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The last essays of Elia online

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selves, like Indian Islanders forced to sub-
jnit to European vesture. Caliban, the

(J^Uc ^A^t €i^.' oi
daughters, whom he maintained Avitli the
port and notions of gentlewomen upon that
slender professional allowance. Comely girls
they were too.

And was I in danger of forgetting this
man? — his cheerful supi^ers — the noble tone
of hospitality, when first you set your foot in
the cottage^ — the anxious ministerings about

®h? fa^-t (S^^nxp of mm, 81

you where little or nothing (God knows) was
to be ministered. Altliea's horn in a poor
platter, — the power of self-enchantment, by
which, in his magnificent wishes to enter-
tain you, he multiplied his means to boun-

You saw with your bodily eyes indeed
what seemed a bare scrag — cold saA^ngs
from the foregone meal — remnant hardly
sufficient to send a mendicant from the door
contented. But in the copious will — the
reveling imagination of your host — the
"mhid, the mind, Master Sliallow," whole
beeves were spread before you — hecatombs
• — no end appeared to the profusion.

It was the widow's cruse — the loaves and
fishes ; carving could not lessen, nor help-
ing diminish it — the stamina were left — the
elemental bone still flourished, divested of
its accidents.

"Let us live while we can," methinks I
hear the open-handed creature exclaim;
" While we have, let us not want " ; " Here is-
plenty left"; "Want for nothing," — with
many more such hospitable sayings, the
spurs of appetite, and old concomitants of
smoking boards, and feast-oppressed char-
gers. Then sliding a slender ratio of Single
Gloucester upon his wife's plate, or the
daughters', he would convey the renmant
rind into his own, with a merry quirk of
"the nearer the bone," etc., and declaring
that he universally preferred the outside.

5:i« ITa^t (t^^ixxp t)t m^.

For we had our table distinctions, you are
to know, and some of us in a manner sat
above the salt. None but his guest or guests
dreamed of tasting flesh luxuries at night,
the fragments were vo-d /lospitibus sacra.
But of one thing or another there was al-
ways enough, and leavings ; only he would
sometimes finish the remainder crust, to
show that he wished no savings,

AVine Ave had none, nor, except on very
rare occasions, spirits ; but the sensation of
wine Avas there. Some thin kind of ale I
remember, — " British beverage," he would
say ! " Push about, my boys " ; " Drink to
your sweethearts, girls." At every meager
draught a toast must ensue, or a song. All
the forms of good liquor were there, with
none of the effects wanting. Shut your
eyes, and you would swear a capacious bowl
of punch was foaming in the center, with
beams of generous Port or 3Iadeira radi-
ating to it from each of the table-corners.
You got flustered, without knowing whence ;
tipsy upon words ; and reeled under the
potency of his unperforming Bacchanalian
encouragements .

We had our songs, — " Why, Soldiers,
wdiy," — and the "British Grenadiers," — in
which last we were all obliged to bear
chorus. Both the daughters sang. Their
proliciency was a nightly theme, — the mas-
ters he had given them, — the " no-expense "
which he spared to accomplish them in a

mt Xii^t (f.o.^ni'..^ cf miu 83

science "so necessarj^ to young women.''
But then — tliej^ could not sing " without
the instrument."

Sacred, and, by me, never-to-be-violated,
secrets of Poverty ! Should I disclose your
honest aims at grandeur, your makeshift
efforts of magnificence ? Sleep, sleep, -with
all thy broken keys, if one of the bunch be
€xtant ; thrummed by a thousand ancestral
thumbs ; dear, cracked spinnet of dearer
Louisa ! Without mention of mine, be
dumb, thou thin accompaniment of her thin-
ner warble ! A veil be spread over the dear
delighted face of the well-deluded father,
who now, haply listening to cherubic notes,
scarce feels sincerer pleasure than when she
awakened thy time-shaken chords respon-
sive to the twitterings of that slender image
of a voice.

"We were not without our literary talk
€itlier. It did not extend far, but as far
as it went, it was good. It was bottomed
well ; had good grounds to go upon. In
the cottage was a room, which tradition
authenticated to have been the same in
which Glover, in his occasional retirements,
had penned the greater part of his Leonidas.
This circumstance was nightly quoted,
though none of the i^resent inmates, tliat I
could discover, appeared ever to have met
with the i^oem in question. But that was
no matter. Glover had written there, and
the anecdote was pressed into tlie account of

84 mu fa^t €^mp at min.

the family importance. It diffused a learned
air through the apartment, the little side
casement of which (the poet's study win-
dow), openmg upon a superb view as far as
the pretty spire of Harrow, over domains
and patrimonial acres, not a rood nor square
yard whereof our host could call his own,
yet gave occasion to an immoderate expan-
sion of — vanity shall I call it? — in his bosom,
as he showed them in a glowing summer
evening. It was all his, he took it all in,
and communicated rich portions ofit to his
guests. It was a part of his largess, his.
hospitality ; it was going over his grounds ;
he was lord for the time of showing them,,
and you the implicit lookers-up to his niag-

He was a juggler, who threw mists be-
fore your eyes — you had no time to detect
his fallacies. lie would say, " Hand me the
silver sugar tongs ; "' and before you could
discover it was a single spoon, and that
plated, he would disturb and captivate your
imagination by a misnomer of " the urn "
for a tea-kettle ; or by calling a homely
bench a sofa. Eicli men direct you to tlieir
furniture, poor ones divert you from it ; he
neither did one nor the other, but by simply
assuming that everything was handsome-
about him, you were positively at a demur
what you did, or did not see, at the cottage.
With nothing to live on, he seemed to live
on everything. He had a stock of wealth.

^]u ^:,^t iS^^ati^ cC mvA. 85

(in his mind ) ; not that which is properly
teTmedConteht, for in truth lie was not to be
contained at all, but overflowed all bounds
hy the force of a magnificent self-delusion.

Enthusiasm is catching; and even his
wife, a sober native of North Britain, who
generally saw things more as they were, was
not i^roof agamst the continual collision of
his credulity. Iler daughters were rational
and discreet young women ; in the main, per-
haps, not insensible to their true circum-
stances. I have seen them assume a thought-
ful air at times. But such was the preponder-
ating opulence of his fancj^, that I am per-
suaded, not for any half hour together did
they ever look their own j)rospects fairly in
the face. There was no resisting the vor-
tex of his temperament. His riotous imag-
ination conjured up handsome settlements
before their eyes, which kept them up in the
eye of the world, too, and seem at last to
have realized themselves ; for they both
have married since, I am told, more than

It is long since, and my memory waxes
dim on some subjects, or I should wish to
convey some notion of the manner in which
the pleasant creature described the circum-
stances of his own wedding-day. I faintly
remember something of a cliaise-and-four, in
which he made his entry into Glasgow on
that morning to fetch the bride home, or
carry her thither, I forget which. It so com-

8G (The H^a.ot (iri^im of (glia.

pletely made out the stanza of the old bal-

" "When v;c came down throui:;li Glasgow town,
We were a comely sight to see;
My love wai clad in black velvet,
And I myself in cramasie."

I suppose it was the only occasion upon:
which his own actual splendor at all corre-
sponded with the world's notions on that
subject. In homely cart, or traveling'
caravan, by Avhatever humble vehicle they
chanced to be tran.sported in less prosperous-
days, the ride tlirough Glasi^ow came back
upon his fancy, not as a humiliiiting- contrast,
but as a fair occasion for revertin

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Online LibraryCharles LambThe last essays of Elia → online text (page 5 of 15)