E. V. (Edward Verrall) Lucas.

The gentlest art, a choice of letters online

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Have you got a theatre ? What pieces are performed ?
Shakespear's, I suppose — not so much for the poetry, as
for his having once been in danger of leaving his country
on account of certain " small deer."

Have you poets among you ? Cursed plagiarists, I
fancy, if you have any. I would not trust an idea or a
pocket-hankerchief of mine among 'em. You are almost
competent to answer Lord Bacon's problem, whether a
nation of atheists can subsist together. You are
practically in one : —

"So thievish 'tis, that the eighth commandment itself
Scarce seemeth there to be."

171



Distant Correspondents

Our old honest world goes on with little perceptible
variation. Of course you have heard of poor Mitchell's
death, and that G. Dyer is one of Lord Stanhope's
residuaries. I am afraid he has not touched much of
the residue yet. He is positively as lean as Cassius.
Barnes is going to Demerara or Essequibo, I am not
quite certain which. A[lsager] is turned actor. He
came out in genteel comedy at Cheltenham this season,
and has hopes of a London engagement.

For my own history, I am just in the same spot, doing
the same thing (videlicet, little or nothing), as when you
left me ; only I have positive hopes that I shall be able
to conquer that inveterate habit of smoking which you
may remember I indulged in. I think of making a
beginning this evening, namely, Sunday, 31st August
181 7, not Wednesday, 2nd February 181 8, as it will be,
perhaps, when you read this for the first time. There is
the difficulty of writing from one end of the globe
(hemispheres I call 'em) to another ! Why, half the
truths I have sent you in this letter will become lies
before they reach you, and some of the lies (which I have
mixed for variety's sake, and to exercise your judgment
in the finding of them out) may be turned into sad
realities before you shall be called upon to detect them.
Such are the defects of going by different chronologies.
Your now is not my now ; and again, your then is not my
then ; but my now may be your then, and vice versa.
Whose head is competent to these things ?

How does Mrs. Field get on in her geography? Does
she know where she is by this time .'' I am not sure
sometimes you are not in another planet ; but then 1
don't like to ask Capt. Burney, or any of those that
know anything about it, for fear of exposing my
ignorance.

172



Mrs. Johnson's Pick-Axe

Our kindest remembrances, however, to Mrs. F., if
she will accept of reminiscences from another planet, or
at least another hemisphere. C. L.

The Dean extemporises to Dr. Sheridan -^^ ^>
(To Dr. Sheridan)

January 2^, 1724-5

I HAVE a packet of letters, which I intended to send
by Molly, who has been stopped three days by the
bad weather ; but now I will send them by the post
to-morrow to Kells, and enclosed to Mr. Tickell ; there
is one to you and one to James Stopford.

I can do no work this terrible weather ; which has put
us all seventy times out of patience. I have been deaf
nine days, and am now pretty well recovered again.

Pray desire Mr. Stanton and Mr. Worral to continue
giving themselves some trouble with Mr. Pratt ; but let
it succeed or not, I hope I shall be easy.

Mrs. Johnson swears it will rain till Michaelmas.
She is so pleased with her pick-axe, that she wears it
fastened to her girdle on her left side, in balance with
her watch. The lake is strangely overflown, and we are
desperate about turf, being forced to lay it three miles
off ; and Mrs. Johnson (God help her !) gives you many
a curse. Your mason is come, but cannot yet work upon
your garden. Neither can I agree with him about the
great wall. For the rest, vide the letter you will have on
Monday, if Mr. Tickell uses you well.

The news of the country is, that the maid you sent
down, John Farelly's sister, is married ; but the portion
and settlement are yet a secret. The cows here never
give milk on Midsummer Eve.

173



The Servants' Maxim

You would wonder what carking and caring there is
among us for small beer and lean mutton, and stewed
lamb, and stopping gaps, and driving cattle from the
covers. In that we are all-to-be-Dingleyed.

The ladies' room smokes, the rain drops from the skies
into the kitchen, our servants eat and drink like the devil,
and pray for rain, which entertains them at cards and
sleep, which are revels lighter than spades, sledges, and
crows. Their maxim is —

Eat like a Turk,

Sleep like a dormouse,
Be last at work,

At victuals foremost.

Which is all at present ; hoping you and your good family
are well, as we are all at this present writing, etc.

Robin has just carried out a load of bread and cold
meat for breakfast ; this is their way ; but now a cloud
hangs over them, for fear it should hold up, and the
clouds blow off.

I write on till Molly conies in for the letter. O, what
a draggletail she will be before she gets to Dublin ! I
wish she may not happen to fall upon her back by the
way.

I affirm against Aristotle that cold and rain congregate
homogenes, for they gather together you and your crew,
at whist, punch, and claret. Happy weather for Mr.
Mauls, Betty, and Stopford, and all true lovers of cards
and laziness.

Blessings of a Country Life

Far from our debtors,

No Dublin letters,

Not seen by our betters.

174



William Cowper's Morning

The Plagues of a Country Life

A companion with news,
A great want of shoes ;
Eat lean meat, or choose ;
A church without pews.
Our horses astray,
No straw, oats, or hay ;
December in May,
Our boys now away.
Our servants at play.



William Cowper looks backward -^^ o o
(To the Rev. John Newton)

February lo, 1784

MY DEAR FRIEND, — The morning is my writing
time, and in the morning I have no spirits. So
much the worse for my correspondents. Sleep that re-
freshes my body, seems to cripple me in every other
respect.

As the evening approaches, I grow more alert, and
when I am retiring to bed, am more fit for mental occupa-
tion than at any other time.

So it fares with us whom they call nervous. By a
strange inversion of the animal economy, we are ready
to sleep when we have most need to be awake, and go tc^
bed just when we might sit up to some purpose.

The watch is irregularly wound up, it goes in the night
when it is not wanted, and in the day stands still.

In many respects we have the advantage of our fore-
fathers the Picts. We sleep in a whole skin, and are not
obliged to submit to the painful operation of puncturing
ourselves from head to foot in order that we may be
decently dressed, and fit to appear abroad.

175



The Happy Picts

But, on the other hand, we have reason enough to envy
them their tone of nerves, and that flow of spirits which
effectually secured them from all uncomfortable im-
pressions of a gloomy atmosphere, and from every shade
of melancholy from every other cause. They under-
stood, I suppose, the use of vulnerary herbs, having
frequent occasion for some skill in surgery ; but physicians,
I presume, they had none, having no need of any.

Is it possible, that a creature like myself can be
•descended from such progenitors, in whom there appears
not a single trace of family resemblance ?

What an alteration have a few ages made ? They,
without clothing, would defy the severest season ; and I,
with all the accommodations that art has since invented,
am hardly secure even in the mildest.

If the wind blows upon me when my pores are open,
I catch cold. A cough is the consequence.

I suppose if such a disorder could have seized a Pict,
his friends would have concluded that a bone had stuck
in his throat, and that he was in some danger of choking.

They would perhaps have addressed themselves to the
cure of his cough by thrusting their fingers into his
gullet, which would only have exasperated the case.

But they would never have thought of administering
laudanum, my only remedy. For this difference, how-
ever, that has obtained between me and my ancestors,
I am indebted to the luxurious practices, and enfeebling
self-indulgence, of a long line of grandsires, who from
generation to generation have been employed in de-
teriorating the breed, till at last the collected effects of
all their follies have centred in my puny self, — a man
indeed, but not in the image of those that went before
me ;^a man, who sighs and groans, who wears out life in
dejection and oppression of spirits, and who never thinks
176



The Visionary Adam

of the aborigines of the country to which he belongs,
without wishing that he had been born among them.
The evil is without a remedy, unless the ages that are
passed could be recalled, my whole pedigree being per-
mitted to live again, and being properly admonished to
beware of enervating sloth and refinement, would preserve
their hardiness of nature unimpaired, and transmit the
desirable quality to their posterity. I once saw Adam
in a dream. We sometimes say of a picture, that we
doubt not its likeness to the original, though we never
sav/ him ; a judgment we have some reason to form, when
the face is strongly charactered, and the features full of
expression.

So I think of my visionary Adam, and for a similar
reason. His figure was awkward in the extreme. It was
evident that he had never been taught by a Frenchman to
hold his head erect, or to turn out his toes ; to dispose
gracefully of his arms, or to simper without a meaning.
But if Mr. Bacon was called upon to produce a statue of
Hercules, he need not wish for a juster pattern. He
stood like a rock ; the size of his limbs, the prominence of
his muscles, and the height of his stature, all conspired
to bespeak him a creature whose strength had suftered
no diminution ; and who, being the first of his race, did
not come into the world under a necessity of sustaining
a load of infirmities, derived to him from the intemper-
ance of others.

He was as much stouter than a Pict, as I suppose a
Pict to have been than I. Upon my hypothesis, there-
fore, there has been a gradual declension, in point of
bodily vigour, from Adam down to me ; at least if my
dream were a just representation of that gentleman, and
deserve the credit I cannot help giving it, such must have
been the case. — Yours, my dear friend, W. C.

.M J-J1



Christmas in China
Charles Lamb invents for Manning o o



Online LibraryE. V. (Edward Verrall) LucasThe gentlest art, a choice of letters → online text (page 13 of 29)