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serious poetry was, of a witty delicacy. They will not
come in awkwardly, I hope, in a talk of fountains and
sun-dials. He is speaking of sweet garden scenes :

What wondrous life in this I lead 1
Ripe apples drop about my head


The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine.
The nectarine, and curious peach,
Into my hands themselves do reach.
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass.
Meanwhile the miud from pleasure less
Withdraws into its happiness.
The mind, that ocean, where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas ;
Annihilating all that 's made
To a green thought in a green shade.
Here at the fountain's sliding foot,
Or at some fruit-tree's mossy root,
Casting the body's vest aside,
My soul into the boughs does glide :
There, like a bird, it sits and sings,
Then whets and claps its silver wings ;
And, till prepared for longer flight,
Waves in its plumes the various light.
How well the skilful gardener drew,
Of flowers and herbs, this dial new !
Where, from above, the milder sun
Does through a fragrant zodiac run :
And, as it works, the industrious bee
Computes its time as well as we.
How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckon'd, but with herbs and flowers ? *

The artificial fountains of the metropolis are, in
like manner, fast vanishing. Most of them are dried
up, or bricked over. Yet, where one is left, as in

* From a copy of verses entitled The Garden.


that little green nook behind the South Sea House,
what a freshness it gives to the dreary pile ! Four
little winged marble boys used to play their virgin
fancies, spouting out ever fresh streams from their
innocent-wanton lips, in the square of Lincoln's-inn,
when I was no bigger than they were figured. They
are gone, and the spring choked up. The fashion,
they tell me, is gone by, and these things are es-
teemed childish. Why not then gratify children, by
letting them stand? Lawyers, I suppose, were chil-
dren once. They are awakening images to them at
least. Why must every thing smack of man, and
mannish ? Is the world all grown up ? Is childhood
dead? Or is there not in the bosoms of the wisest
and the best some of the child's heart left, to respond
to its earliest enchantments ? The figures were gro-
tesque. Are the stiff-wigged living figures, that still
flitter and chatter about that area, less -gothic in ap-
pearance ? or is the splutter of their hot rhetoric one
half so refreshing and innocent as the little cool play-
ful streams those exploded cherubs uttered?

They have lately gothicised the entrance to the
Inner Temple-hall, and the library front, to assimi-
late them, I suppose, to the body of the hall, which
they do not at all resemble. What is become of the
winged horse that stood over the former? a stately
arms ! and who has removed those frescoes of the
Virtues, which Italianized the end of the Paper-


buildings ? my first hint of allegory ! They must
account to me for these things, which I miss so

The terrace is, indeed, left, which we used to call
the parade ; but the traces are passed away of the
footsteps which made its pavement awful ! It is
become common and profane. The old benchers
had it almost sacred to themselves, in the forepart
of the day at least. They might not be sided or
jostled. Their air and dress asserted the parade.
You left wide spaces betwixt you, when you passed
them. We walk on even terms with their successors.
The roguish eye of J 11, ever ready to be deliv-
ered of a jest, almost invites a stranger to vie a re-
partee with it. But what insolent familiar durst have
mated Thomas Coventry ? whose person was a
quadrate, his step massy and elephantine, his face
square as the lion's, his gait peremptory and path-
keeping, indivertible from his way as a moving col-
umn, the scarecrow of his inferiors, the brow-beater
of equals and superiors, who made a solitude of
children wherever he came, for they fled his insuffer-
able presence, as they would have shunned an Elisha
bear. His growl was as thunder in their ears,
whether he spake to them in mirth or in rebuke, his
invitatory notes being, indeed, of all, the most re-
pulsive and horrid. Clouds of snuff, aggravating the
natural terrors of his speech, broke from each ma-


jestic nostril, darkening the air. He took it, not by
pinches, but a palmful at once, diving for it under
the mighty flaps of his old-fashioned waistcoat
pocket ; his waistcoat red and angry, his coat dark
rappee, tinctured by dye original, and by adjuncts,
with buttons of obsolete gold. And so he paced
the terrace.

By his side a milder form was sometimes to be
seen ; the pensive gentility of Samuel Salt. They
were coevals, and had nothing but that and their
benchership in common. In politics Salt was a
whig, and Coventry a staunch tory. Many a sar-
castic growl did the latter cast out for Coventry
had a rough spinous humour at the political con-
federates of his associate, which rebounded from
the gentle bosom of the latter like cannon-balls from
wool. You could not ruffle Samuel Salt.

S. had the reputation of being a very clever man,
and of excellent discernment in the chamber practice
of the law. I suspect his knowledge did not amount
to much. When a case of difficult disposition of
money, testamentary or otherwise, came before him,
he ordinarily handed it over with a few instructions
to his man Lovel, who was a quick little fellow, and
would despatch it out of hand by the light of natural
understanding, of which he had an uncommon share.
It was incredible what repute for talents S. enjoyed
by the mere trick of gravity. He was a shy man;


a child might pose him in a minute indolent and
procrastinating to the last degree. Yet men would
give him credit for vast application in spite of him-
self. He was not to be trusted with himself with
impunity. He never dressed for a dinner-party but
he forgot his sword they wore swords then or
some other necessary part of his equipage. Lovel
had his eye upon him on all these occasions, and
ordinarily gave him his cue. If there was any thing
which he could speak unseasonably, he was sure to
do it. He was to dine at a relative's of the unfor-
tunate Miss Blandy on the day of her execution ;
and L. who had a wary foresight of his probable hal-
lucinations, before he set out, schooled him with
great anxiety not in any possible manner to allude to
her story that day. S. promised faithfully to observe
the injunction. He had not been seated in the par-
lour, where the company was expecting the dinner
summons, four minutes, when, a pause in the conver-
sation ensuing, he got up, looked out of window, and
pulling down his ruffles an ordinary motion with
him observed, "it was a gloomy day," and added,
" Miss Blandy must be hanged by this time, I suppose."
Instances of this sort were perpetual. Yet S. was
thought by some of the greatest men of his time a fit
person to be consulted, not alone in matters pertain-
ing to the law, but in the ordinary niceties and em-
barrassments of conduct from force of manner



entirely. He never laughed. He had the same good
fortune among the female world, was a known toast
with the ladies, and one or two are said to have died
for love of him I suppose, because he never trifled
or talked gallantry with them, or paid them, indeed,
hardly common attentions. He had a fine face and
person, but wanted, methought, the spirit that should
have shown them off with advantage to the women.

His eye lacked lustre. Not so, thought Susan P ;

who, at the advanced age of sixty, was seen, in the
cold evening time, unaccompanied, wetting the pave-
ment of B d Row, with tears that fell in drops

which might be heard, because her friend had died that
day he, whom she had pursued with a hopeless pas-
sion for the last forty years a passion, which years
could not extinguish or abate ; nor the long resolved, yet
gently enforced, puttings off of unrelenting bachelor-
hood dissuade from its cherished purpose. Mild

Susan P , thou hast now thy friend in heaven !

Thomas Coventry was a cadet of the noble family
of that name. He passed his youth in contracted
circumstances, which gave him early those parsimo-
nious habits which in after life never forsook him ; so
that, with one windfall or another, about the time
I knew him he was master of four or five hundred
thousand pounds ; nor did he look, or walk, worth a
moidore less. He lived in a gloomy house opposite
the pump in Serjeant's-inn, Fleet-street. J., the


counsel, is doing self-imposed penance in it, for what
reason I divine not, at this day. C. had an agreeable
seat at North Cray, where he seldom spent above a
day or two at a time in the summer ; but preferred,
during the hot months, standing at his window in this
damp, close, well-like mansion, to watch, as he said,
" the maids drawing water all day long." I suspect
he had his within-door reasons for the preference.
Hie currus et arma fuere. He might think his trea-
sures more safe. His house had the aspect of a strong
box. C. was a close hunks a hoarder rather than
a miser oj, if a miser, none of the mad Elwes breed,
who have brought discredit upon a character, which
cannot exist without certain admirable points of stead-
iness and unity of purpose. One may hate a true
miser, but cannot, I suspect, so easily despise him.
By taking care of the pence, he is often enabled to
part with the pounds, upon a scale that leaves us care-
less generous fellows halting at an immeasurable dis-
tance behind. C. gave away 30,0007. at once in his
life-time to a blind charity. His housekeeping was
severely looked after, but he kept the table of a gen-
tleman. He would know who came in and who went
out of his house, but his kitchen chimney was never
suffered to freeze.

Salt was his opposite in this, as in all never knew
what he was worth in the world ; and having but a
competency for his rank, which his indolent habits


were little calculated to improve, might have suffered
severely if he had not had honest people about him.
Lovel took care of every thing. He was at once his
clerk, his good servant, his dresser, his friend, his
"flapper," his guide, stop-watch, auditor, treasurer.
He did nothing without consulting Lovel, or failed
in any thing without expecting and fearing his admon-
ishing. He put himself almost too much in his hands,
had they not been the purest in the world. He re-
signed his title almost to respect as a master, if L.
could ever have forgotten for a moment that he was a

I knew this Lovel. He was a man of an incorri-
gible and losing honesty. A good fellow withal, and
"would strike." In the cause of the oppressed he
never considered inequalities, or calculated the num-
ber of his opponents. He once wrested a sword
out of the hand of a man of quality that had drawn
upon him ; and pommelled him severely with the hilt
of it. The swordsman had offered insult to a female
an occasion upon which no odds against him could
have prevented the interference of Lovel. He would
stand next day bare-headed to the same person,
modestly to excuse his interference for L. never
forgot rank, where something better was not concerned.
L. was the liveliest little fellow breathing, had a face
as gay as Garrick's, whom he was said greatly to re-
semble (I have a portrait of him which confirms it),


possessed a fine turn for humorous poetry next to
Swift and Prior moulded heads in clay or plaster of
Paris to admiration, by the dint of natural genius
merely; turned cribbage boards, and such small
cabinet toys, to perfection ; took a hand at quadrille
or bowls with equal facility ; made punch better than
any man of his degree in England ; had the merriest
quips and conceits, and was altogether as brimful of
rogueries and inventions as you could desire. He
was a brother of the angle, moreover, and just such a
free, hearty, honest companion as Mr. Isaac Walton
would have chosen to go a fishing with. I saw him in
his old age and the decay of his faculties, palsy- smitten,
in the last sad stage of human weakness "a remnant
most forlorn of what he was," yet even then his
eye would light up upon the mention of his favourite
Garrick. He was greatest, he would say, in Bayes
" was upon the stage nearly throughout the whole per-
formance, and as busy as a bee." At intervals, too,
he would speak of his former life, and how he came
up a little boy from Lincoln to go to service, and how
his mother cried at parting with him, and how he re-
turned, after some few years' absence, in his smart
new livery to see her, and she blessed herself at the
change, and could hardly be brought to believe that it
was " her own bairn." And then, the excitement sub-
siding, he would weep, till I have wished that sad
second-childhood might have a mother still to lay its


head upon her lap. But the common mother of us
all in no long time after received him gently into hers.
With Coventry, and with Salt, in their walks upon
the terrace, most commonly Peter Pierson would join,
to make up a third. They did not walk linked arm in
arm in those days "as now our stout triumvirs
sweep the streets," but generally with both hands
folded behind them for state, or with one at least
behind, the other carrying a cane. P. was a benevo-
lent, but not a prepossessing man. He had that in
his face which you could not term unhappiness; it
rather implied an incapacity of being happy. His
cheeks were colourless, even to whiteness. His look
was uninviting, resembling (but without his sourness)
that of our great philanthropist. I know that he did
good acts, but I could never make out what he was.
Contemporary with these, but subordinate, was Daines
Barrington another oddity he walked burly and
square in imitation, I think, of Coventry howbeit
he attained not to the dignity of his prototype. Never-
theless, he did pretty well, upon the strength of being
a tolerable antiquarian, and having a brother a bishop.
When the account of his year's treasurership came to
be audited, the following singular charge was unani-
mously disallowed by the bench : " Item, disbursed
Mr. Allen, the gardener, twenty shillings, for stuff to
poison the sparrows, by my orders." Next to him
was old Barton a jolly negation, who took upon him


the ordering of the bills of fare for the parliament
chamber, where the benchers dine answering to the
combination rooms at college much to the ease-
ment of his less epicurean brethren. I know nothing
more of him. Then Read, and Twopenny Read,
good-humoured and personable Twopenny, good-
humoured, but thin, and felicitous in jests upon his
own figure. If T. was thin, Wharry was attenuated
and fleeting. Many must remember him (for he was
rather of later date) and his singular gait, which was
performed by three steps and a jump regularly suc-
ceeding. The steps were little efforts, like that of a
child beginning to walk; the jump comparatively
vigorous, as a foot to an inch. Where he learned this
figure, or what occasioned it, I could never discover.
It was neither graceful in itself, nor seemed to answer
the purpose any better than common walking. The
extreme tenuity of his frame, I suspect, set him upon
it. It was a trial of poising. Twopenny would often
rally him upon his leanness, and hail him as Brother
Lusty ; but W. had no relish of a joke. His features
were spiteful. I have heard that he would pinch his
cat's ears extremely, when any thing had offended
him. Jackson the omniscient Jackson he was called
was of this period. He had the reputation of pos-
sessing more multifarious knowledge than any man
of his time. He was the Friar Bacon of the less lit-
erate portion of the Temple. I remember a pleasant


passage, of the cook applying to him, with much
formality of apology, for instructions how to write
down edge bone of beef in his bill of commons. He
was supposed to know, if any man in the world did.
He decided the orthography to be as I have given
it fortifying his authority with such anatomical
reasons as dismissed the manciple (for the time)
learned and happy. Some do spell it yet perversely,
aitch bone, from a fanciful resemblance between its
shape, and that of the aspirate so denominated. I
had almost forgotten Mingay with the iron hand but
he was somewhat later. He had lost his right hand
by some accident, and supplied it with a grappling
hook, which he wielded with a tolerable adroitness.
I detected the substitute, before I was old enough to
reason whether it were artificial or not. I remember
the astonishment it raised in me. He was a blus-
tering, loud-talking person ; and I reconciled the
phenomenon to my ideas as an emblem of power
somewhat like the horns in the forehead of Michael
Angelo's Moses. Baron Maseres, who walks (or did
till very lately) in the costume of the reign of George
the Second, closes my imperfect recollections of the
old benchers of the Inner Temple.

Fantastic forms, whither are ye fled? Or, if the
like of you exist, why exist they no more for me ? Ye
inexplicable, half-understood appearances, why comes
in reason to tear away the preternatural mist, bright


or gloomy, that enshrouded you? Why make ye so
sorry a figure in my relation, who made up to me
to my childish eyes the mythology of the Temple ?
In those days I saw Gods, as " old men covered with
a mantle," walking upon the earth. Let the dreams
of classic idolatry perish, extinct be the fairies and
fairy trumpery of legendary fabling, in the heart of
childhood, there will, for ever, spring up a well of in-
nocent or wholesome superstition the seeds of ex-
aggeration will be busy there, and vital from every-
day forms educing the unknown and the uncommon.
In that little Goshen there will be light, when the
grown world flounders about in the darkness of sense
and materiality. While childhood, and while dreams,
reducing childhood, shall be left, imagination shall not
have spread her holy wings totally to fly the earth.

P. S. I have done injustice to the soft shade of
Samuel Salt. See what it is to trust to imperfect
memory, and the erring notices of childhood ! Yet I
protest I always thought that he had been a bachelor !
This gentleman, R. N. informs me, married young,
and losing his lady in child-bed, within the first year
of their union, fell into a deep melancholy, from the
effects of which, probably, he never thoroughly re-
covered. In what a new light does this place his
rejection (O call it by a gentler name !) of mild
Susan P , unravelling into beauty certain peculiar-


ities of this very shy and retiring character ! Hence-
forth let no one receive the narratives of Elia for true
records ! They are, in truth, but shadows of fact
verisimilitudes, not verities or sitting but upon the
remote edges and outskirts of history. He is no such
honest chronicler as R. N., and would have done
better perhaps to have consulted that gentleman,
before he sent these incondite reminiscences to press.
But the worthy sub-treasurer who respects his old
and his new masters would but have been puzzled
at the indecorous liberties of Elia. The good man
wots not, peradventure, of the license which Maga-
zines have arrived at in this plain-speaking age, or
hardly dreams of their existence beyond the Gentle-
man's his furthest monthly excursions in this nature
having been long confined to the holy ground of
honest Urban' s obituary. May it be long before his
own name shall help to swell those columns of unen-
vied flattery ! Meantime, O ye New Benchers of the
Inner Temple, cherish him kindly, for he is himself
the kindliest of human creatures. Should infirmities
over- take him he is yet in green and vigorous senility
make allowances for them, remembering that " ye
yourselves are old." So may the Winged Horse, your
ancient badge and cognisance, still flourish ! so may
future Hookers and Seldens illustrate your church and
chambers ! so may the sparrows, in default of more
melodious quiristers, unpoisoned hop about your walks !


so may the fresh-coloured and cleanly nursery maid,
who, by leave, airs her playful charge in your stately
gardens, drop her prettiest blushing curtsy as ye pass,
reductive of juvenescent emotion ! so may the youn-
kers of this generation eye you, pacing your stately
terrace, with the same superstitious veneration, with
which the child Elia gazed on the Old Worthies that
solemnized the parade before ye 1


THE custom of saying grace at meals had, probably,
its origin in the early times of the world, and the
hunter-state of man, when dinners were precarious
things, and a full meal was something more than a
common blessing ; when a belly-full was a windfall,
and looked like a special providence. In the shouts
and triumphal songs, with which, after a season of
sharp abstinence, a lucky booty of deer's or goat's
flesh would naturally be ushered home, existed, per-
haps, the germ of the modern grace. It is not
otherwise easy to be understood, why the blessing
of food the act of eating should have had a par-
ticular expression of thanksgiving annexed to it, dis-
tinct from that implied and silent gratitude which
we are expected to enter upon the enjoyment of
the many other various gifts and good things of

I own that I am disposed to say grace upon twenty
other occasions in the course of the day besides my
dinner. I want a form for setting out upon a pleas-
ant walk, for a moonlight ramble, for a friendly


meeting, or a solved problem. Why have we none
for books, those spiritual repasts a grace before
Milton a grace before Shakspeare a devotional
exercise proper to be said before reading the Fairy
Queen? but, the received ritual having prescribed
these forms to the solitary ceremony of manducation,
I shall confine my observations to the experience
which I have had of the grace, properly so called ;
commending my new scheme for extension to a
niche in the grand philosophical, poetical, and per-
chance in part heretical, liturgy, now compiling by
my friend Homo Humanus, for the use of a certain
snug congregation of Utopian Rabelaesian Christians,
no matter where assembled.

The form then of the benediction before eating
has its beauty at a poor man's table, or at the simple
and unprovocative repasts of children. It is here
that the grace becomes exceedingly graceful. The
indigent man, who hardly knows whether he shall
have a meal the next day or not, sits down to his
fare with a present sense of the blessing, which can
be but feebly acted by the rich, into whose minds
the conception of wanting a dinner could never, but
by some extreme theory, have entered. The proper
end of food the animal sustenance is barely con-
templated by them. The poor man's bread is his
daily bread, literally his bread for the day. Their
courses are perennial.


Again, the plainest diet seems the fittest to be
preceded by the grace. That which is least stimula-
tive to appetite, leaves the mind most free for foreign
considerations. A man may feel thankful, heartily
thankful, over a dish of plain mutton with turnips,
and have leisure to reflect upon the ordinance and
institution of eating ; when he shall confess a per-
turbation of mind, inconsistent with the purposes of
the grace, at the presence of venison or turtle.
When I have sate (a rarus hospes) at rich men's
tables, with the savoury soup and messes steaming
up the nostrils, and moistening the lips of the guests
with desire and a distracted choice, I have felt the
introduction of that ceremony to be unseasonable.
With the ravenous orgasm upon you, it seems im-
pertinent to interpose a religious sentiment. It is a
confusion of purpose to mutter out praises from a
mouth that waters. The heats of epicurism put out
the gentle flame of devotion. The incense which
rises round is pagan, and the belly-god intercepts it
for his own. The very excess of the provision be-
yond the needs, takes away all sense of proportion
between the end and means. The giver is veiled by
his gifts. You are startled at the injustice of return-

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays → online text (page 11 of 32)