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society for the Relief of ********* *^
because the fervor of his humanity toiled beyond the
formal apprehension, and creeping processes, of his
associates. I shall always consider this distinction as
a patent of nobility in the Elia family !

Do I mention these seeming inconsistencies to
smile at, or upbraid, my unique cousin? Marry,
heaven, and all good manners, and the understanding
that should be between kinsfolk, forbid ! With all
the strangenesses of this strangest of the Elias I
would not have him in one jot or tittle other than he
is ; neither would I barter or exchange my wild kins-
man for the most exact, regular, and every-way con-
sistent kinsman breathing.

In my next, reader, I may perhaps give you some


account of my cousin Bridget if you are not already
surfeited with cousins and take you by the hand, if
you are willing to go with us, on an excursion which
we made a summer or two since, in search of more

Through the green plains of pleasant Hertfordshire.




BRIDGET EUA has been my housekeeper for many
a long year. I have obligations to Bridget, extending
beyond the period of memory. We house together,
old bachelor and maid, in a sort of double singleness ;
with such tolerable comfort, upon the whole, that I,
for one, find in myself no sort of disposition to go out
upon the mountains, with the rash king's offspring, to
bewail my celibacy. We agree pretty well in our
tastes and habits yet so, as " with a difference."
We are generally in harmony, with occasional bicker-
ings as it should be among near relations. Our
sympathies are rather understood, than expressed ;
and once, upon my dissembling a tone in my voice
more kind than ordinary, my cousin burst into tears,
and complained that I was altered. We are both
great readers in different directions. While I am
hanging over (for the thousandth time) some passage
in old Burton, or one of his strange contemporaries,
she is abstracted in some modern tale, or adventure,


whereof our common reading-table is daily fed with
assiduously fresh supplies. Narrative teazes me. I
have little concern in the progress of events. She
must have a story well, ill, or indifferently told
so there be life stirring in it, and plenty of good or
evil accidents. The fluctuations of fortune in fiction
and almost in real life have ceased to interest, or
operate but dully upon me. Out-of-the-way humours
and opinions heads with some diverting twist in
them the oddities of authorship please me most.
My cousin has a native disrelish of any thing that
sounds odd or bizarre. Nothing goes down with her,
that is quaint, irregular, or out of the road of common
sympathy. She " holds Nature more clever." I can
pardon her blindness to the beautiful obliquities of
the Religio Medici ; but she must apologise to me for
certain disrespectful insinuations, which she has been
pleased to throw out latterly, touching the intellec-
tuals of a dear favourite of mine, of the last century
but one the thrice noble, chaste, and virtuous,
but again somewhat fantastical, and original-brain' d,
generous Margaret Newcastle.

It has been the lot of my cousin, oftener perhaps
than I could have wished, to have had for her asso-
ciates and mine, free-thinkers leaders, and disciples,
of novel philosophies and systems ; but she neither
wrangles with, nor accepts, their opinions. That which
was good and venerable to her, when a child, retains


its authority over her mind still. She never juggles
or plays tricks with her understanding.

We are both of us inclined to be a little too posi-
tive ; and I have observed the result of our disputes
to be almost uniformly this that in matters of fact,
dates, and circumstances, it turns out, that I was in
the right, and my cousin in the wrong. But where
we have differed upon moral points ; upon something
proper to be done, or let alone ; whatever heat of
opposition, or steadiness of conviction, I set out with,
I am sure always, in the long run, to be brought over
to her way of thinking.

I must touch upon the foibles of my kinswoman with
a gentle hand, for Bridget does not like to be told of
her faults. She hath an awkward trick (to say no
worse of it) of reading in company : at which times
she will answer yes or 1^0 to a question, without fully
understanding its purport which is provoking, and
derogatory in the highest degree to the dignity of the
putter of the said question. Her presence of mind is
equal to the most pressing trials of life, but will some-
times desert her upon trifling occasions. When the
purpose requires it, and is a thing of moment, she
can speak to it greatly ; but in matters which are not
stuff of the conscience, she hath been known some-
times to let slip a word less seasonably.

Her education in youth was not much attended to ;
and she happily missed all that train of female garni-


ture, which passeth by the name of accomplishments.
She was tumbled early, by accident or design, into a
spacious closet of good old English reading, without
much selection or prohibition, and browsed at will
upon that fair and wholesome pasturage. Had I
twenty girls, they should be brought up exactly in this
fashion. I know not whether their chance in wedlock
might not be diminished by it ; but I can answer for
it, that it makes (if the worst come to the worst) most
incomparable old maids.

In a season of distress, she is the truest comforter ;
but in the teazing accidents, and minor perplexities,
which do not call out the will to meet them, she some-
times maketh matters worse by an excess of partici-
pation. If she does not always divide your trouble,
upon the pleasanter occasions of life she is sure always
to treble your satisfaction. She is excellent to be at
a play with, or upon a visit ; but best, when she goes
a journey with you.

We made an excursion together a few summers
since, into Hertfordshire, to beat up the quarters of
some of our less-known relations in that fine corn

The oldest thing I remember is Mackery End ; or
Mackarel End, as it is spelt, perhaps more properly,
in some old maps of Hertfordshire ; a farm-house,
delightfully situated within a gentle walk from Wheat-
hampstead. I can just remember having been there,


on a visit to a great-aunt, when I was a child, under
the care of Bridget ; who, as I have said, is older than
myself by some ten years. I wish that I could throw
into a heap the remainder of our joint existences, that
we might share them in equal division. But that is
impossible. The house was at that time in the occu-
pation of a substantial yeoman, who had married my
grandmother's sister. His name was Gladman. My
grandmother was a Bruton, married to a Field. The
Gladmans and the Brutons are still flourishing in that
part of the county, but the Fields are almost extinct.
More than forty years had elapsed since the visit I
speak of; and, for the greater portion of that period,
we had lost sight of the other two branches also.
Who or what sort of persons inherited Mackery End
kindred or strange folk we were afraid almost to
conjecture, but determined some day to explore.

By somewhat a circuitous route, taking the noble
park at Luton in our way from Saint Alban's, we ar-
rived at the spot of our anxious curiosity about noon.
The sight of the old farm-house, though every trace
of it was effaced from my recollection, affected me
with a pleasure which I had not experienced for
many a year. For though / had forgotten it, we
had never forgotten being there together, and we
had been talking about Mackery End all our lives,
till memory on my part became mocked with a
phantom of itself, and I thought I knew the aspect


of a place, which, when present, O how unlike it
was to that, which I had conjured up so many times
instead of it !

Still the air breathed balmily about it ; the season
was in the " heart of June," and I could say with

the poet,

But thou, that didst appear so fair

To fond imagination,
Dost rival in the light of day

Her delicate creation !

Bridget's was more a waking bliss than mine, for
she easily remembered her old acquaintance again
some altered features, of course, a little grudged at.
At first, indeed, she was ready to disbelieve for joy ;
but the scene soon re-confirmed itself in her affec-
tions and she traversed every out-post of the old
mansion, to the wood-house, the orchard, the place
where the pigeon-house had stood (house and birds
were alike flown) with a breathless impatience of
recognition, which was more pardonable perhaps than
decorous at the age of fifty odd. But Bridget in
some things is behind her years.

The only thing left was to get into the house
and that was a difficulty which to me singly would
have been insurmountable ; for I am terribly shy in
making myself known to strangers and out-of-date
kinsfolk. Love, stronger than scruple, winged my
cousin in without me ; but she soon returned with a
creature that might have sat to a sculptor for the


image of Welcome. It was the youngest of the
Gladmans ; who, by marriage with a Bruton, had be-
come mistress of the old mansion. A comely brood
are the Brutons. Six of them, females, were noted
as the handsomest young women in the county.
But this adopted Bruton, in my mind, was better
than they all more comely. She was born too
late to have remembered me. She just recollected
in early life to have had her cousin Bridget once
pointed out to her, climbing a style. But the name
of kindred, and of cousinship, was enough. Those
slender ties, that prove slight as gossamer in the
rending atmosphere of a metropolis, bind faster, as
we found it, in hearty, homely, loving Hertfordshire.
In five minutes we were as thoroughly acquainted as
if we had been born and bred up together; were
familiar, even to the calling each other by our Chris-
tian names. So Christians should call one another.
To have seen Bridget, and her it was like the
meeting of the two scriptural cousins ! There was
a grace and dignity, an amplitude of form and stat-
ure, answering to her mind, in this farmer's wife,
which would have shined in a palace or so we
thought it. We were made welcome by husband
and wife equally we, and our friend that was with
us. I had almost forgotten him but B. F. will
not so soon forget that meeting, if peradventure he
shall read this on the far distant shores where the


Kangaroo haunts. The fatted calf was made ready,
or rather was already so, as if in anticipation of our
coming; and, after an appropriate glass of native
wine, never let me forget with what honest pride this
hospitable cousin made us proceed to Wheathamp-
stead, to introduce us (as some new-found rarity) to
her mother and sister Gladmans, who did indeed
know something more of us, at a time when she al-
most knew nothing. With what corresponding kind-
ness we were received by them also how Bridget's
memory, exalted by the occasion, warmed into a
thousand half-obliterated recollections of things and
persons, to my utter astonishment, and her own
and to the astoundment of B. F. who sat by, almost
the only thing that was not a cousin there, old
effaced images of more than half- forgotten names
and circumstances still crowding back upon her, as
words written in lemon come out upon exposure to
a friendly warmth, when I forget all this, then may
my country cousins forget me ; and Bridget no more
remember, that in the days of weakling infancy I
was her tender charge as I have been her care
in foolish manhood since in those pretty pastoral
walks, long ago, about Mackery End, in Hertford-


IN comparing modern with ancient manners, we are
pleased to compliment ourselves upon the point of
gallantry; a certain obsequiousness, or deferential
respect, which we are supposed to pay to females,
as females.

I shall believe that this principle actuates our con-
duct, when I can forget, that in the nineteenth century
of the era from which we date our civility, we are but
just beginning to leave off the very frequent practice
of whipping females in public, in common with the
coarsest male offenders.

I shall believe it to be influential, when I can shut
my eyes to the fact, that in England women are still
occasionally hanged.

I shall believe in it, when actresses are no longer
subject to be hissed off a stage by gentlemen.

I shall believe in it, when Dorimant hands a fish-
wife across the kennel ; or assists the apple-woman
to pick up her wandering fruit, which some unlucky
dray has just dissipated.


I shall believe in it, when the Dorimants in humbler
life, who would be thought in their way notable adepts
in this refinement, shall act upon it in places where
they are not known, or think themselves not observed
when I shall see the traveller for some rich trades-
man part with his admired box-coat, to spread it over
the defenceless shoulders of the poor woman, who is
passing to her parish on the roof of the same stage-
coach with him, drenched in the rain when I shall
no longer see a woman standing up in the pit of a
London theatre, till she is sick and faint with the
exertion, with men about her, seated at their ease,
and jeering at her distress ; till one, that seems to
have more manners or conscience than the rest, signi-
ficantly declares " she should be welcome to his seat,
if she were a little younger and handsomer." Place
this dapper ware- houseman, or that rider, in a circle
of their own female acquaintance, and you shall con-
fess you have not seen a politer-bred man in Lothbury.

Lastly, I shall begin to believe that there is some
such principle influencing our conduct, when more
than one- half of the drudgery and coarse servitude of
the world shall cease to be performed by women.

Until that day comes, I shall never believe this
boasted point to be any thing more than a conven-
tional fiction ; a pageant got up between the sexes, in
a certain rank, and at a certain time of life, in which
both find their account equally.


I shall be even disposed to rank it among the salu-
tary fictions of life, when in polite circles I shall see
the same attentions paid to age as to youth, to homely
features as to handsome, to coarse complexions as to
clear to the woman, as she is a woman, not as she
is a beauty, a fortune, or a title.

I shall believe it to be something more than a name,
when a well-dressed gentleman in a well-dressed com-
pany can advert to the topic of female old age without
exciting, and intending to excite, a sneer : when
the phrases " antiquated virginity," and such a one
has "overstood her market," pronounced in good
company, shall raise immediate offence in man, or
woman, that shall hear them spoken.

Joseph Paice, of Bread-street-hill, merchant, and
one of the Directors of the South-Sea company the
same to whom Edwards, the Shakspeare commentator,
has addressed a fine sonnet was the only pattern of
consistent gallantry I have met with. He took me
under his shelter at an early age, and bestowed some
pains upon me. I owe to his precepts and example
whatever there is of the man of business (and that is
not much) in my composition. It was not his fault
that I did not profit more. Though bred a Presby-
terian, and brought up a merchant, he was the finest
gentleman of his time. He had not one system of
attention to females in the drawing-room, and another
in the shop, or at the stall. I do not mean that he


made no distinction. But he never lost sight of
sex, or overlooked it in the casualties of a disad-
vantageous situation. I have seen him stand bare-
headed smile if you please to a poor servant
girl, while she has been inquiring of him the way to
some street in such a posture of unforced civility,
as neither to embarrass her in the acceptance, nor
himself in the offer, of it. He was no dangler, in the
common acceptation of the word, after women : but
he reverenced and upheld, in every form in which it
came before him, womanhood. I have seen him
nay, smile not tenderly escorting a market-woman,
whom he had encountered in a shower, exalting his
umbrella over her poor basket of fruit, that it might
receive no damage, with as much carefulness as if she
had been a Countess. To the reverend form of
Female Eld he would yield the wall (though it were
to an ancient beggar-woman) with more ceremony
than we can afford to show our grandams. He was
the Preux Chevalier of Age ; the Sir Calidore, or Sir
Tristan, to those who have no Calidores or Tristans
to defend them. The roses, that had long faded
thence, still bloomed for him in those withered and
yellow cheeks.

He was never married, but in his youth he paid his
addresses to the beautiful Susan Winstanley old
Winstanley's daughter of Clapton who dying in the
early days of their courtship, confirmed in him the


resolution of perpetual bachelorship. It was during
their short courtship, he told me, that he had been
one day treating his mistress with a profusion of civil
speeches the common gallantries to which kind of
thing she had hitherto manifested no repugnance but
in this instance with no effect. He could not obtain
from her a decent acknowledgment in return. She
rather seemed to resent his compliments. He could
not set it down to caprice, for the lady had always
shown herself above that littleness. When he ven-
tured on the following day, finding her a little better
humoured, to expostulate with her on her coldness of
yesterday, she confessed, with her usual frankness,
that she had no sort of dislike to his attentions ; that
she could even endure some high-flown compliments ;
that a young woman placed in her situation had a
right to expect all sort of civil things said to her ; that
she hoped she could digest a dose of adulation, short
of insincerity, with as little injury to her humility as
most young women : but that a little before he had
commenced his compliments she had overheard
him by accident, in rather rough language, rating a
young woman, who had not brought home his cravats
quite to the appointed time, and she thought to her-
self, " As I am Miss Susan Winstanley, and a young
lady a reputed beauty, and known to be a fortune,
I can have my choice of the finest speeches from
the mouth of this very fine gentleman who is courting


me but if I had been poor Mary Such-a-one (nam-
ing the milliner] , and had failed of bringing home
the cravats to the appointed hour though perhaps
I had sat up half the night to forward them what
sort of compliments should I have received then ?
And my woman's pride came to my assistance ; and I
thought, that if it were only to do me honour, a
female, like myself, might have received handsomer
usage : and I was determined not to accept any fine
speeches, to the compromise of that sex, the belong-
ing to which was after all my strongest claim and title
to them."

I think the lady discovered both generosity, and
a just way of thinking, in this rebuke which she gave
her lover ; and I have sometimes imagined, that the
uncommon strain of courtesy, which through life regu-
lated the actions and behaviour of my friend towards
all of womankind indiscriminately, owed its happy
origin to this seasonable lesson from the lips of his
lamented mistress.

I wish the whole female world would entertain the
same notion of these things that Miss Winstanley
showed. Then we should see something of the spirit
of consistent gallantry ; and no longer witness the
anomaly of the same man a pattern of true polite-
ness to a wife of cold contempt, or rudeness, to a
sister the idolater of his female mistress the dis-
parager and despiser of his no less female aunt, or


unfortunate still female maiden cousin. Just so
much respect as a woman derogates from her own sex,
in whatever condition placed her handmaid, or de-
pendent she deserves to have diminished from
herself on that score ; and probably will feel the dimi-
nution, when youth, and beauty, and advantages, not
inseparable from sex, shall lose of their attraction.
What a woman should demand of a man in courtship,
or after it, is first respect for her as she is a woman ;
and next to that to be respected by him above
all other women. But let her stand upon her female
character as upon a foundation ; and let the attentions,
incident to individual preference, be so many pretty
additaments and ornaments as many, and as fanci-
ful, as you please to that main structure. Let her
first lesson be with sweet Susan Winstanley to
reverence her sex.


I WAS born, and passed the first seven years of my life,
in the Temple. Its church, its halls, its gardens, its
fountain, its river, I had almost said for in those
young years, what was this king of rivers to me but a
stream that watered our pleasant places ? these are
of my oldest recollections. I repeat, to this day, no
verses to myself more frequently, or with kindlier
emotion, than those of Spenser, where he speaks of
this spot.

There when they came, whereas those bricky towers,
The which on Themmes brode aged back doth ride,
Where now the studious lawyers have their bowers,
There whylome wont the Templer knights to bide,
Till they decayd through pride.

Indeed, it is the most elegant spot in the metropolis.
What a transition for a countryman visiting London
for the first time the passing from the crowded
Strand or Fleet-street, by unexpected avenues, into
its magnificent ample squares, its classic green re-
cesses ! What a cheerful, liberal look hath that por-


tion of it, which, from three sides, overlooks the
greater garden : that goodly pile

Of building strong, albeit of Paper hight,
confronting, with massy contrast, the lighter, older,
more fantastically shrouded one, named of Harcourt,
with the cheerful Crown- office Row (place of my
kindly engendure), right opposite the stately stream,
which washes the garden-foot with her yet scarcely
trade-polluted waters, and seems but just weaned from
her Twickenham Naiades ! a man would give some-
thing to have been born in such places. What a col-
legiate aspect has that fine Elizabethan hall, where
the fountain plays, which I have made to rise and fall,
how many times ! to the astound ment of the young
urchins, my contemporaries, who, not being able to
guess at its recondite machinery, were almost tempted
to hail the wondrous work as magic ! What an an-
tique air had the now almost effaced sun-dials, with
their moral inscriptions, seeming coevals with that
Time which they measured, and to take their revela-
tions of its flight immediately from heaven, holding
correspondence with the fountain of light ! How
would the dark line steal imperceptibly on, watched
by the eye of childhood, eager to detect its movement,
never catched, nice as an evanescent cloud, or the
first arrests of sleep !

Ah ! yet doth beauty like a dial-hand

Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived!


What a dead thing is a clock, with its ponderous
embowelments of lead and brass, its pert or solemn
dulness of communication, compared with the simple
altar-like structure, and silent heart-language of the
old dial ! It stood as the garden god of Christian
gardens. Why is it almost every where vanished ? If
its business-use be superseded by more elaborate in-
ventions, its moral uses, its beauty, might have pleaded
for its continuance. It spoke of moderate labours,
of pleasures not protracted after sun-set, of temper-
ance, and good-hours. It was the primitive clock,
the horologe of the first world. Adam could scarce
have missed it in Paradise. It was the measure ap-
propriate for sweet plants and flowers to spring by,
for the birds to apportion their silver warblings by,
for flocks to pasture and be led to fold by. The
shepherd " carved it out quaintly in the sun ; " and,
turning philosopher by the very occupation, provided
it with mottos more touching than tombstones. It
was a pretty device of the gardener, recorded by Mar-
veil, who, in the days of artificial gardening, made a
dial out of herbs and flowers. I must quote his
verses a little higher up, for they are full, as all his

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays → online text (page 10 of 32)