Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub
[blocks in formation]

give some encouragement to Antonio ; but then, Sir, you were described to me as a quite different person.

Isaac. Ay, and so you were to me upon my soul, Madam.

Duenna. But when I saw you, I was never more struck in my life.

Isaac. That was just my case too, Madam; I was struck all in a heap for my part.

Duenna. Well, Sir, I see our misapprehension has been mutual-you have expected to find me haughty and averse, and I was taught to believe you a little black, snub-nosed fellow, without person, manner, or address.

Isaac. Egad, I wish she had answered her picture as well.

After this interview, Don Jerome asks him what he thinks of his daughter.

Don Jerome. Well, my good friend, have you softened her?

Isaac. Oh, yes, I have softened her.

Don J. Well, and you were astonished at her beauty, bey ?

Isaac. I was astonished, indeed. Pray how old is Miss ? Don J. How old ? let me see-twenty.

Isaac. Then upon my soul she is the oldest looking girl of her age in Christendom.

Don J. Do you think so ? but I believe you will not see a prettier girl.

Isaac. Here and there one.
Don J. Louisa has the family face.

Isaac. Yes, egad, I should have taken it for a family face, and one that has been in the family some time too.

Don J. She has her father's eyes.

Isaac. Truly I shonld have guessed them to be so. If she had her mother's spectacles I believe she would not see the worse.

Don J. Her aunt Ursula's nose, and her grandmother's forehead to a bair. Isaac. Ay, faith, and her grandmother's chin to a hair.

Sheridan, as we have observed, was not more remarkable as a dramatist than as a man of society, and passed for what was called a “ wit.” The name had been applied two centuries before to men of talent generally,

VOL. II.

M

especially to writers, but now it referred exclusively to such as were humorous in conversation. These men, though to a certain extent the successors of the parasites of Greece, and the fools of the middle ages, were men of education and independence, if not of good family, and rather sought popularity than any mercenary remuneration. The majority of them, however, were gainers by their pleasantry, they rose into a higher grade of society, were welcome at the tables of the great, and derived many advantages, not unacceptable to men generally poor and improvident. As Swift well,observed, though not unequal to business, they were above it. Moreover, the age was one in which society was less varied than it is now in its elements and interests; when men of talent were more prominent, and it was easier to command an audience. It was known to all that Mr. —was coming, and guests repaired to the feast, not to talk, but to listen, as we should now to a public reading. The greatest joke and treat was to get two of such men, and set them against each other, when they had to bring out their best steel ; although it sometimes happened, that both refused to fight. We need scarcely say that the humour which was produced in such quantities to supply immediate demand was not of the best kind, and that a large part of

[blocks in formation]

it would not have been relished by the fastidious critics of our own day. But some of these “ wits” were highly gifted, they were generally literary men, and many of their good sayings have survived. The two who obtained the greatest celebrity in this field, seem to have been Theodore Hook and Sydney Smith. Selwyn, a precursor of these men, was so full of banter and impudence that George II. called him “ that rascal George.” “What does that mean," said the wit one day, musingly“ rascal'? Oh, I forgot, it was an hereditary title of all the Georges.” Perhaps Selwyn might have been called a “wag”-a name given to men who were more enterprising than successful in their humour, and which referred originally to mere ludicrous motion.

a

164

CHAPTER XI.

Southey-Drolls of Bartholomew Fair-The “Doves”

Typographical Devices-Puns-Poems of Abel Shuffle. bottom.

TE have already mentioned the name of

V Southey. By far the greater part of his works are poetical and sentimental, and hence some doubt has been thrown upon the authorship of his work called “ The Doctor." But in his minor poems we find him verging into humour, as where he pleads the cause of the pig and dancing bear, and even of the maggot. The last named is under the head of “ The Filbert,” and commences“Nay gather not that filbert, Nicholas,

There is a maggot there; it is his house
His castle-oh! commit not burglary!
Strip him not naked ; 'tis his clothes, his shell;
His bones, the case and armour of his life,
And thou shalt do no murder, Nicholas.
It were an easy thing to crack that nut,
Or with thy crackers or thy double teeth;
So easily may all things be destroyed!
But 'tis not in the power of mortal man
To mend the fracture of a filbert shell.
There were two great men once amused themselves
Watching two maggots run their wriggling race,
And wagering on their speed; but, Nick, to us
It were no sport to see the pampered worm

[blocks in formation]

Roll out and then draw in bis folds of fat
Like to some barber's leathern powder bag
Wherewith he feathers, frosts or cauliflowers,
Spruce beau, or lady fair, or doctor grave.”.

Also his Commonplace Book proves that, like many other hardworking men, he amused his leisure hours with what was light and fantastic. Moreover, he speaks in some places of the advantage of intermingling amusement and instruction

“Even in literature a leafy style, if there be any fruit under the foliage, is preferable to a knotty one however fine the grain. Whipt cream is a good thing, and better still when it covers and adorns that amiable compound of sweetmeats and ratafia cakes soaked in wine, to which Cowper likened his delightful poem, when he thus described 'The Task'

“. It is a medley of many things, some that may be useful, and some that, for aught I know, may be very diverting. I am merry that I may decoy people into my company, and grave that they may be the better for it. Now and then I put on the garb of a philosopher, and take the opportunity that disguise procures me to drop a word in favour of religion. In short there is some froth, and here and there some sweetmeat which seems to entitle it justly to the name of a certain dish the ladies call a 'trifle.' But in 'task' or 'trifle' unless the ingredients were good the whole were nought. They who should present to their deceived guests whipt white of egg would deserve to be whipt themselves.”

But Southey by no means follows the profitable rule he here lays down. On the contrary, he sometimes betrays such a love of the marvellous as would seem unaccountable, had we not read bygone literature, and observed how strong the feeling was even as late as the days of the “Wonderful Magazine.” Among

« ПредишнаНапред »