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endite these trifles. His poor girls who are, I be-
lieve, compact of solid goodness, will have to receive
their afflicted mother at an unsuccessful home in a

petty village in shire, where for years they have

been struggling to raise a Girls' School with no ef-
fect. Poor deaf Robert (and the less hopeful for
being so) is thrown upon a deaf world, without the
comfort to his father on his death-bed of knowing
him provided for. They are left almost provision-
less. Some life assurance there is ; but, I fear, not

exceeding . Their hopes must be from your

Corporation, which their father has served for fifty
years. Who or what are your Leading Members
now, I know not. Is there any, to whom without
impertinence, you can represent the true circum-
stances of the family? You cannot say good enough
of poor R., and his poor wife. Oblige me and the
dead, if you can.


I HAVE an almost feminine partiality for old china.
When I go to see any great house, I inquire for the
china-closet, and next for the picture gallery. I
cannot defend the order of preference, but by say-
ing, that we have all some taste or other, of too
ancient a date to admit of our remembering dis-
tinctly that it was an acquired one. I can call to
mind the first play, and the first exhibition, that I
was taken to; but I am not conscious of a time
when china jars and saucers were introduced into
my imagination.

I had no repugnance then why should I now
have? to those little, lawless, azure-tinctured gro-
tesques, that under the notion of men and women,
float about, uncircumscribed by any element, in that
world before perspective a china tea-cup.

I like to see my old friends whom distance
cannot diminish figuring up in the air (so they
appear to our optics), yet on terra firma still for


so we must in courtesy interpret that speck of deeper
blue, which the decorous artist, to prevent absur-
dity, has made to spring up beneath their sandals.

I love the men with women's faces, and the women,
if possible, with still more womanish expressions.

Here is a young and courtly Mandarin, handing
tea to a lady from a salvar two miles off. See how
distance seems to set off respect ! And here the
same lady, or another for likeness is identity on
tea-cups is stepping into a little fairy boat, moored
on the hither side of this calm garden river, with a
dainty mincing foot, which in a right angle of inci-
dence (as angles go in our world) must infallibly
land her in the midst of a flowery mead a furlong
off on the other side of the same strange stream !

Farther on if far or near can be predicated of
their world see horses, trees, pagodas, dancing the

Here a cow and rabbit couchant, and co- exten-
sive so objects show, seen through the lucid atmos-
phere of fine Cathay.

I was pointing out to my cousin last evening, over
our Hyson, (which we are old fashioned enough to
drink unmixed still of an afternoon) some of these
speciosa miracula upon a set of extraordinary old
blue china (a recent purchase) which we were now
for the first time using ; and could not help remark-
ing, how favourable circumstances had been to us of

196 OLl) CHINA.

late years, that we could afford to please the eye
sometimes with trifles of this sort when a passing
sentiment seemed to over-shade the brows of my
companion. I am quick at detecting these summer
clouds in Bridget.

" I wish the good old times would come again,"
she said, " when we were not quite so rich. I do
not mean, that I want to be poor ; but there was a
middle state; " so she was pleased to ramble on,
" in which I am sure we were a great deal happier.
A purchase is but a purchase, now that you have
money enough and to spare. Formerly it used to be
a triumph. When we coveted a cheap luxury (and,
O ! how much ado I had to get you to consent in
those times !) we were used to have a debate two or
three days before, and to weigh the for and against,
and think what we might spare it out of, and what
saving we could hit upon, that should be an equiva-
lent. A thing was worth buying then, when we felt
the money that we paid for it.

"Do you remember the brown suit, which you
made to hang upon you, till all your friends cried
shame upon you, it grew so thread-bare and all
because of that folio Beaumont and Fletcher, which
you dragged home late at night from Barker's in
Covent-garden? Do you remember how we eyed it
for weeks before we could make up our minds to the
purchase, and had not come to a determination till


it was near ten o'clock of the Saturday night, when
you set off from Islington, fearing you should be too
late and when the old bookseller with some grum-
bling opened his shop, and by the twinkling taper (for
he was setting bedwards) lighted out the relic from
his dusty treasures and when you lugged it home,
wishing it were twice as cumbersome and when
you presented it to me and when we were explor-
ing the perfectness of it (collating you called it)
and while I was repairing some of the loose leaves
with paste, which your impatience would not suffer
to be left till day -break was there no pleasure in
being a poor man? or can those neat black clothes
which you wear now, and are so careful to keep
brushed, since we have become rich and finical, give
you half the honest vanity, with which you flaunted it
about in that over- worn suit your old corbeau
for four or five weeks longer than you should have
done, to pacify your conscience for the mighty sum
of fifteen or sixteen shillings was it? a great
affair we thought it then which you had lavished
on the old folio. Now you can afford to buy any
book that pleases you, but I do not see that you ever
bring me home any nice old purchases now.

"When you came home with twenty apologies for
laying out a less number of shillings upon that print
after Lionardo, which we christened the ' Lady
Blanch ; ' when you looked at the purchase, and


thought of the money and thought of the money,
and looked again at the picture, was there no
pleasure in being a poor man? Now, you have noth-
ing to do but to walk into Colnaghi's, and buy a
wilderness of Lionardos. Yet do you?

"Then, do you remember our pleasant walks to
Enfield, and Potter's Bar, and Waltham, when we had
a holyday holydays, and all other fun, are gone,
now we are rich and the little hand-basket in which
I used to deposit our day's fare of savory cold lamb
and salad and how you would pry about at noon-
tide for some decent house, where we might go in,
and produce our store only paying for the ale that
you must call for and speculate upon the looks of
the landlady, and whether she was likely to allow
us a table-cloth and wish for such another honest
hostess, as Izaak Walton has described many a one
on the pleasant banks of the Lea, when he went a
fishing and sometimes they would prove obliging
enough, and sometimes they would look grudgingly
upon us but we had cheerful looks still for one
another, and would eat our plain food savorily,
scarcely grudging Piscator his Trout Hall? Now,
when we go out a day's pleasuring, which is seldom
moreover, we ride part of the way and go into a
fine inn, and order the best of dinners, never debat-
ing the expense which, after all, never has half the
relish of those chance country snaps, when we were



at the mercy of uncertain usage, and a precarious

" You are too proud to see a play anywhere now
but in the pit. Do you remember where it was we
used to sit, when we saw the battle of Hexham, and
the surrender of Calais, and Bannister and Mrs. Bland
in the Children in the Wood when we squeezed out
our shillings a-piece to sit three or four times in a
season in the one-shilling gallery where you felt all
the time that you ought not to have brought me
and more strongly I felt obligation to you for having
brought me and the pleasure was the better for a
little shame and when the curtain drew up, what
cared we for our place in the house, or what mattered
it where we were sitting, when our thoughts were with
Rosalind in Arden, or with Viola at the Court of
Illyria? You used to say, that the gallery was the
best place of all for enjoying a play socially that
the relish of such exhibitions must be in propor-
tion to the infrequency of going that the company
we met there, not being in general readers of plays,
were obliged to attend the more, and did attend, to
what was going on, on the stage because a word
lost would have been a chasm, which it was impos-
sible for them to fill up. With such reflections we
consoled our pride then and I appeal to you,
whether, as a woman, I met generally with less at-
tention and accommodation, than I have done since


in more expensive situations in the house? The
getting in indeed, and the crowding up those incon-
venient staircases, was bad enough, but there was
still a law of civility to woman recognised to quite as
great an extent as we ever found in the other pas-
sages and how a little difficulty overcome height-
ened the snug seat, and the play, afterwards ! Now
we can only pay our money, and walk in. You can-
not see, you say, in the galleries now. I am sure we
saw, and heard too, well enough then but sight,
and all, I think, is gone with our property.

" There was pleasure in eating strawberries, before
they became quite common in the first dish of
peas, while they were yet dear to have them for
a nice supper, a treat. What treat can we have now?
If we were to treat ourselves now that is, to have
dainties a little above our means, it would be selfish
and wicked. It is the very little more that we allow
ourselves beyond what the actual poor can get at, that
makes what I call a treat when two people living
together, as we have done, now and then indulge
themselves in a cheap luxury, which both like ; while
each apologises, and is willing to take both halves of
the blame to his single share. I see no harm in
people making much of themselves in that sense of
the word. It may give them a hint how to make
much of others. But now what I mean by the
word we never do make much of ourselves. None


but the poor can do it. I do not mean the veriest
poor of all, but persons as we were, just above

" I know what you were going to say, that it is
mighty pleasant at the end of the year to make all
meet and much ado we used to have every Thirty-
first Night of December to account for our exceed-
ings many a long face did you make over your
puzzled accounts, and in contriving to make it out
how we had spent so much or that we had not
spent so much or that it was impossible we should
spend so much next year and still we found our
slender capital decreasing but then, betwixt ways,
and projects, and compromises of one sort or another,
and talk of curtailing this charge, and doing without
that for the future and the hope that youth brings,
and laughing spirits (in which you were never poor
till now,) we pocketed up our loss, and in conclu-
sion, with ' lusty brimmers ' (as you used to quote
it out of hearty cheerful Mr. Cotton, as you called
him), we used to welcome in the 'coming guest.'
Now we have no reckoning at all at the end of the
old year no flattering promises about the new year
doing better for us."

Bridget is so sparing of her speech on most occa-
sions, that when she gets into a rhetorical vein, I am
careful how I interrupt it. I could not help, how-
ever, smiling at the phantom of wealth which her


dear imagination had conjured up out of a clear in-
come of poor hundred pounds a year. " It is true
we were happier when we were poorer, but we were
also younger, my cousin. I am afraid we must put
up with the excess, for if we were to shake the super-
flux into the sea, we should not much mend our-
selves. That we had much to struggle with, as we
grew up together, we have reason to be most thank-
ful. It strengthened, and knit our compact closer.
We could never have been what we have been to
each other, if we had always had the sufficiency which
you now complain of. The resisting power those
natural dilations of the youthful spirit, which cir-
cumstances cannot straiten with us are long since
passed away. Competence to age is supplementary
youth ; a sorry supplement indeed, but I fear the
best that is to be had. We must ride, where we
formerly walked : live better, and lie softer and
shall be wise to do so than we had means to do
in those good old days you speak of. Yet could
those days return could you and I once more
walk our thirty miles a-day could Bannister and
Mrs. Bland again be young, and you and I be young
to see them could the good old one shilling gallery
days return they are dreams, my cousin, now
but could you and I at this moment, instead of this
quiet argument, by our well-carpeted fire-side, sit-
ting on this luxurious sofa be once more struggling


up those inconvenient stair-cases, pushed about, and
squeezed, and elbowed by the poorest rabble of poor
gallery scramblers could I once more hear those
anxious shrieks of yours and the delicious Thank
God, we are safe, which always followed when the
topmost stair, conquered, let in the first light of the
whole cheerful theatre down beneath us I know
not the fathom line that ever touched a descent so
deep as I would be willing to bury more wealth in

than Croesus had, or the great Jew R is supposed

to have, to purchase it. And now do just look at that
merry little Chinese waiter holding an umbrella, big
enough for a bed-tester, over the head of that pretty
insipid half-Madona-ish chit of a lady in that very
blue summer house."




THIS axiom contains a principle of compensation,
which disposes us to admit the truth of it. But there
is no safe trusting to dictionaries and definitions.
We should more willingly fall in with this popular
language, if we did not find brutality sometimes awk-
wardly coupled with valour in the same vocabulary.
The comic writers, with their poetical justice, have
contributed not a little to mislead us upon this point.
To see a hectoring fellow exposed and beaten upon
the stage, has something in it wonderfully diverting.
Some people's share of animal spirits is notoriously
low and defective. It has not strength to raise a
vapour, or furnish out the wind of a tolerable bluster.
These love to be told that huffing is no part of valour.
The truest courage with them is that which is the
least noisy and obtrusive. But confront one of these
silent heroes with the swaggerer of real life, and his
confidence in the theory quickly vanishes. Preten-


sions do not uniformly bespeak non-performance. A
modest inoffensive deportment does not necessarily
imply valour; neither does the absence of it justify
us in denying that quality. Hickman wanted modesty
we do not mean him of Clarissa but who ever
doubted his courage ? Even the poets upon whom
this equitable distribution of qualities should be most
binding have thought it agreeable to nature to
depart from the rule upon occasion. Harapha, in
the " Agonistes," is indeed a bully upon the received
notions. Milton has made him at once a blusterer,
a giant, and a dastard. But Almanzor, in Dryden,
talks of driving armies singly before him and does
it. Tom Brown had a shrewder insight into this kind
of character than either of his predecessors. He
divides the palm more equably, and allows his hero
a sort of dimidiate pre-eminence : "Bully Dawson
kicked by half the town, and half the town kicked
by Bully Dawson." This was true distributive justice.



THE weakest part of mankind have this saying com-
monest in their mouth. It is the trite consolation
administered to the easy dupe, when he has been
tricked out of his money or estate, that the acquisi-


tion of it will do the owner no good. But the rogues
of this world the prudenter part of them, at least
know better ; and, if the observation had been as
true as it is old, would not have failed by this time to
have discovered it. They have pretty sharp distinc-
tions of the fluctuating and the permanent. " Lightly
come, lightly go," is a proverb, which they can very
well afford to leave, when they leave little else, to the
losers. They do not always find manors, got by rapine
or chicanery, insensibly to melt away, as the poets
will have it; or that all gold glides, like thawing
snow, from the thief s hand that grasps it. Church
land, alienated to lay uses, was formerly denounced
to have this slippery quality. But some portions of
it somehow always stuck so fast, that the denunciators
have been fain to postpone the prophecy of refund-
ment to a late posterity.



THE severest exaction surely ever invented upon the
self-denial of poor human nature ! This is to ex-
pect a gentleman to give a treat without partaking
of it ; to sit esurient at his own table, and commend
the flavour of his venison upon the absurd strength of
his never touching it himself. On the contrary, we


love to see a wag taste his own joke to his party ; to
watch a quirk, or a merry conceit, flickering upon the
lips some seconds before the tongue is delivered of
it. If it be good, fresh, and racy begotten of the
occasion ; if he that utters it never thought it before,
he is naturally the first to be tickled with it ; and any
suppression of such complacence we hold to be chur-
lish and insulting. What does it seem to imply, but
that your company is weak or foolish enough to be
moved by an image or a fancy, that shall stir you not
at all, or but faintly ? This is exactly the humour of
the fine gentleman in Mandeville, who, while he
dazzles his guests with the display of some costly
toy, affects himself to " see nothing considerable in




A SPEECH from the poorer sort of people, which al-
ways indicates that the party vituperated is a gentle-
man. The very fact which they deny, is that which
galls and exasperates them to use this language. The
forbearance with which it is usually received, is a
proof what interpretation the bystander sets upon it.
Of a kin to this, and still less politic, are the phrases


with which, in their street rhetoric, they ply one
another more grossly : He is a poor creature.

He has not a rag to cover &c. ; though this last,

we confess, is more frequently applied by females to
females. They do not perceive that the satire glances
upon themselves. A poor man, of all things in the
world, should not upbraid an antagonist with poverty.
Are there no other topics as, to tell him his father

was hanged his sister, &c. , without exposing

a secret, which should be kept snug between them ;
and doing an affront to the order to which they have
the honour equally to belong? All this while they do
not see how the wealthier man stands by and laughs
in his sleeve at both.



A SMOOTH text to the latter ; and, preached from the
pulpit, is sure of a docile audience from the pews
lined with satin. It is twice sitting upon velvet to a
foolish squire to be told, that he and not perverse
nature, as the homilies would make us imagine, is the
true cause of all the irregularities in his parish. This
is striking at the root of free-will indeed, and denying
the originality of sin in any sense. But men are not
such implicit sheep as this comes to. If the absti-


nence from evil on the part of the upper classes is to
derive itself from no higher principle, than the appre-
hension of setting ill patterns to the lower, we beg
leave to discharge them from all squeamishness on
that score : they may even take their fill of pleasures,
where they can find them. The Genius of Poverty,
hampered and straitened as it is, is not so barren of
invention but it can trade upon the staple of its own
vice, without drawing upon their capital. The poor
are not quite such servile imitators as they take them
for. Some of them are very clever artists in their
way. Here and there we find an original. Who
taught the poor to steal, to pilfer? They did not go
to the great for schoolmasters in these faculties surely.
It is well if in some vices they allow us to be no
copyists. In no other sense is it true that the poor
copy them, than as servants may be said to take after
their masters and mistresses, when they succeed to
their reversionary cold meats. If the master, from
indisposition or some other cause, neglect his food,
the servant dines notwithstanding.

" O, but (some will say) the force of example is
great." We knew a lady who was so scrupulous on
this head, that she would put up with the calls of the
most impertinent visitor, rather than let her servant
say she was not at home, for fear of teaching her
maid to tell an untruth ; and this in the very face of
the fact, which she knew well enough, that the wench


was one of the greatest liars upon the earth without
teaching; so much so, that her mistress possibly
never heard two words of consecutive truth from her
in her life. But nature must go for nothing : example
must be everything. This liar in grain, who never
opened her mouth without a lie, must be guarded
against a remote inference, which she (pretty casuist !)
might possibly draw from a form of words literally
false, but essentially deceiving no one that under
some circumstances a fib might not be so exceedingly
sinful a fiction, too, not at all in her own way, or
one that she could be suspected of adopting, for few
servant-wenches care to be denied to visitors.

This word example reminds us of another fine word
which is in use upon these occasions encouragement.
" People in our sphere must not be thought to give
encouragement to such proceedings." To such a
frantic height is this principle capable of being car-
ried, that we have known individuals who have
thought it within the scope of their influence to sanc-
tion despair, and give eclat to suicide. A domes-
tic in the family of a county member lately deceased,
for love, or some unknown cause, cut his throat, but
not successfully. The poor fellow was otherwise much
loved and respected ; and great interest was used in
his behalf, upon his recovery, that he might be per-
mitted to retain his place; his word being first
pledged, not without some substantial sponsors to


promise for him, that the like should never happen
again. His master was inclinable to keep him, but
his mistress thought otherwise ; and John in the end
was dismissed, her ladyship declaring that she " could
not think of encouraging any such doings in the



NOT a man, woman, or child in ten miles round
Guildhall, who really believes this saying. The in-
ventor of it did not believe it himself. It was made
in revenge by somebody, who was disappointed of a
regale. It is a vile cold-scrag-of-mutton sophism ; a
lie palmed upon the palate, which knows better
things. If nothing else could be said for a feast, this
is sufficient, that from the superflux there is usually
something left for the next day. Morally interpreted,
it belongs to a class of proverbs, which have a ten-
dency to make us undervalue money. Of this cast
are those notable observations, that money is not
health ; riches cannot purchase everything : the met-
aphor which makes gold to be mere muck, with the
morality which traces fine clothing to the sheep's
back, and denounces pearl as the unhandsome excre-
tion of an oyster. Hence, too, the phrase which


imputes dirt to acres a sophistry so barefaced, that
even the literal sense of it is true only in a wet season.
This, and abundance of similar sage saws assuming
to inculcate content, we verily believe to have been
the invention of some cunning borrower, who had
designs upon the purse of his wealthier neighbour,
which he could only hope to carry by force of these
verbal jugglings. Translate any one of these sayings
out of the artful metonyme which envelopes it, and
the trick is apparent. Goodly legs and shoulders of
mutton, exhilarating cordials, books, pictures, the
opportunities of seeing foreign countries, indepen-

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays → online text (page 29 of 32)