket (first
deducting a penny for the waiter), and returns to the office,
from which, if it is not foreign post night, he again sallies
forth, in about half an hour. He then walks home, at his
usual pace, to his little back room at Islington, where he
has his tea; perhaps solacing himself during the meal with
the conversation of his landlady's little boy, whom he
occasionally rewards with a penny, for solving problems in
simple addition. Sometimes, there is a letter or two to take
up to his employer's, in Russell-square ; and then, the wealthy
man of business, hearing his voice, calls out from the dining-
parlour, " Come in, Mr. Smith : " and Mr. Smith, putting
his hat at the feet of one of the hall chairs, walks timidly
in, and being condescendingly desired to sit down, carefully
tucks his legs under his chair, and sits at a considerable
distance from the table while he drinks the glass of sherry


which is poured out for him by the eldest boy, and after
drinking which, he backs and slides out of the room, in a
state of nervous agitation from which he does not perfectly
recover, until he finds himself once more in the Islington-
road. Poor, harmless creatures such men are ; contented but
not happy; broken-spirited and humbled, they may feel no
pain, but they never know pleasure.

Compare these men with another class of beings who, like
them, have neither friend nor companion, but whose position
in society is the result of their own choice. These are
generally old fellows with white heads and red faces, addicted
to port wine and Hessian boots, who from, some cause, real
or imaginary generally the former, the excellent reason being
that they are rich, arid their relations poor grow suspicious
of everybody, and do the misanthropical in chambers, taking
great delight in thinking themselves unhappy, and making
everybody they come near, miserable. You may see such
men as these, anywhere; you will know them at coffee-houses
by their discontented exclamations and the luxury of their
dinners ; at theatres, by their always sitting in the same
place and looking with a jaundiced eye on all the young people
near them ; at church, by the pomposity with which they
enter, and the loud tone in which they repeat the responses ;
at parties, by their getting cross at whist and hating music.
An old fellow of this kind will have his chambers splendidly
furnished, and collect books, plate, and pictures about him in
profusion ; not so much for his own gratification, as to be
superior to those who have the desire, but not the means,
to compete with him. He belongs to two or three clubs, and
is envied, and flattered, and hated by the members of them
all. Sometimes he will be appealed to by a poor relation a
married nephew perhaps for some little assistance : and then
he will declaim with honest indignation on the improvidence
of young married people, the worthlessness of a wife, the
insolence of having a family, the atrocity of getting into
debt with a hundred and twenty-five pounds a year, and,


other unpardonable crimes ; winding up his exhortations with
a complacent review of his own conduct, and a delicate
allusion to parochial relief. He dies, some day after dinner,
of apoplexy, having bequeathed his property to a Public
Society, and the Institution erects a tablet to his memory,
expressive of their admiration of his Christian conduct in
this world, and their comfortable conviction of his happiness
in the next.

But, next to our very particular friends, hackney-coachmen,
cabmen and cads, whom we admire in proportion to the
extent of their cool impudence and perfect self-possession, there
is no class of people who amuse us more than London
apprentices. They are no longer an organised body, bound
down by solemn compact to terrify his Majesty"^ subjects
whenever it pleases them to take offence in their heads and
staves in their hands. They are only bound, now, by inden-
tures, and, as to their valour, it is easily restrained by the
wholesome dread of the New Police, and a perspective view
of a damp station-house, terminating in a police-office and a
reprimand. They are still, however, a peculiar class, and not
the less pleasant for being inoffensive. Can any one fail to
have noticed them in the streets on Sunday ? And were
there ever such harmless efforts at the grand and magnificent
as the young fellows display ! We walked down the Strand,
a Sunday or two ago, behind a little group; and they
furnished food for our amusement the whole way. They
had come out of some part of the city ; it was between three
and four o'clock in the afternoon; and they were on their
way to the Park. There were four of them, all arm-in-arm,
with white kid gloves like so many bridegrooms, light trousers
of unprecedented patterns, and coats for which the English
language has yet no name a kind of cross between a great-
coat and a surtout, with the collar of the one, the skirts of
the other, and pockets peculiar to themselves.

Each of the gentlemen carried a thick stick, with a large
tassel at the top, which he occasionally twirled gracefully


round ; and the whole four, by way of looking easy and un-
concerned, were walking with a paralytic swagger irresistibly
ludicrous. One of the party had a watch about the size and
shape of a reasonable Ribstone pippin, jammed into his
waistcoat-pocket, which he carefully compared with the clocks
at St. Clement's and the New Church, the illuminated clock
at Exeter 'Change, the clock of St. Martin's Church, and the
clock of the Horse Guards. When they at last arrived in
St. James's Park, the member of the party who had the
best-made boots on, hired a second chair expressly for his
feet, and flung himself on this two-pennyworth of sylvan
luxury with an air which levelled all distinctions between
Brookes's and Snooks's, Crockford's and Baghigge Wells.

We may smile at such people, but they can never excite
our anger. They are usually on the best terms with them-
selves, and it follows almost as a matter of course, in good
humour with every one about them. Besides, they are always
the faint reflection of higher lights ; and, if they do display
a little occasional foolery in their own proper persons, it
is surely more tolerable than precocious puppyism in the
Quadrant, whiskered dandyism in Regent-street and Pall-mall,
or gallantry in its dotage anywhere.



CHRISTMAS time ! That man must be a misanthrope indeed,
in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused
in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened
by the recurrence of Christmas. There are people who will
tell you that Christmas is not to them what it used to be;
that each succeeding Christmas has found some cherished
hope, or happy prospect, of the year before, dimmed or passed
away ; that the present only serves to remind them of reduced
circumstances and straitened incomes of the feasts they once
bestowed on hollow friends, and of the cold looks that meet
them now, in adversity and misfortune. Never heed such
dismal reminiscences. There are few men who have lived
long enough in the world, who cannot call up such thoughts
any day in the year. Then do not select the merriest of the
three hundred and sixty-five, for your doleful recollections,
but draw your chair nearer the blazing fire fill the glass and
send round the song and if your room be smaller than it
was a dozen years ago, or if your glass be filled with reeking
punch, instead of sparkling wine, put a good face on the
matter, and empty it off-hand, and fill another, and troll off
the old ditty you used to sing, and thank God it's no worse.
Look on the merry faces of your children (if you have any)
as they sit round the fire. One little seat may be empty;
one slight form that gladdened the father's heart, and roused


the mother's pride to look upon, may not be there. Dwell
not upon the past; think not that one short year ago, the
fair child now resolving into dust, sat before you, with the
bloom of health upon its cheek, and the gaiety of infancy in
its joyous eye. Reflect upon your present blessings of which
every man has many not on your past misfortunes, of which
all men have some. Fill your glass again, with a merry face
and contented heart. Our life on it, but your Christmas
shall be merry, and your new year a happy one !

Who can be insensible to the outpourings of good feeling,
and the honest interchange of affectionate attachment, which
abound at this season of the year? A Christmas family-
party ! We know nothing in nature more delightful ! There
seems a magic in the very name of Christmas. Petty
jealousies and discords are forgotten ; social feelings are
awakened, in bosoms to which they have long been strangers ;
father and son, or brother and sister, who have met and
passed with averted gaze, or a look of cold recognition, for
months before, proffer and return the cordial embrace, and
bury their past animosities in their present happiness.
Kindly hearts that have yearned towards each other, but
have been withheld by false notions of pride and self-dignity,
are again reunited, and all is kindness and benevolence !
Would that Christmas lasted the whole year through (as it
ought), and that the prejudices and passions which deform
our better nature, were never called into action among those
to whom they should ever be strangers !

The Christmas family-party that we mean, is not a mere
assemblage of relations, got up at a week or two's notice,
originating this year, having no family precedent in the last,
and not likely to be repeated in the next. No. It is an
annual gathering of all the accessible members of the family,
young or old, rich or poor ; and all the children look forward
to it, for two months beforehand, in a fever of anticipation.
Formerly, it was held at grandpapa's ; but grandpapa getting
old, and grandmamma getting old too, and rather infirm, they


have given up house-keeping, and domesticated themselves
with uncle George ; so, the party always takes place at uncle
George's house, but grandmamma sends in most of the good
things, and grandpapa always will toddle down, all the way
to Newgate-market, to buy the turkey, which he engages a
porter to bring home behind him in triumph, always insisting
on the man's being rewarded with a glass of spirits, over and
above his hire, to drink " a merry Christmas and a happy
new year 1 ' to aunt George. As to grandmamma, she is very
secret and mysterious for two or three days beforehand, but
not sufficiently so, to prevent rumours getting afloat that she
has purchased a beautiful new cap with pink ribbons for each
of the servants, together with sundry books, and pen-knives,
and pencil-cases, for the younger branches ; to say nothing of
divers secret additions to the order originally given by aunt
George at the pastry-cook's, such as another dozen of mince-
pies for the dinner, and a large plum-cake for the children.

On Christmas-eve, grandmamma is always in excellent
spirits, and after employing all the children, during the day,
in stoning the plums, and all that, insists, regularly every
year, on uncle George coming down into the kitchen, taking
off his coat, and stirring the pudding for half an hour or so,
which uncle George good-humouredly does, to the vociferous
delight of the children and servants. The evening concludes
with a glorious game of blind-man's-buff, in an early stage
of which grandpapa takes great care to be caught, in order
that he may have an opportunity of displaying his dexterity.

On the following morning, the old couple, with as many of
the children as the pew will hold, go to church in great state :
leaving aunt George at home dusting decanters and filling
casters, and uncle George carrying bottles into the dining-
parlour, and calling for corkscrews, and getting into every-
body's way.

When the church- party return to lunch, grandpapa produces
a small sprig of mistletoe from his pocket, and tempts the
boys to kiss their little cousins under it a proceeding which


affords both the boys and the old gentleman unlimited satis-
faction, but which rather outrages grandmamma's ideas of
decorum, until grandpapa says, that when he was just thirteen
years and three months old, he kissed grandmamma under a
mistletoe too, on which the children clap their hands, and
laugh very heartily, as do aunt George and uncle George;
and grandmamma looks pleased, and says, with a benevolent
smile, that grandpapa was an impudent young dog, on which
the children laugh very heartily again, and grandpapa more
heartily than any of them.

But all these diversions are nothing to the subsequent excite-
ment when grandmamma in a high cap, and slate-coloured silk
gown ; and grandpapa with a beautifully plaited shirt-frill, and
white neckerchief; seat themselves on one side of the drawing-
room fire, with uncle George's children and little cousins
innumerable, seated in the front, waiting the arrival of the
expected visitors. Suddenly a hackney-coach is heard to stop,
and uncle George, who has been looking out of the window,
exclaims " Here's Jane ! " on which the children rush to the
door, and helter-skelter down-stairs; and uncle Robert and
aunt Jane, and the dear little baby, and the nurse, and the
whole party, are ushered up-stairs amidst tumultuous shouts
of " Oh, my ! " from the children, and frequently repeated
warnings not to hurt baby from the nurse. And grandpapa
takes the child, and grandmamma kisses her daughter, and the
confusion of this first entry has scarcely subsided, when some
other aunts and uncles with more cousins arrive, and the
grown-up cousins flirt with each other, and so do the little
cousins too, for that matter, and nothing is to be heard but
a confused din of talking, laughing, and merriment.

A hesitating double knock at the street-door, heard during
a momentary pause in the conversation, excites a general
inquiry of "Who's that?" and two or three children, who
have been standing at the window, announce in a low voice,
that it's "poor aunt Margaret." Upon which, aunt George
leaves the room to welcome the new-comer ; and grandmamma


draws herself up, rather stiff and stately ; for Margaret married
a poor man without her consent, and poverty not being a
sufficiently weighty punishment for her offence, has been
discarded by her friends, and debarred the society of her
dearest relatives. But Christmas has come round, and the
unkind feelings that have struggled against better dispositions
during the year, have melted away before its genial influence,
like half-formed ice beneath the morning sun. It is not diffi-
cult in a moment of angry feeling for a parent to denounce
a disobedient child ; but, to banish her at a period of general
good-will and hilarity, from the hearth, round which she has
sat on so many anniversaries of the same day, expanding by
slow degrees from infancy to girlhood, and then bursting,
almost imperceptibly, into a woman, is widely different. The
air of conscious rectitude, and cold forgiveness, which the old
lady has assumed, sits ill upon her ; and when the poor girl
is led in by her sister, pale in looks and broken in hope not
from poverty, for that she could bear, but from the con-
sciousness of undeserved neglect, and unmerited unkindness
it is easy to see how much of it is assumed. A momentary
pause succeeds ; the girl breaks suddenly from her sister and
throws herself, sobbing, on her mother's neck. The father
steps hastily forward, and takes her husband's hand. Friends
crowd round to offer their hearty congratulations, and happi-
ness and harmony again prevail.

As to the dinner, it's perfectly delightful nothing goes
wrong, and everybody is in the very best of spirits, and
disposed to please and be pleased. Grandpapa relates a
circumstantial account of the purchase of the turkey, with a
slight digression relative to the purchase of previous turkeys,
on former Christmas-days, which grandmamma corroborates
in the minutest particular. Uncle George tells stories, and
carves poultry, and takes wine, and jokes with the children
at the side-table, and winks at the cousins that are making
love, or being made love to, and exhilarates everybody with
his good humour and hospitality ; and when, at last, a stout


servant staggers in with a gigantic pudding, with a sprig of
holly in the top, there is such a laughing, and shouting, and
clapping of little chubby hands, and kicking up of fat dumpy
legs, as can only be equalled by the applause with which the
astonishing feat of pouring lighted brandy into mince-pies,
is received by the younger visitors. Then the dessert ! and
the wine ! and the fun ! Such beautiful speeches, and such
songs, from aunt Margaret's husband, who turns out to be
such a nice man, and so attentive to grandmamma ! Even
grandpapa not only sings his annual song with unprecedented
vigour, but on being honoured with an unanimous encore,
according to annual custom, actually cornes out with a new
one which nobody but grandmamma ever heard before ; and
a young scape-grace of a cousin, who has been in some dis-
grace with the old people, for certain heinous sins of omission
and commission neglecting to call, and persisting in drinking
Burton Ale astonishes everybody into convulsions of laughter
by volunteering the most extraordinary comic songs that ever
were heard. And thus the evening passes, in a strain of
rational good-will and cheerfulness, doing more to awaken
the sympathies of every member of the party in behalf of his
neighbour, and to perpetuate their good feeling during the
ensuing year, than half the homilies that have ever been
written, by half the Divines that have ever lived.



NEXT to Christmas-day, the most pleasant annual epoch in
existence is the advent of the New Year. There are a lachry-
mose set of people who usher in the New Year with watching
and fasting, as if they were bound to attend as chief mourners
at the obsequies of the old one. Now, we cannot but think
it a great deal more complimentary, both to the old year
that has rolled away, and to the New Year that is just
beginning to dawn upon us, to see the old fellow out, and
the new one in, with gaiety and glee.

There must have been some few occurrences in the past
year to which we can look back, with a smile of cheerful
recollection, if not with a feeling of heartfelt thankfulness.
And we are bound by every rule of justice and equity to
give the New Year credit for being a good one, until he
proves himself unworthy the confidence we repose in him.

This is our view of the matter ; and entertaining it, notwith-
standing our respect for the old year, one of the few remaining
moments of whose existence passes away with every word we
write, here we are, seated by our fireside on this last night
of the old year, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six,
penning this article with as jovial a face as if nothing extra-
ordinary had happened, or was about to happen, to disturb
our good humour.

Hackney-coaches and carriages keep rattling up the street


and down the street in rapid succession, conveying, doubtless,
smartly-dressed coachfuls to crowded parties ; loud and repeated
double knocks at the house with green blinds, opposite,
announce to the whole neighbourhood that there's one large
party in the street at all events ; and we saw through the
window, and through the fog too, till it grew so thick that
we rung for candles, and drew our curtains, pastrycooks' men
with green boxes on their heads, and rout-furniture-warehouse-
carts, with cane seats and French lamps, hurrying to the
numerous houses where an annual festival is held in honour
of the occasion.

We can fancy one of these parties, we think, as well as if
we were duly dress-coated and pumped, and had just been
announced at the drawing-room door.

Take the house with the green blinds for instance. We
know it is a quadrille party, because we saw some men taking
up the front drawing-room carpet while we sat at breakfast
this morning, and if further evidence be required, and we
must tell the truth, we just now saw one of the young ladies
" doing "" another of the young ladies' 1 hair, near one of the
bedroom windows, in an unusual style of splendour, which
nothing else but a quadrille party could possibly justify.

The master of the house with the green blinds is in a public
office ; we know the fact by the cut of his coat, the tie of his
neckcloth, and the self-satisfaction of his gait the very green
blinds themselves have a Somerset House air about them.

Hark ! a cab ! That 1 s a junior clerk in the same office ; a
tidy sort of young man, with a tendency to cold and corns,
who comes in a pair of boots with black cloth fronts, and
brings his shoes in his coat-pocket, which shoes he is at this
very moment putting on in the hall. Now he is announced
by the man in the passage to another man in a blue coat,
who is a disguised messenger from the office.

The man on the first landing precedes him to the drawing-
room door. "Mr. Tupple!" shouts the messenger. "How
are you,' Tupple ? " says the master of the house, advancing


from the fire, before which he has been talking politics and
airing himself. " My dear, this is Mr. Tupple (a courteous
salute from the lady of the house); Tupple, my eldest daughter ;
Julia, my dear, Mr. Tupple ; Tupple, my other daughters ;
my son, sir;" Tupple rubs his hands very hard, and smiles
as if it were all capital fun, and keeps constantly bowing and
turning himself round, till the whole family have been intro-
duced, when he glides into a chair at the corner of the sofa,
and opens a miscellaneous conversation with the young ladies
upon the weather, and the theatres, and the old year, and
the last new murder, and the balloon, and the ladies' sleeves,
and the festivities of the season, and a great many other
topics of small talk.

More double knocks ! what an extensive party ! what an
incessant hum of conversation and general sipping of coffee !
We see Tupple now, in our mind's eye, in the height of his
glory. He has just handed that stout old lady's cup to the
servant ; and now, he dives among the crowd of young men
by the door, to intercept the other servant, and secure the
muffin-plate for the old lady's daughter, before he leaves the
room ; and now, as he passes the sofa on his way back, he
bestows a glance of recognition and patronage upon the young
ladies, as condescending and familiar as if he had known them
from infancy.

Charming person Mr. Tupple perfect ladies' man such a
delightful companion, too ! Laugh ! nobody ever understood
papa's jokes half so well as Mr. Tupple, who laughs himself
into convulsions at every fresh burst of facetiousness. Most
delightful partner ! talks through the whole set ! and although
he does seem at first rather gay and frivolous, so romantic
and with so much feeling ! Quite a love. No great favourite
with the young men, certainly, who sneer at, and affect to
despise him ; but everybody knows that's only envy, and they
needn't give themselves the trouble to depreciate his merits
at any rate, for Ma says he shall be asked to every future
dinner-party, if it's only to talk to people between the courses,


and distract their attention when there's any unexpected delay
in the kitchen.

At supper, Mr. Tupple shows to still greater advantage
than he has done throughout the evening, and when Pa
requests every one to fill their glasses for the purpose of
drinking happiness throughout the year, Mr. Tupple is so
droll : insisting on all the young ladies having their glasses
filled, notwithstanding their repeated assurances that they
never can, by any possibility, think of emptying them : and
subsequently begging permission to say a few words on the
sentiment which has just been uttered by Pa when he
makes one of the most brilliant and poetical speeches that
can possibly be imagined, about the old year and the new
one. After the toast has been drunk, and when the ladies
have retired, Mr. Tupple requests that every gentleman will
do him the favour of filling his glass, for he has a toast to
propose : on which all the gentlemen cry " Hear ! hear ! " and
pass the decanters accordingly : and Mr. Tupple being informed

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 26) → online text (page 21 of 31)