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BOSTON, NOV. 1, 1824.
[vol. 2. N.s.
SKETCHES OF SOCIETY.
L-, the attorney, got on in the terview, I believe Jack is a good-natured world ; for, to me, his character does fellow at bottom. He was once emnot appear to possess one redeeming ployed in a suit against his own father; quality. Every body calls him a liar, and so unblushingly did he talk of the a cheat, a rascal ; yet every body as- matter, that it did not lose him a single sociates with him : he is welcomed acquaintance or friend. even at the houses of the fastidious, Though Jack began the world penand his parties are always filled at nyless, he is now a rich man. Those home; business pours in upon him who were cheated by him last yearfrom all quarters ; and, lastly, he has though they abuse him, to be sure -still married a woman of high reputation seem willing to be cheated on, and and respectability. Surely there must Jack proceeds in his career as boldly be something very fascinating in his as ever. manners and address—he must, at least, This character, I am afraid, is not be a complete gentleman. No: his an uncommon one; at least, innumeraperson is any thing but prepossessing; ble varieties of it are to be met in our his manners are disgustingly familiar intercourse with society. and boisterous; and his conversation Throughout life, it has been a subabounds in slang and profaneness, ject of surprise to me, how those bold How, then, does he get on? Why is spirits succeed in obtaining their purnot every door shut against him? poses, even with each other. It cor
Effrontery-Effrontery is the talis- roborates the justice of Hudibras's obman to which he owes his success; it servationis the “ Open Sesamé," which admits “ That the pleasure is as great him into good society.
In being cheated, as to cheat.” way appeared to condemn or to be In fact, people in general seem ever ashamed of himself, he would be shun- ready to be imposed on by those who ned like a common swindler ; but he possess dauntless effrontery. I knew puts a bold face on all his actions : he an instance, not long ago, of a man talks so openly of drinking, gambling, who was absolutely concerned in deand cheating, that he seems to take as frauding another of ten thousand pounds; much pains to convince the world that yet, so boldly did he maintain his own he is an adept in all three, as any other character, and utter self-evident falseman ever took to conceal his vices. hood upon falsehood, that his very vic
He catches strangers completely by tim (a man by no means devoid of surprise ; they know not what to make common sense,) was, the following of him : in fact, he manages his part year, not only ready to enter into fresh
so well, that while he is in reality play- engagements with him, but even, on - ing off his true character, he appears one occasion, accommodated him with only to be acting ; and I have heard letters of recommendation to the Conti
12 ATHENEUM VOL. 2. 2d series.
If he in any
L--- is another personification of their names inscribed on the title-pages. Effrontery, though in a smaller way. He meets with hundreds who are simIt is the very height of his ambition to ple enough to swallow all his boastings, be thought to mingle in the society of and who, in their turn, boast of his people of rank; and no stone does he acquaintance. leave unturned to attain his end. Be In fact, the instances of effrontery sides the old trick of bowing to every which crowd upon me are almost incoronet that he meets, &c. he professes numerable. I am often amused at the to be intimately acquainted with Sir various forms which it is capable of asWalter Scott, and half the celebrated suming ; and shall perhaps, on some authors of the day; and, to bear him- future occasion, again endeavour to aself out, he has bought expensive edi- muse the Fire-side by some more illustions of their works, which he shows trations of the subject. about as the gifts of the writers, having
EVERY BODY'S COUSIN.
(From the French.) I HAVE just had an additional op been composed for the occasion; he
portunity of proving the accuracy drew the cork of the first bottle of of observation which distinguishes Pie Champagne ; he it was who first drank card's comedy. I was present at the the health of the young married folks; celebration of a marriage, which was he fastened one of the bride's favours to be followed by a grand feast at one at his button-hole; in short, after havof the most celebrated taverns in the ing charmed the whole company by capital. The number of relations his affability and good-humour, he took (thanks, probably, to this latter cir- leave when the gaming tables were cumstance) was very considerable. brought. “My love," said the brideAmong them I observed one whose groom to his young spouse, conduct might have served as a model. lighted in the acquisition of a relation He was dressed in a suit of black, and so amiable as the gentleman who has had a collected air, with a smile play- just quitted us.” “My dear," replied ing upon his lips, and appeared to be the lady, it is an acquisition which I inspired by a general benevolence, value the more, as I am indebted for it At the moment of going into the sa to you." 66 What! is not this polite cristy, he offered his hand to a respect- gentleman your cousin ?” “ On the able grand-aụnt of the bride's, who contrary, I thought he was yours, and was quite charmed with a courtesy to it was on that account I was so imwhich she did not appear to be accus- pressed with the civilities which he tomed. On entering the carriages to exhibited towards me.” An explanarepair to the feast, he again gave his tion between the two families proved hand to the old lady, and afterwards that this every body's cousin was noseated himself beside her at the ban- body's cousin ; but as, after examinaquet. At table he seemed perpetually tion, none of the spoons or shawls engaged. Full of attentions to his were missing, the company laughed neighbour, he found means not to for- heartily at the adventure, and resolved get himself, although he undertook to that, under similar circumstances, they carve several of the principal dishes. would call over the names of the party At the dessert, he sung some couplets before going into the dining-room. on marriage, which seemed to have
(Blackwood's Edin. Mag.)
SPECULATIONS OF A TRAVELLER CONCERNING THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED
STATES : WITH PARALLELS.*
of making any two people thor- tant, without being known for stranoughly acquainted with each other, is gers. And, as it is, the native of any to run a fair parallel between them one state can travel from one end of the wherever it can be done--with a firm Union to the other, thousands and hand, a clear head, and a steady eye. thousands of miles, not only without One simple fact brought home upon us an interpreter, but with a tolerable unexpectedly, will often do more than certainty, if be desire it, of passing, in volumes of abstract propositions. every state, for a citizen of that state.
But, in running a parallel of this An Englishman who has no strong kind, one should be perpetually upon provincial dialect, and no very peculiar His guard, or he will wander into poe- pronunciation, may pass in the same try and exaggeration. The desire of way, without suspicion, over the whole doing a clever or a brilliant thing-of of the North American States. being lively, smart, and entertaining, is A fact like this cannot but make a exceedingly prone to interfere with strong impression upon us. The best plain matters of fact. But, where na- of English, we all know, will not carry tional fellowship is concerned, the sim- a man far, in the British Empire. To ple truth is always better than pleas- a large proportion of the people, it antry, and caricature, however rich would be wholly unintelligible ; and to and humorous it may be, is entirely another large proportion,a sort of dialect. out of place. Broad, absolute nature,
He who would travel comfortably, although it may be, sometimes, offen- for three or four hundred miles, in any sive, is never so very offensive as affec- direction, from London, should undertation.
stand many languages and many diaThe language of an American will lects. But one language, if he speak it not often betray him; that of an Eng- tolerably, will carry him all over the lishman will; so will that of a Scot, or North American States; and, in some an Irishman, unless he be of the highest cases, without permitting him to be class, when his English is often re- known for a stranger. markable for purity.
The country people of New EngBut there are no provincials in the land—the Virginians and the KentuckUnited States. The Yankees, who in- ians, who are the posterity of the New habit the New England States, (Mas. Englanders---have a disposition to sachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, sound the vowel a, like the Scotch New Hampshire, and Maine,) differ, and Irish; and, in some cases, like the it is true from the southern people, Italians, without any variation of tone. and the latter in their turn differ from the western people; but then it
Thus, they say chamber, and even is only in a few words, the whole of chamber. The first habit prevails which might be enumerated in half a among the Yankees; the latter, among minute; and in a strong nasal tone, the Virginians. So, too, the Virginian common to a part of the New England population. But for these few words, will say bar for bear; har for hair; and this tone, the people of any one stars for stairs. state in the Union might become incor A Yankee will say, I guess ; or, porated with the people of any other, sometimes, though very rarely, I cal
* [We continue these extracts to show the opinions entertained by well-informed foreigners respecting America, as well as to laugh at our own portraits ;-but as to the truth of some of the sketches, they border upon caricature, and we must dissent to their faithfulness. It seems impossible for travellers wholly to divest themselves of partiality for their own country, and to view all others through any other lens thau the haze of prejudice.]
culate, but never I reckon. A Mary- The character of the American seems lander and a Virginian will say, I generally to have been manufactured reckon--sometimes very oddly, as at leisure, from the materials collected thus : “ Do you visit Mr. Jefferson, by other people, in any way, at any before you leave the country ?"_“I time: Thus, the dialogues of Mr. Fearreckon." But a Virginian was never on-although there is a great deal of known to say, I guess, or I calculate. truth in his book, notwithstanding A Tennessian or Kentuckian will gene- what the people of America may say rally, say, I calculate; seldom, I guess; to the contrary—are evidently made and hardly ever, I reckon. These up from story-books and vocabularies. words, in fact, are the distinguishing And the representations of Mr. Matmarks of three different divisions of thews are so full of blundering, with the American people.
two exceptions, that, had I not met Hence the absurdity of those repre- him in America, I should, on seeing sentations, however humorous they his performance, really doubt if he had may be, which put all these phrases, ever been there'; so little is there in his and others that resemble them, into trip to America,” of that extraordithe samne fellow's mouth. And hence nary truth and richness which characis it, that an American who goes to terize bis trips to other parts of the see Mr. Matthews, although he may world. He himself would seem to be laugh as heartily as another at bis aware of this, because he introduces, drollery, is laughing at a kind of drol- under one picture and another, three lery wbich our countrymen do not per- Frenchmen, one Irishman, one Dutchceive. Mr. M.'s Yankees come from man, one Yorkshireman, and sundry no particular part of the confederacy; other second-hand characters, for which and are, evidently, made up,” at he had already been celebrated. second hand, with two fine exceptions, But there are two fine exceptions in of which I shall hereafter take some the entertainment of Mr. Matthews. notice.
The story of “ Uncle Ben” is inimitaBut how would a native of Great ble—and the sketch of the Kentucki. Britain relish a character that should an is master!y. They are two of the Come upon the stage kilted; with a
most legitimate pieces of sober humor shamrock in his hat, a shilelah in his in the world, for one that knows the hand, a leek in his button-hole, or a American character. But then the piece of toasted cheese and a red-her- first—the story about that are trifle,” ring in his pocket; swearing alternate- is an American Joe Miller. Mr. Jar. ly by St. Patrick, St. Andrew, St. Da- vis, a portrait painter of New York vid, and St. George ; and speaking a man of remarkable power and gibberish made up of Scotch, Irish, drollery-is the person of whon Mr. and Welsh, interspersed with provin, Matthews had it-as well as that story cial and Cockney phrases ?
of General Jackson. The Reviety is And yet that is precisely what has an old story in this country, and the been done by those who have been em. Dutch Judge is from Judge Breckenployed in getting up, brother Jona- ridge, originally one of the most " genthans for the English market. They uine story-tellers that ever lived. His have jumbled everything together, only son, Henry M. Breckenridge, a true and false—all the peculiarities of judge of Louisiana, and author of the all the different people-and called the “ Views of Louisiana,” inherits a large composition a Yankee.
portion of his father's extraordinary In almost every book of travels, talent; and has made this very story, play, novel, and story, if a New Eng- which he tells better than Mr. Matlander be introduced, he is generally, thews, as common in America, as any made to do the most absurd things- anecdote of Foote or Sheridan is in for a New Englander ; things that are this country. hardly less absurd than it would be Nevertheless, the finest parts of the for an Irishman to wear a Scotch dress, Kentuckian's character, and thuse talk Yorkshire, and swear by St. David. which are the most, severe, because
they are the truest, may be safely put at the same time, in the flesh of his down to the credit of Mr. Matthews fellow-men, with a heartless and abohimself. They must have been drawn minable indifference, at which I, for from life. They were never made out one, cannot laugh, notwithstanding the at second hand; or got up, in a solita- drollery of the picture ; because I ry chamber, out of novels, newspapers, know it to be true. and books of travels, as nine-tenths of But, a word or two of Brother Jothe rest of his “ trip to America” are. nathan's “ lingo.” We laugh at him
Thus, nothing can be truer or bold- for pronouncing genuine, as if it were er, than the canting of the Kentuckian written genu.wine, forgetful of the fact, about the “ land of liberty-where that the common people of England every man has a right to speak his ge- very generally say appo-síte, giving nuine sentiments”-and where, there the same sound to the vowel i; and fore, he is free to offer “fifty-five col- that our public speakers, perhaps withlars for that are nigger”—being deter- out one exception, say hostile, instead mined, beforehand, if he should be of hostil. We wonder, also, at the cheated, to “ take the balance out of absurdity of the Yankee “had ought, his hide." Nothing can be more reso- and hadu't ought,” which, after all, lute and cutting than this. The Ame- are not only pure English, like • I had ricans deserve it; and I am exceed- rather, but in common use here, paringly mistaken, if they would not im- ticularly about Coventry; and, in strict mediately acknowledge the truth of analogy with every other language, it. The worst fault of Mr. Matthews, wherein the verb to owe can be found. apart from his absurd credulity-is We chuckle at his " I guess," " the tameness of his caricatures. They siderable,” and “ pretty particularly," want spirit ; but perhaps that is not overlooking the fact, that guess is wholly unaccountable, since it is be- true old-fashioned English, for which lieved that be intends to 6 settle” in “ I presume," " I fancy,” “I imagine," the United States. And yet there is you
know," &c. &c. are awkward bad policy in such daintiness. The and feeble substitutes ; that “ darnAmericans would respect him a thou, ation" is common through Kent ; sand times more, if his whole enter- that “guess” in America, is never used tainment were as true-however se. so absurdly as people say, hardly ever vere it might be as are the two at the end of a phrase; and that “pretsketches alluded to.
ty particularly damned," and all such It is a common thing, in the United phrases, are only a sort of Yankee, or States, to hear a high-spirited Virgi- Kentucky, flash language ; so little nian, or Carolinian, declaiming about known throughout the country, that Liberty, as if he were inspired, in multitudes in every direction have the presence of his own slaves, a part of probably never heard, and would not whom bear an alarming resemblance understand it. It is, in fact, the slang to the white children of the same of story-tellers. family, upon whom they are waiting, We wonder, also, that the Yankees perhaps, at the time, in a state of the never give a direct answer ; most abject and pitiable submissive- always reply to one question, by anness-within hearing, it is ten to one, swėring another; that they never say of the overseer's lash-or the cries of yes or no; and that they always begin some poor fellow undergoing punish- their answer with some superfluous word. ment-and the DECLARATION OF IN
But all these things, it should be DEPENDENCE, superbly framed, hang. remarked, are common to every peoing up in front of him—while he is ple, polite or barbarous. Put what holding forth-wherein.it is proclaim- question you will, to a well-educated ed to all the nations of the earth-that man or woman; and, whatever people “ all men are born free and equal !”
may say to the contrary, you will rareThere is no exaggeration, therefore, ly get a direct answer; and never, unin the character of the Kentuckian less they are angry, or in haste, as boastful of Liberty; and speculating, direct an answer as might have been