Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

coaches than Christians in it," as a learned man once took the freedom to tell them “ from the pulpit” and go to market, i.e., to London.

The “ Advice of the Scandalous Club” was discontinued from May, 1703.

Although we cannot say that Defoe carried his sword in a myrtle wreath, he certainly owed. much of his celebrity to his insinuating under ambiguous language the boldest political opinions. He was fond of literary whimsicalities, and wrote a humorous “ History,” referring mostly to the events of the times. Towards the end of his career, he happily turned his talent for disguises and fictions into a quieter and more profitable direction. How many thousands remember him as the author of “Robinson Crusoe " who never heard a word about his jousts and conflicts, his animosities and misfortunes !

The last century, although adorned by several celebrated wits, was less rich in humour than the present. Literature had a grave and pedantic character, for where there was any mental activity, instruction was sought almost to the exclusion of gaiety. It required a greater spread of education and experience to create a source of superior humour, or to awaken any considerable demand for it. Hence, although

ге

[ocr errors]

Comic Periodicals.

37

the taste was so increased that several periodicals of a professedly humorous nature were started, they disappeared soon after their commencement. To record their brief existence is like writing the epitaphs of the departed. Towards the termination of the previous century, comic literature was represented by an occasional flysheet, shot off to satirize some absurdity of the day. The first humorous periodical which has come to our knowledge, partakes, as might have been expected, of an ecclesiastical character and betokens the severity of the times. It appeared in 1670, under the title of “Jesuita Vapulans, or a Whip for the Fool's Back, and a Gad for his Foul Mouth.” The next seems to have been a small weekly paper called “Heraclitus Ridens,” published in 1681. It was mostly directed against Dissenters and Republicans; and in No. 9, we have a kind of Litany commencing :“From Commonwealth, Cobblers and zealuus State

Tinkers, From Speeches and Expedients of Politick Blinkers, From Rebellion, Taps, and Tapsters, and Skinkers,

Libera Nos. “From Papists on one hand, and Phanatick on th' other,

From Presbyter Jack, the Pope's younger brother,
And Congregational Daughters, far worse than their
Mother,

Libera Nos."
In the same year appeared “Hippocrates
Ridens," directed against quacks and pretenders

to physic, who seem then to have been numerous. The contents of these papers were mostly in dialogue-a form which seems to have been approved, as it was afterwards adopted in similar publications. These papers do not seem to have been written by contributors from the public, but by one or two persons, and this, I believe, was the case with all the periodicals of this time, and one cause of their want of permanence the periodical was not carried on by an editor, but by its author.

The “ London Spy” appeared in 1699, and went through eighteen monthly parts. Any one who wishes to find a merry description of London manners at the end of the seventeenth century, cannot look in a better place. It was written by Edward (Ned) Ward, author of an indifferent narrative entitled “A Trip to Jamaica ;" but he must have possessed considerable observation and talent. A man who proposes to visit and unmask all the places of resort, high and low in the metropolis, could not have much refinement in his nature, but at the present day we cannot help wondering how a work should have been published and bought, containing so much gross language.

Under the character of a countryman who has come up to see the world, he gives us some amusing glimpses of the metropolis, for

Beaux Entertainment.

39

instance. He goes to dine with some beaux at a tavern, and gives the following description of the entertainment :

“ As soon as we came near the bar, a thing started up all ribbons, lace, and feathers, and made such a noise with her bell and her tongue together, that had half-a-dozen paper-mills been at work within three yards of her, they'd have signified no more to her clamorous voice tban so many lates to a drum, which alarmed two or three nimble-heel'd fellows aloft, who shot theniselves downstairs with as much celerity as a mountebank's Mercury upon a rope from the top of a church-steeple, every one charged with a mouthful of coming! coming! This sudden clatter at our appearance so surprised me that I looked as silly as a bumpkin translated from the plough-tail to the play-house, when it rains fire in the tempest, or when Don Jobn's at dinner with the subterranean assembly of terrible hobgoblins. He that got the start and first approached us of these greyhound-footed emissaries, desir'd us to walk up, telling my companion his friends were above; then with a bop, stride and jump, ascended the stair-head before us, and from thence conducted us to a spacious room, where about a dozen of my schoolfellow's acquaintances were ready to receive us. Upon our entrance they all started up, and on a suddain screwed themselves into so many antick postures, that had I not seen them first erect, I should have query'd with myself, whether I was fallen into the company of men or monkeys.

“This academical fit of riggling agility was almost over before I rightly understood the meaning on't, and found at last they were only showing one another how many sorts of apes' gestures and fops' cringes had been invented since the French dancing-masters undertook to teach our Eng. lish gentry to make scaramouches of themselves; and how to entertain their poor friends, and pacifie their needy creditors with compliments and congies. When every person with abundance of pains had shown the ultimate of his breeding, contending about a quarter of an hour who should sit down first, as if we waited the coming of some herauld to fix us iu our proper places, which with much difficulty being at last agreed on, we proceed to a whet of old hock to sharpen our appetites to our approaching dinner; though I confess my stomach was as keen already as a greyhound's to bis supper after a day's coursing, or a miserlg livery-man's, who had fasted three days to prepare himself for a Lord Mayor's feast. The honest cook

gave us no leisure to tire our appetites by a tedious expectancy; for in a little time the cloth was laid, and our first course was ushered up by the dominus factotum in great order to the table, which consisted of two calves'-beads and a couple of geese. I could not but laugh in my conceit to think with what judgment the caterer had provided so lucky an entertainment for so suitable a company. After the victuals were pretty well cooled, in complimenting who should begin first, we all fell to; and i'faith I found by their eating, they were no ways affronted by their fare ; for in less time than an old woman could crack a nut, we had not left enough to dine tbe bar-boy. The conclusion of our dinner was a stately Cheshire cheese, of a groaning size, of which we devonred more in three minutes than a million of maggots could have done in three weeks. After cheese comes nothing; then all we desired was a clear stage and no favour; accordingly everything was whipped away in a trice by so cleanly a conveyance, that no juggler by virtue of Hocus Pocus could have conjured away balls with more dexterity. All our empty plates and disbes were in an instant changed into full quarts of purple nectar and unsullied glasses. Then a bumper to the Queen led the van of our good wishes, another to the Church Established, a third left to the whimsie of the toaster, till at last their slippery engines of verbosity coined nonsense with such a facil fluency, that a parcel of alley-gossips at a christening, after the sack had gone twice round, could not with their tattling tormentors be a greater plague to a fumbling godfather, than their lame jest and impertinent conundrums were to a man of my temper. Oaths were as plenty as weeds in an alms-house garden.

“The night was spent in another tavern in harmony, the songs being such as :

“ Musicks a crotchet the sober think vain,

The fiddle's a wooden projection,
Tunes are but flirts of a wbimsical brain,
Which the bottle brings best to perfection :
Musicians are half-witted, merry and mad,
The same are all those that admire 'em,
They're fools if they play unless they're well paid,

And the others are blockheads to hire 'em."
Perhaps the most interesting account is that
of St. Paul's Cathedral—then in progress.
We all know that it was nearly fifty years in

« ПредишнаНапред »