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days, Maccaronies. He was the last of that race of


beaux. Melancholy as a gib-cat over his counter
all the forenoon, I think I see him, making up his
cash (as they call it) with tremulous fingers, as if he
feared every one about him was a defaulter; in his
hypochondry ready to imagine himself one ; haunted,
at least, with the idea of the possibility of his be-
coming one : his tristful visage clearing up a little
over his roast neck of veal at Anderton's at two
(where his picture still hangs, taken a little before
his death by desire of the master of the coffee-house,
which he had frequented for the last five-and-twenty
years), but not attaining the meridian of its anima-
tion till evening brought on the hour of tea and
visiting. The simultaneous sound of his well-known
rap at the door with the stroke of the clock an-
nouncing six, was a topic of never- failing mirth in
the families which this dear old bachelor gladdened
with his presence. Then was his forte, his glorified
hour ! How would he chirp, and expand, over a muf-
fin ! How would he dilate into secret history ! His
countryman, Pennant himself, in particular, could not
be more eloquent than he in relation to old and new
London the site of old theatres, churches, streets
gone to decay where Rosomond's pond stood the
Mulberry-gardens and the Conduit in Cheap
with many a pleasant anecdote, derived from pater-
nal tradition, of those grotesque figures which Ho-
garth has immortalized in his picture of Noon,


the worthy descendants of those heroic confessors,
who, flying to this country, from the wrath of
Louis the Fourteenth and his dragoons, kept alive
the flame of pure religion in the sheltering obscuri-
ties of Hog- Lane, and the vicinity of the Seven
Dials !

Deputy, under Evans, was Thomas Tame. He
had the air and stoop of a nobleman. You would
have taken him for one, had you met him in one of
the passages leading to Westminster-hall. By stoop,
I mean that gentle bending of the body forwards,
which, in great men, must be supposed to be the
effect of an habitual condescending attention to the
applications of their inferiors. While he held you
in converse, you felt strained to the height in the
colloquy. The conference over, you were at leisure
to smile at the comparative insignificance of the pre-
tensions which had just awed you. His intellect
was of the shallowest order. It did not reach to a
saw or a proverb. His mind was in its original
state of white paper. A sucking babe might have
posed him. What was it then ? Was he rich ? Alas,
no ! Thomas Tame was very poor. Both he and
his wife looked outwardly gentlefolks, when I fear
all was not well at all times within. She had a neat
meagre person, which it was evident she had not
sinned in over-pampering; but in its veins was
noble blood. She traced her descent, by some laby-


rinth of relationship, which I never thoroughly un-
derstood, much less can explain with any heraldic
certainty at this time of day, to the illustrious, but
unfortunate house of Derwentwater. This was the
secret of Thomas's stoop. This was the thought
the sentiment the bright solitary star of your lives,
ye mild and happy pair, which cheered you in
the night of intellect, and in the obscurity of your
station ! This was to you instead of riches, instead
of rank, instead of glittering attainments: and it
was worth them all together. You insulted none
with it; but, while you wore it as a piece of de-
fensive armour only, no insult likewise could reach
you through it. Decus et solamen.

Of quite another stamp was the then accountant,
John Tipp. He neither pretended to high blood,
nor in good truth cared one fig about the matter.
He "thought an accountant the greatest character
in the world, and himself the greatest accountant in
it." Yet John was not without his hobby. The
fiddle relieved his vacant hours. He sang, cer-
tainly, with other notes than to the Orphean lyre.
He did, indeed, scream and scrape most abominably.
His fine suite of official rooms in Threadneedle-
street, which, without any thing very substantial
appended to them, were enough to enlarge a man's
notions of himself that lived in them, (I know not
who is the occupier of them now) resounded fort-


nightly to the notes of a concert of " sweet breasts,"
as our ancestors would have called them, culled
from club-rooms and orchestras chorus singers
first and second violoncellos double basses and
clarionets who ate his cold mutton, and drank his
punch, and praised his ear. He sate like Lord
Midas among them. But at the desk Tipp was
quite another sort of creature. Thence all ideas,
that were purely ornamental, were banished. You
could not speak of any thing romantic without re-
buke. Politics were excluded. A newspaper was
thought too refined and abstracted. The whole
duty of man consisted in writing off dividend war-
rants. The striking of the annual balance in the
company's books (which, perhaps, differed from the
balance of last year in the sum of 25/. is. 6d.) occu-
pied his days and nights for a month previous. Not
that Tipp was blind to the deadness of things (as
they call them in the city) in his beloved house,
or did not sigh for a return of the old stirring days
when South Sea hopes were young (he was indeed
equal to the wielding of any the most intricate ac-
counts of the most flourishing company in these or
those days) : but to a genuine accountant the dif-
ference of proceeds is as nothing. The fractional
farthing is as dear to his heart as the thousands
which stand before it. He is the true actor, who,
whether his part be a prince or a peasant, must act


it with like intensity. With Tipp form was every
thing. His life was formal. His actions seemed
ruled with a ruler. His pen was not less erring
than his heart. He made the best executor, in the
world : he was plagued with incessant executorships
accordingly, which excited his spleen and soothed
his vanity in equal ratios. He would swear (for
Tipp swore) at the little orphans, whose rights he
would guard with a tenacity like the grasp of the
dying hand, that commended their interests to his
protection. With all this there was about him a
sort of timidity (his few enemies used to give it a
worse name) a something which, in reverence to
the dead, we will place, if you please, a little on this
side of the heroic. Nature certainly had been pleased
to endow John Tipp with a sufficient measure of
the principle of self-preservation. There is a cow-
ardice which we do not despise, because it has no-
thing base or treacherous in its elements ; it betrays
itself, not you ; it is mere temperament ; the absence
of the romantic and the enterprising ; it sees a lion
in the way, and will not, with Fortinbras, "greatly
find quarrel in a straw," when some supposed hon-
our is at stake. Tipp never mounted the box of
a stage-coach in his life ; or leaned against the rails
of a balcony ; or walked upon the ridge of a parapet ;
or looked down a precipice ; or let off a gun ; or
went upon a water-party; or would willingly let


you go if he could have helped it : neither was it
recorded of him, that for lucre, or for intimidation,
he ever forsook friend or principle.

Whom next shall we summon from the dusty
dead, in whom common qualities become uncommon?
Can I forget thee, Henry Man, the wit, the polished
man of letters, the author, of the South Sea House?
who never enteredst thy office in a morning, or quit-
tedst it in mid-day (what didst thou in an office ?)
without some quirk that left a sting ! . Thy gibes
and thy jokes are now extinct, or survive but in two
forgotten volumes, which I had the good fortune to
rescue from a stall in Barbican, not three days ago,
and found thee terse, fresh, epigrammatic, as alive.
Thy wit is a little gone by in these fastidious days
thy topics are staled by the " new-born gauds "
of the time : but great thou used to be in Public
Ledgers, and in Chronicles, upon Chatham, and
Shelburne, and Rockingham, and Howe, and Bur-
goyne, and Clinton, and the war which ended in the
tearing from Great Britain her rebellious colonies,
and Keppel, and Wilkes, and Sawbridge, and Bull,
and Dunning, and Pratt, and Richmond, and such
small politics.

A little less facetious, and a great deal more ob-
streperous, was fine rattling, rattleheaded Plumer.
He was descended, not in a right line, reader, (for
his lineal pretensions, like his personal, favoured a


little of the sinister bend) from the Plumers of Hert-
fordshire. So tradition gave him out; and certain
family features not a little sanctioned the opinion.
Certainly old Walter Plumer (his reputed author)
had been a rake in his days, and visited much in
Italy, and had seen the world. He was uncle, bach-
elor-uncle, to the fine old whig still living, who
has represented the county in so many successive
parliaments, and has a fine old mansion near Ware.
Walter flourished in George the Second's days, and
was the same who was summoned before the House
of Commons about a business of franks, with the
old Duchess of Marlborough. You may read of it
in Johnson's Life of Cave. Cave came off cleverly
in that business. It is certain our Plumer did no-
thing to discountenance the rumor. He rather
seemed pleased whenever it was, with all gentle-
ness, insinuated. But, besides his family preten-
sions, Plumer was an engaging fellow, and sang glo-

Not so sweetly sang Plumer as thou sangest, mild,

child-like, pastoral M ; a flute's breathing less

divinely whispering than thy Arcadian melodies,
when, in tones worthy of Arden, thou didst chant
that song sung by Amiens to the banished Duke,
who proclaims the winter wind more lenient than
for a man to be ungrateful. Thy sire was old
surly M , the unapproachable churchwarden ot


Bishopsgate. He knew not what he did, when he
begat thee, like spring, gentle offspring of bluster-
ing winter : only unfortunate in thy ending, which
should have been mild, conciliatory, swan-like.

Much remains to sing. Many fantastic shapes
rise up, but they must be mine in private : already
I have fooled the reader to the top of his bent ;
else could I omit that strange creature Woollett,
who existed in trying the question, and bought liti-
gations? and still stranger, inimitable, solemn
Hep worth, from whose gravity Newton might have
deduced the law of gravitation. How profoundly
would he nib a pen with what deliberation would
he wet a wafer !

But it is time to close night's wheels are rattling
fast over me it is proper to have done with this
solemn mockery.

Reader, what if I have been playing with thee
all this while peradventure the very names, which
I have summoned up before thee, are fantastic
insubstantial like Henry Pimpernel, and old John
Naps of Greece :

Be satisfied that something answering to them has
had a being. Their importance is from the past.


CASTING a preparatory glance at the bottom of this
article as the wary connoisseur in prints, with
cursory eye (which, while it reads, seems as though
it read not,) never fails to consult the quis sculpsit
in the corner, before he pronounces some rare piece

to be a Vivares, or a Woollet methinks I hear

you exclaim, Reader, Who is Elia ?

Because in my last I tried to divert thee with
some half-forgotten humours of some old clerks de-
funct, in an old house of business, long since gone
to decay, doubtless you have already set me down

in your mind as one of the self-same college a

votary of the desk a notched and cropt scrivener
one that sucks his sustenance, as certain sick peo-
ple are said to do, through a quill.

Well, I do agnize something of the sort. I con-
fess that it is my humour, my fancy in the fore-
part of the day, when the mind of your man of letters
requires some relaxation (and none better than
such as at first sight seems most abhorrent from his


beloved studies) to while away some good hours
of my time in the contemplation of indigos, cottons,
raw silks, piece-goods, flowered or otherwise. In
the first place * ******
and then it sends you home with such increased
appetite to your books *****
not to say, that your outside sheets, and waste wrap-
pers of foolscap, do receive into them, most kindly and
naturally, the impression of sonnets, epigrams, essays
so that the very parings of a counting-house are, in
some sort, the settings up of an author. The en-
franchised quill, that has plodded all the morning
among the cart-rucks of figures and cyphers, frisks
and curvets so at its ease over the flowery carpet-
ground of a midnight dissertation. It feels its
promotion ***** SQ t h a t
you see, upon the whole, the literary dignity of Elia
is very little, if at all, compromised in the conde-

Not that, in my anxious detail of the many com-
modities incidental to the life of a public office, I
would be thought blind to certain flaws, which a
cunning carper might be able to pick in this Joseph's
vest. And here I must have leave, in the fulness
of my soul, to regret the abolition, and doing-away-
with altogether, of those consolatory interstices, and
sprinklings of freedom, through the four seasons,
the red-letter days, now become, to all intents and


purposes, dead-letter days. There was Paul, and
Stephen, and Barnabas

Andrew and John, men famous in old times

we were used to keep all their days holy, as long
back as I was at school at Christ's. I remember
their effigies, by the same token, in the old Basket
Prayer Book. There hung Peter in his uneasy

posture holy Bartlemy in the troublesome act

of flaying, after the famous Marsyas by Spagnoletti.

1 honoured them all, and could almost have

wept the defalcation of Iscariot so much did we
love to keep holy memories sacred : only methought
I a little grudged at the coalition of the better Jude
with Simon clubbing (as it were) their sanctities
together, to make up one poor gaudy- day between
them as an economy unworthy of the dispensation.
These were bright visitations in a scholar's and a
clerk's life " far off their coming shone." I was
as good as an almanac in those days. I could have
told you such a saint's-day falls out next week, or the
week after. Peradventure the Epiphany, by some
periodical infelicity, would, once in six years, merge
in a Sabbath. Now am I little better than one of
the profane. Let me not be thought to arraign the
wisdom of my civil superiors, who have judged the
further observation of these holy tides to be papistical,
superstitious. Only in a custom of such long stand-


ing, methinks, if their Holinesses the Bishops had,

in decency, been first sounded but I am wading

out of my depths. I am not the man to decide the

limits of civil and ecclesiastical authority I am

plain Elia no Selden, nor Archbishop Usher
though at present in the thick of their books, here in
the heart of learning, under the shadow of the
mighty Bodley.

I can here play the gentleman, enact the student.
To such a one as myself, who has been defrauded
in his young years of the sweet food of academic
institution, nowhere is so pleasant, to while away a
few idle weeks at, as one or other of the Universities.
Their vacation, too, at this time of the year, falls in
so pat with ours. Here I can take my walks un-
molested, and fancy myself of what degree or stand-
ing I please. I seem admitted ad eundem. I fetch
up past opportunities. I can rise at the chapel-bell,
and dream that it rings for me. In moods of humility
I can be a Sizar, or a Servitor. When the peacock
vein rises, I strut a Gentleman Commoner. In graver
moments, I proceed Master of Arts. Indeed I do
not think I am much unlike that respectable charac-
ter. I have seen your dim-eyed vergers, and bed-
makers in spectacles, drop a bow or curtsy, as I
pass, wisely mistaking me for something of the sort.
I go about in black, which favours the notion.
Only in Christ Church reverend quadrangle, I can


be content to pass for nothing short of a Seraphic

The walks at these times are so much one's own,
the tall trees of Christ's, the groves of Magdalen !
The halls deserted, and with open doors, inviting one
to slip in unperceived, and pay a devoir to some
Founder, or noble or royal Benefactress (that should
have been ours) whose portrait seems to smile upon
their over-looked beadsman, and to adopt me for
their own. Then, to take a peep in by the way at
the butteries, and sculleries, redolent of antique hos-
pitality : the immense caves of kitchens, kitchen-fire-
places, cordial recesses; ovens whose first pies were
baked four centuries ago ; and spits which have
cooked for Chaucer ! Not the meanest minister
among the dishes but is hallowed to me through his
imagination, and the Cook goes forth a Manciple.

Antiquity ! thou wondrous charm, what art thou ?
that, being nothing, art every thing ! When thou
wert, thou wert not antiquity then thou wert noth-
ing, but hadst a remoter antiquity, as thou called'st
it, to look back to with blind veneration ; thou thy-
self being to thyself flat, jejune, modern ! What
mystery lurks in this retroversion ? or what half Ja-
nuses* are we, that cannot look forward with the same
idolatry with which we for ever revert ! The mighty
future is as nothing, being every thing ! the past is
every thing, being nothing !

* Januses of one face. SIR THOMAS BROWNE.


What were thy dark ages ? Surely the sun rose as
brightly then as now, and man got him to his work in
the morning. Why is it that we can never hear men-
tion of them without an accompanying feeling, as
though a palpable obscure had dimmed the face of
things, and that our ancestors wandered to and fro
groping !

Above all thy rarities, old Oxenford, what do most
arride and solace me, are thy repositories of moul-
dering learning, thy shelves

What a place to be in is an old library ! It seems
as though all the souls of all the writers, that have
bequeathed their labours to these Bodleians, were re-
posing here, as in some dormitory, or middle state.
I do not want to handle, to profane the leaves, their
winding-sheets. I could as soon dislodge a shade.
I seem to inhale learning, walking amid their foliage ;
and the odour of their old moth-scented coverings is
fragrant as the first bloom of those sciential apples
which grew amid the happy orchard.

Still less have I curiosity to disturb the elder repose
of MSS. Those varice lectiones, so tempting to the
more erudite palates, do but disturb and unsettle my
faith. I am no Herculanean raker. The credit of
the three witnesses might have slept unimpeached for
me. I leave these curiosities to Person, and to G. D.
whom, by the way, I found busy as a moth over
some rotten archive, rummaged out of some seldom-


explored press, in a nook at Oriel. With long por-
ing, he is grown almost into a book. He stood as
passive as one by the side of the old shelves. I
longed to new-coat him in Russia, and assign him his
place. He might have mustered for a tall Scapula.

D. is assiduous in his visits to these seats of learn-
ing. No inconsiderable portion of his moderate for-
tune, I apprehend, is consumed in journeys between

them and Clifford's-inn where, like a dove on

the asp's nest, he has long taken up his unconscious
abode, amid an incongruous assembly of attorneys,
attorneys' clerks, apparitors, promoters, vermin of
the law, among whom he sits, " in calm and sinless
peace." The fangs of the law pierce him not the
winds of litigation blow over his humble chambers
the hard sheriff's officer moves his hat as he passes
legal nor illegal discourtesy touches him none
thinks of offering violence or injustice to him you
would as soon " strike an abstract idea."

D. has been engaged, he tells me, through a course
of laborious years, in an investigation into all curious
matter connected with the two Universities ; and has
lately lit upon a MS. collection of charters, relative to

C , by which he hopes to settle some disputed

points particularly that long controversy between
them as to priority of foundation. The ardor with
which he engages in these liberal pursuits, I am afraid
has not met with all the encouragement it deserved,


either here, or at C . Your caputs, and heads

of colleges, care less than any body else about these
questions. Contented to suck the milky fountains
of their Alma Maters, without inquiring into the ven-
erable gentlewomen's years, they rather hold such
curiosities to be impertinent unreverend. - They
have their good glebe lands in manu, and care not
much to rake into the title-deeds. I gather at least
so much from other sources, for D. is not a man to

D. started like an unbroke heifer, when I inter-
rupted him. A priori it was not very probable that
we should have met in Oriel. But D. would have
done the same, had I accosted him on the sudden in
his own walks in Clifford's-inn, or in the Temple. In
addition to a provoking short-sightedness (the effect
of late studies and watchings at the midnight oil) D.
is the most absent of men. He made a call the
other morning at our friend J/.'s in Bedford- square ;
and, finding nobody at home, was ushered into the
hall, where, asking for pen and ink, with great exact-
itude of purpose he enters me his name in the book
which ordinarily lies about in such places, to re-
cord the failures of the untimely or unfortunate vis-
itor and takes his leave with many ceremonies, and
professions of regret. Some two or three hours after,
his walking destinies returned him into the same
neighbourhood again, and again the quiet image of


the fire-side circle at M.'s Mrs. M. presiding at

it like a Queen Lar, with pretty A. S. at her side

striking irresistibly on his fancy, he makes another
call (forgetting that they were " certainly not to re-
turn from the country before that day week") and
disappointed a second time, inquires for pen and
paper as before : again the book is brought, and in
the line just above that in which he is about to print
his second name (his re-script) his first name
(scarce dry) looks out upon him like another Sosia,
or as if a man should suddenly encounter his own
duplicate ! The effect may be conceived. D. made
many a good resolution against any such lapses in
future. I hope he will not keep them too rigorously.
For with G. D. to be absent from the body, is
sometimes (not to speak it profanely) to be present
with the Lord. At the very time when, personally
encountering thee, he passes on with no recognition
or, being stopped, starts like a thing surprised
at that moment, reader, he is on Mount Tabor
or Parnassus or co-sphered with Plato or, with
Harrington, framing " immortal commonwealths "
devising some plan of amelioration to thy country,

or thy species peradventure meditating some

individual kindness or courtesy, to be done to thee
thyself, the returning consciousness of which made
him to start so guiltily at thy obtruded personal


D. is delightful any where, but he is at the best in
such places as these. He cares not much for Bath.
He is out of his element at Buxton, at Scarborough,
or Harrowgate. The Cam and the Isis are to him
" better than all the waters of Damascus." On the
Muses' hill he is happy, and good, as one of the
Shepherds on the Delectable Mountains ; and when
he goes about with you to show you the halls and col-
leges, you think you have with you the Interpreter at
the House Beautiful.


IN Mr. Lamb's " Works," published a year or two
since, I find a magnificent eulogy on my old school*,
such as it was, or now appears to him to have been,
between the years 1782 and 1789. It happens, very
oddly, that my own standing at Christ's was nearly
corresponding with his ; and, with all gratitude to
him for his enthusiasm for the cloisters, I think he
has contrived to bring together whatever can be said
in praise of them, dropping all the other side of the
argument most ingeniously.

I remember L. at school; and can well recollect
that he had some peculiar advantages, which I and
others of his schoolfellows had not. His friends

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays → online text (page 2 of 32)