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said was more than was needed ; and so indeed it was;
for, if I had been to eat it all myself, it would have
got stale and mouldy before it had been half spent.
The consideration whereof set me upon my con-
trivances how I might secure to myself as much of
the gingerbread as would keep good for the next two
or three days, and yet none of the rest in manner be
wasted. I had a little pair of pocket-compasses,
which I usually carried about me for the purpose of
making draughts and measurements, at which I was
always very ingenious, of the various engines and
mechanical inventions in which such a town as Bir-
mingham abounded. By the means of these, and a
small penknife which my father had given me, I cut
out the one-half of the cake, calculating that the re-
mainder would reasonably serve my turn ; and sub-
dividing it into many little slices, which were curious
to see for the neatness and niceness of their propor-
tion, I sold it out in so many pennyworths to my
young companions as served us all the way to
Warwick, which is a distance of some twenty miles
from this town : and very merry, I assure you, we
made ourselves with it, feasting all the way. By


this honest stratagem, I put double the prime cost of
the gingerbread into my purse, and secured as much
as 1 thought would keep good and moist for my next
two or three days' eating. When I told this to my
parents on their first visit to me at Warwick, my
father (good man) patted me on the cheek, and
stroked my head, and seemed as if he could never
make enough of me ; but my mother unaccountably
burst into tears, and said " it was a very niggardly
action," or some such expression, and that " she
would rather it would please God to take me " —
meaning (God help me !) that I should die — " than
that she should live to see me grow up a mean man:''
which shows the difference of parent from parent,
and how some mothers are more harsh and intolerant
to their children than some fathers ; when we might
expect quite the contrary. My father, however,
loaded me with presents from that time, which made
me the envy of my schoolfellows. As I felt this
growing disposition in them, I naturally sought to
avert it by all the means in my power ; and from that
time I used to eat my little packages of fruit, and
other nice things, in a corner, so privately that I was
never found out. Once, I remember, I had a huge
apple sent me, of that sort which they call cats'-
heads. I concealed this all day under my pillow ;
and at night, but not before I had ascertained that
my bedfellow was sound asleep, — which I did by
pinching him rather smartly two or three times,
which he seemed to perceive no more than a dead
person, though once or twice he made a motion as
he would turn, which frightened me, — I say, when I
had made all sure, I fell to work upon my apple ;
and, though it was as big as an ordinary man's two


fists, I made shift to get through it before it was time
to get up. And a more delicious feast I never
made ; thinking all night what a good parent I had
(I mean my father) to send me so many nice things,
when the poor lad that lay by me had no parent or
friend in the world to send him any thing nice : and,
thinking of his desolate condition, I munched and
munched as silently as I could, that I might not set
him a-longing if he overheard me. And yet, for all
this considerateness and attention to other people's
feelings, I was never much a favourite with my
schoolfellows ; which I have often wondered at, see-
ing that I never defrauded any one of them of the
value of a halfpenny, or told stories of them to their
master, as some little lying boys would do, but was
ready to do any of them all the services in my power
that were consistent with my own well-doing. I
think nobody can be expected to go further than that.
But I am detaining my reader too long in recording
my juvenile days. It is time I should go forward
to a season when it became natural that I should
have some thoughts of marrying, and, as they say,
settling in the world. Nevertheless, my reflections
on what I may call the boyish period of my life may
have their use to some readers. It is pleasant to
trace the man in the boy ; to observe shoots of
generosity in those young years ; and to watch the
progress of liberal sentiments, and what I may call a
genteel way of thinking, which is discernible in some
children at a very early age, and usually lays the
foundation of all that is praiseworthy in the manly
character afterwards.

With the warmest inclinations towards that way
of life, and a serious conviction of its superior


advantages over a single one, it has been the strange
infelicity of my lot never to have entered into the
respectable estate of matrimony. Yet I vi'as once
very near it. I courted a young woman in my
twenty-seventh year; for so early I began to feel
symptoms of the tender passion ! She was well to
do in the world, as they call it; but yet not such
a fortune, as, all things considered, perhaps I might
have pretended to. It was not my own choice
altogether ; but my mother very strongly pressed me
to it. She was always putting it to me, that " I had
comings-in sufficient, — that I need not stand upon a
portion ;" though the young woman, to do her justice,
had considerable expectations, which yet did not
quite come up to my mark, as I told you before.
She had this saying always in her mouth, that " I had
money enough ; that it was time I enlarged my
housekeeping, and to show a spirit befitting my cir-
cumstances." In short, what with her importunities,
and my own desires in part co-operating, — for, as
I said, I was not yet quite twenty-seven, — a time
when the youthful feelings may be pardoned, if they
show a little impetuosity — I resolved, I say, upon
all these considerations, to set about the business of
courting in right earnest. I was a young man then ;
and having a spice of romance in my character, (as
*he reader has doubtless observed long ago,) such as
hat sex is apt to be taken with, I had reason in no
long time to think my addresses were any thing but
disagreeable. Certainly the happiest part of a young-
man's life is the time when he is going-a-courting.
All the generous impulses are then awake, and he
feels a double existence in participating his hopes
and wishes with another being. Return yet again


for a brief moment, ye visionary views, — transient
enchantments ! ye moonlight rambles with Cleora in
the Silent Walk at Vauxhall, (N.B.— About a mile
from Birmingham, and resembling the gardens of
that name near London, only that the price of admis-
sion is lower,) when the nightingale had suspended
her notes in June to listen to our loving discourses,
while the moon was overhead, (for we generally
used to take our tea at Cleora's mother's before we
set out, not so much to save expenses as to avoid the
publicity of a repast in the gardens, — coming in much
about the time of half-price, as they call it,) — ye soft
intercommunions of soul, when, exchanging mutual
vows, we prattled of coming felicities ; — the loving
disputes we had under those trees, when this
house (planning our future settlement) was rejected,
because, though cheap, it was dull ; and the other
house was given up, because, though agreeably
situated, it was too high-rented ; — one was too much
in the heart of the town, another was too far from
business. These minutiae will seem impertinent to
the aged and the prudent. I write them only to the
young. Young lovers, and passionate as being young,
(such were Cleora and I then,) alone can understand
me. After some weeks wasted, as I may now call it,
in this sort of amorous colloquy, we at length fixed
upon the house in the High Street, No. 203, just
vacated by the death of Mr. Hutton, of this town, for
our future residence. I had all the time lived in
lodgings, (only renting a shop for business,) to be
near my mother, — near, I say; not in the same
house ; for that would have been to introduce con-
fusion into our housekeeping, which it was desirable
to keep separate. Oh the loving wrangles, the en-


dearing differences, I had with Cleora, before we
could quite make up our minds to the house that was
to receive us ! — I pretending, for argument's sake,
the rent was too high, and she insisting that the
taxes were moderate in proportion ; and love at last
reconciling us in the same choice. I think at that
time, moderately speaking, she might have had any
thing out of me for asking. I do not, nor shall ever,
regret that my character at that time was marked
with a tinge of prodigality. Age comes fast enough
upon us, and, in its good time, will prune away all
that is inconvenient in these excesses. Perhaps it is
right that it should do so. Matters, as I said, were
ripening to a conclusion between us, only the house
was yet not absolutely taken, — some necessary
arrangements, which the ardour of my youthful im-
petuosity could hardly brook at that time, (love and
youth will be precipitate,) — some preliminary arrange-
ments, I say, with the landlord, respecting fix-
tures, — very necessary things to be considered in a
young man about to settle in the world, though not
very accordant with the impatient state of my then
passions, — some obstacles about the valuation of the
fixtures, — had hitherto precluded (and I shall always
think providentially) my final closes with his offer ;
when one of those accidents, which, unimportant in
themselves, often arise to give a turn to the most
serious intentions of our life, intervened, and put an
end at once to my projects of wifing and of house-

I was never much given to theatrical entertain-
ments ; that is, at no time of my life was I ever
what they call a regular play-goer: but on some
occasion of a benefit-night, which was expected to be


very productive, and indeed turned out so, Cleora
expressing a desire to be present, I could do no less
than offer, as I did very willingly, to squire her and
her mother to the pit. At that time it was not cus-
tomary in our town for tradesfolk, except some of the
very topping ones, to sit, as they now do, in the
boxes. At the time appointed I waited upon the
ladies, who had brought with them a young man, a
distant relation, whom it seems they had invited to
be of the party. This a little disconcerted me, as
I had about me barely silver enough to pay for our
three selves at the door, and did not at first know
that their relation had proposed paying for himself.
However, to do the young man justice, he not only
paid for himself, but for the old lady besides ; leaving
me only to pay for two, as it were. In our passage
to the theatre, the notice of Cleora was attracted to
some orange wenches that stood about the doors
wending their commodities. She was leaning on
my arm ; and I could feel her every now and then
giving me a nudge, as it is called, which I afterwards
discovered were hints that I should buy some oranges.
It seems, it is a custom at Birmingham, and perhaps
in other places, when a gentleman treats ladies to
the play, — especially when a full night is expected,
and that the house will be inconveniently warm, — to
provide them with this kind of fruit, oranges being
esteemed for their cooling property. But how could
I guess at that, never having treated ladies to a play
before, and being, as I said, quite a novice at this
kind of entertainments ? At last she spoke plain
out, and begged that I would buy some of " those
oranges," pointing to a particular barrow. But when
I came to examine the fruit I did not think the


quality of it was answerable to the price. In this
way I handled several baskets of them ; but some-
thing in them all displeased me. Some had thin
rinds, and some were plainly over-ripe, which is as
great a fault as not being ripe enough ; and I could
not (what they call) make a bargain. While I stood
haggling with the women, secretly determining to
put off my purchase till I should get within the
theatre, where I expected we should have better
choice, the young man, the cousin, (who, it seems,
had left us without my missing him,) came running
to us with his pockets stuffed out vv'ith oranges,
inside and out, as they say. It seems, not liking the
look of the barrow-fruit any more than myself, he had
slipped away to an eminent fruiterer's, about three
doors distant, which I never had the sense to think
of, and had laid out a matter of two shillings in some
of the best St. Michael's, I think, I ever tasted.
What a little hinge, as I said before, the most im-
portant affairs in life may turn upon I The mere
inadvertence to the fact that there was an eminent
fruiterer's within three doors of us, though we had
just passed it without the thought once occurring to
me, which he had taken advantage of, lost me the
affection of my Cleora. From that time she visibly
cooled towards me ; and her partiality was as visibly
transferred to this cousin. I was long unable to
account for this change in her behaviour ; when one
day, accidentally discoursing of oranges to my
mother, alone, she let drop a sort of reproach to me,
as if I had offended Cleora by my nearness, as she
called it that evening. Even now, when Cleora has
been wedded some years to that same officious rela-
tion, as I may call him, I can hardly be persuaded


that such a trifle could have been the motive to her
inconstancy ; for could she suppose that I would
sacrifice my dearest hopes in her to the paltry sum
of two shillings, when I was going to treat her to
the play, and her mother too, (an expense of more
than four times that amount,) if the young man had
not interfered to pay for the latter, as I mentioned ?
But the caprices of the sex are past finding out : and
I begin to think my mother was in the right ; for
doubtless women know women better than we can
pretend to know them.




After a careful perusal of the most approved works
that treat of nobility, and of its origin in these realms
in particular, we are left very much in the dark as to
the original patent in which this branch of it is
recognised. Neither Camden in his " Etymologie
and Original of Barons," nor Dugdale in his
** Baronage of England," nor Selden (a more exact
and laborious inquirer than either) in his " Titles of
Honour," affords a glimpse of satisfaction upon the


subject. There is an heraldic term, indeed, which
seems to imply gentility, and the right to coat-armour,
(but nothing further,) in persons thus qualified. But
the sinister bend is more probably interpreted by the
best writers on this science, of some irregularity of
birth than of bodily conformation. Nobility is either
hereditary or by creation, commonly called patent.
Of the former kind, the title in question cannot be^
seeing that the notion of it is limited to a personal
distinction which does not necessarily follow in the
blood. Honours of this nature, as Mr. Anstey very
well observes, descend, moreover, in a right line. It
must be by patent, then, if any thing. But who can
show it ? How comes it to be dormant ? Under
what king's reign is it patented .? Among the
grounds of nobility cited by the learned Mr. Ashmole,.
after " Services in the Field or in the Council
Chamber," he judiciously sets down " Honours con-
ferred by the sovereign out of mere benevolence, or
as favouring one subject rather than another for some
likeness or conformity observed (or but supposed) in
him to the royal nature," and instances the graces
showered upon Charles Brandon, who, " in his goodly
person being thought not a little to favour the port
and bearing of the king's own majesty, was by that
sovereign. King Henry the Eighth, for some or one
of these respects, highly promoted and preferred."
Here, if anywhere, we thought we had discovered
a clue to our researches. But after a painful investi-
gation of the rolls and records under the reign of
Richard the Third, or " Richard Crouchback," as he
is more usually designated in the chronicles, — from a
traditionary stoop or gibbosity in that part, — we dO'
not find that that monarch conferred any such lord-


ships as are here pretended, upon any subject or
subjects, on a simple plea of " conformity " in that
respect to the " royal nature." The posture of affairs,
in those tumultuous times preceding the battle of
Bosworth, possibly left him at no leisure to attend to
such niceties. Further than his reign we have not
extended our inquiries, the kings of England who
preceded or followed him being generally described
by historians to have been of straight and clean
limbs, the " natural derivative," says Daniel,^ " of
high blood, if not its primitive recommendation to
such ennoblement, as denoting strength and martial
prowess, — the qualities set most by in that fighting
age." Another motive, which inclines us to scruple
the validity of this claim, is the remarkable fact, that
none of the persons in v/hom the right is supposed to
be vested do ever insist upon it themselves. There
is no instance of any of them " suing his patent," as
the law-books call it ; much less of his having
actually stepped up into his proper spat, as, so
qualified, we might expect that some of them would
have had the spirit to do, in the House of Lords.
On the contrary, it seems to be a distinction thrust
upon them. " Their title of 'lord,'" says one of
their own body, speaking of the common people, " I
never much valued, and now I entirely despise ; and
yet they will force it upon me as an honour which
they have a right to bestow, and which I have none
to refuse."^ Upon a dispassionate review of the
subject, we are disposed to believe that there is no
right to the peerage incident to mere bodily con-

1 History of England, Temporibits Edwardi Primi et sequentibus.
^ Hay on Deformity.


figuration ; that the title in dispute is merely
honorary, and depending upon the breath of the
common people, which in these realms is so far from
the power of conferring nobility, that the ablest con-
stitutionalists have agreed in nothing more unani-
mously than in the maxim, that " the king is the sole
fountain of honour."



The world has hitherto so little troubled its head
with the points of doctrine held by a community
which contributes in other ways so largely to its
amusement, that, before the late mischance of a
celebrated tragic actor, it scarce condescended to
look into the practice of any individual player, much
less to inquire into the hidden and abscondite springs
of his actions. Indeed it is with some violence to
the imagination that we conceive of an actor as
belonging to the relations of private life, so closely
do we identify these persons in our mind with the
characters which they assume upon the stage. How


oddly does it sound, when we are told that the late
Miss Pope, for instance, — that is to say, in our
notion of her, Mrs. Candor, — was a good daughter,
an affectionate sister, and exemplary in all the parts
of domestic life ! With still greater difficulty can
we carry our notions to church, and conceive of
Liston kneeling upon a hassock, or Munden uttering
a pious ejaculation, " making mouths at the invisible
event." But the times are fast improving ; and if
the process of sanctity begun under the happy
auspices of the present licenser go on to its com-
pletion, it will be as necessary for a comedian to give
an account of his faith as of his conduct. Fawcett
must study the five points ; and Dicky Suett, if he
were alive, would have had to rub up his catechism.
Already the effects of it begin to appear. A cele-
brated performer has thought fit to oblige the world

with a confession of his faith, — or Br 's " Religio

Dramatici." This gentleman, in his laudable
attempt to shift from his person the obloquy of
Judaism, with the forwardness of a new convert, in
trying to prove too much, has, in the opinion of
many, proved too little. A simple declaration of his
Christianity was sufficient ; but, strange to say, his
apology has not a word about it. We are left to
gather it from some expressions which imply that he
is a Protestant; but we did not wish to inquire into
the niceties of hi-s orthodoxy. To his friends of the
old persuasion the distinction was impertinent ; for
what cares Rabbi Ben Kimchi for the differences
which have split our novelty ? To the great body of
Christians that hold the Pope's supremacy — that is
to say, to the major part of the Christian world— his
religion will appear as much to seek as ever. But


146 ti:e religion of actors.

perhaps he conceived that all Christians are Pro-
testants, as children and the common people call all
that are not animals, Christians. The mistake was not
very considerable in so young a proselyte, or he might
think the general (as logicians speak) involved in the
particular. All Protestants are Christians; but I am a
Protestant ; ergo, &c. : as if a marmoset, contending to
be a man, overleaping that term as too generic and
vulgar, should at once roundly proclaim himself to
be a gentleman. The argument would be, as we say,
ex ahundanti. From whichever cause this excessiis
in terminis proceeded, we can do no less than con-
gratulate the general state of Christendom upon the
accession of so extraordinary a convert. Who was
the happy instrument of the conversion, we are yet to
learn : it comes nearest to the attempt of the late
pious Dr. Watts to Christianize the Psalms of the Old
Testament. Something of the old Hebrew raciness
is lost in the transfusion ; but much of its asperity is
softened and pared down in the adaptation.

The appearance of so singular a treatise at this
conjuncture has set us upon an inquiry into the pre-
sent state of religion upon the stage generally. By the
favour of the churchwardens of St. Martin's in the
Fields, and St. Paul's, Covent Garden, who have very
readily, and with great kindness, assisted our pur-
suit, we are enabled to lay before the public the fol-
lowing particulars. Strictly speaking, neither of the
two great bodies is collectively a religious institu-
tion. We had expected to have found a chaplain
among thern, as at St. Stephen's and other Court
establishments ; and were the more surprised at the
omission, as the last Mr. Bengough at the one house,
s.nd Mr. Powell at the other, from a gravity of speech


and demeanour, and the habit of wearing black at
their first appearances in the beginning oi fifth or
the conclusion of fourth acts, so eminently pointed
out their qualifications for such office. These cor-
porations, then, being not properly congregational,
we must seek the solution of our question in the
tastes, attainments, accidental breeding, and educa-
tion of the individual members of them. As we were
prepared to expect, a majority at both houses
adhere to the religion of the Church Established, —
only that at one of them a pretty strong leaven of
Catholicism is suspected ; which, considering the
notorious education of the manager at a foreign
seminary, is not so much to be wondered at. Some

have gone so far as to report that Mr. T y, in

particular, belongs to an order lately restored on the
Continent. We can contradict this ; that gentleman
is a member of the Kirk of Scotland ; and his name
is to be found, much to his honour, in the list of
seceders from the congregation of Mr. Fletcher.
While the generality, as we have said, are content to
jog on in the safe trammels of national orthodoxy,
symptoms of a sectarian spirit have broken out in
quarters where we should least have looked for it.
Some of the ladies at both houses are deep in con-
troverted points. Miss F e, we are credibly in-
formed, is a Siib- and Madame V a Sicpra-hap-

sarian. Mr. Pope is the last of the exploded sect of
the Ranters. Mr. Sinclair has joined the Shakers.
Mr. Grimaldi, sen., after being long a Jumper, has
lately fallen into some whimsical theories respecting
the fall of man ; which he understands, not of an
allegorical, but a real tumble, by which the whole

Online LibraryCharles LambThe life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) → online text (page 10 of 29)