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qualities of physical and intellectual nature, blends them in happier union within us. Here, in this hallowed ground, the germs of inspiration and the memorials of decay lie side by side, and Bacchus holds divided empire with the King of Terrors.
As I sat indulging this serious vein of reflection some years ago, when my relish of philosophy and port was young, a friend called to remind me that we had agreed to dine together with rather more luxury than usual. I had made the appointment with boyish eagerness, and now started gladly from my solitary reveries to keep it . The friend with whom I had planned our holiday, was one of those few persons whom you may challenge to a convivial evening with a mathematical certainty of enjoying it;—which is the rarest quality of friendship. Many who are equal to great exigencies, and would go through fire and water to serve you, want the delicate art to allay the petty irritations, and heighten the ordinary enjoyments of life, and are quite unable to make themselves agreeable at a tete-a-tete dinner. Not so my companion; who zealous, prompt, and consoling in all seasons of trial, had good sense for every little difficulty, and a happy humour for every social moment; at all times a better and wiser self. Blest with good but never boisterous spirits; endowed with the rare faculty not only of divining one's wishes but instantly making them his own; skilful in sweetening good counsel with honest flattery; able to bear with enthusiasm in which he might not participate, and to avoid smiling at the follies he could not help discerning; ever ready to indulge the secret wish of his guest "for another bottle," with heart enough to drink it with him, and head enough to take care of him when it was gone, he was (and yet is) the pleasantest of advisers, the most genial of listeners, and the quietest of lively companions. On this memorable day he had, with his accustomed forethought, given particular orders for our entertainment, and I hastened to enjoy it with him, little thinking how deep and solemn was the pleasure which awaited us.
We arrived at the Coffee House about six on a
bright afternoon in the middle of September, and found every thing ready and excellent; and the turtle magnificent and finely relieved by lime punch effectually iced; grilled salmon
crisply prepared for its appropriate lemon and mustard; a leg of Welch mutton just tasted as a "sweet remembrancer" of its heathy and hungry hills; woodcocks with thighs of exquisite delicacy and essence "deeply interfused" in thick soft toast; and mushrooms, which Nero justly called "the flesh of the gods," simply broiled and faintly sprinkled with Cayenne.* Our conversation was, of course, confined to mutual invitations and expressive criticisms on the dishes; the only table-talk which men of sense can tolerate. But the most substantial gratifications, in this world at least, must have an end; and the last mushroom was at length eaten. Unfortunately for the repose of the evening, we were haunted by the recollection of some highly flavoured port, and, in spite of strong evidence of identity from conspiring waiters, sought for the like in vain. Bottle after bottle was produced and dismissed as "not the thing," till our generous host, somewhat between liberal hospitality and just impatience, smilingly begged us to accompany him into the cellar, inspect the whole of " his little stock," and choose for ourselves! We took him at his word; another friend of riper years and graver authority joined us; and we prepared to follow our guide who stood ready to conduct us to the banks of Lethe. All the preparations, like those which preceded similar descents of the heroes of old, bespoke the awfulness and peril of the journey. Our host preceded us with his massive keys
* This trait sufficiently accounts for the flowers which were seen scattered on the sepulchre of Nero, when the popular indignation raged highest against his memory—the grateful Roman had eaten his mushroom under imperial auspices. Had Lord Byron been acquainted with the flavour of choice mushrooms, he would have tamed to give it honour due after the following stanza, one of the noblest in that work, which, with all its faults of waywardness and haste, is a miracle of language, pathos, playfulness, sublimity and
When Nero peiish'd by the justest doom
to perform an office collateral to that of St . Peter; behind, a dingy imp of the nether regions stood with glasses in his hands and a prophetic grin on his face; and each of us was armed with a flaming torch to penetrate the gloom which now stretched through the narrow entrance before us.
We descended the broken and winding staircase with cautious steps, and, to confess the truth, not without some apprehension for our upward journey, yet hoping to be numbered among that select class of Pluto's visiters, " quos ardens evexit ad a?thera virtus." On a sudden, turning a segment of a mighty cask, we stood in the centre of the vast receptacle of spirituous riches. The roof of solid and stoutly compacted brickwork, low, but boldly arched, looked substantial enough to defy all attacks of the natural enemy, water, and resist a second deluge. From each side ran long galleries, partially shown by the red glare of the torches, extending one way far beneath the busy trampling of the greatest shopkeepers and stock-jobbers in the world; and, on the other, below the clamour of the Old Bailey Court and the cells of its victims. What a range! Here r^est, cooling in the deepdelved cells, the concentrated essences of sunny years! In this archway huge casks of mighty wine are scattered in bounteous confusion, like the heaped jewels and gold on the "rich strond" of Spenser, the least of which would lay Sir Walter's Fleming low! Throughout that long succession of vaults, thousands of bottles, " in avenues disposed," lie silently waiting their time to kindle the imagination, to sharpen the wit, to open the soul, and to unchain the trembling tongue. There may you feel the true grandeur of quiescent power, and walk amidst the palpable elements of madness or of wisdom. What stores of sentiment in that butt of raciest Sherry! What a fund of pensive thought! What suggestions for delicious remembrance! What "aids to reflection!" (genuine as those of Coleridge) in that Hock of a century old. What sparkling fancies, whirling and foaming, from a stout body of thought in that full and ripe Champaigne! What mild and serene philosophy in that Burgundy, ready to shed "its sunset glow" on society and nature! This pale Brandy, softened by age, is the true "spirit" which " disturbs us with the joy of elevated thoughts." That Hermitage, stealing gently into the chambers of the brain, shall make us "babble of green fields;" and that delicate Claret, innocently bubbling and dancing in the slender glass, shall bring its own vine-coloured hills more vividly before us even than Mr. Stanfield's pencil! There from a time-changed bottle, tenderly drawn from a crypt, protected by huge primeval cobwebs, you may taste antiquity, and feel the olden time on your palate! As we sip this marvellous Port,* to the very colour of which age has been gentle, methmks we have broken into one of those rich vaults in which Sir Thomas Browne, the chief butler of the tomb, finds treasures rarer than jewels. "Some," saith he, "discover sepulchral vessels containing liquors which time hath incrassated into jellies. For besides lacrymatories, notable lamps, with oils and aromatic liquors, attended noble ossuaries; and some yet retaining a vinosity and spirit in them, which, if any have tasted, they have far exceeded the palates of antiquity;— liquors, not to be computed by years of annual magistrates, but by great conjunctions and the fatal periods of kingdoms. The draughts of consulary date were but crude unto these, and opimian wine but in the must unto them."
We passed on from flavour to flavour with our proud and liberal guide, whose comments added zest even to the text which he had to dilate on. A scent, a note of music, a voice long unheard, the stirring of the summer breeze, may startle us with the sudden revival of long-forgotten feelings and thoughts, but none of these little whisperers to the heart is so potently endowed with this simple spell as the various flavours of* Port to one who has tried, and, in various moods of his own mind, relished them all. This full, rough, yet fruity wine, brings back that first season of London life when topics seemed exhaustless as words, and coloured with rainbow hues; when Irish students, fresh from Trinity College, Dublin, were not too loud or familiar to be borne; when the florid fluency of others was only tiresome as it interrupted one's own; when the vast Temple Hall was not too large or too cold for sociality; and ambition, dilating in the venerable
* Old Fort wine is more ancient to the imagination than any other, though in fact it may have been known fewer years; as a broken Gothic arch has more of the spirit of antiquity about it than a Grecian temple. Port reminds us of the obscure middle ages; but Hock, like the classical mythology, is always young.
space, shaped dreams of enterprize, labour, and glory, till it required more wine to assuage its fervours. This taste of a liquor, firm yet in body, though tawny with years, bears with it to the heart that hour when, having returned to my birth-place, after a long and eventful absence, and having Ijeen cordially welcomed by my hearty friends, I slipped away from the table, and hurried, in the light of a brilliant sunset, to the gently declining fields and richly wooded hedgrows which were the favourite haunt of my serious boyhood. The swelling hills seemed touched with ethereal softness; the level plain was invested "with purpureal gleams;" every wild rose and stirring branch was eloquent with vivid recollections: a thousand hours of happy thoughtfulness came back upon the heart; and the glorious clouds which fringed the western horizon looked prophetic of golden years "predestined to descend and bless mankind." This soft, highly-flavoured Port, in every drop of which you seem to taste an aromatic flower, revives that delicious evening, when, after days of search for the tale of Rosamond Grey, of which I had indistinctly heard, I returned from an obscure circulating library with my prize, and brought out a longcherished bottle, given me two years before as a curiosity, by way of accompaniment to that quintessence of imaginative romance. How did I enjoy, with a strange delight, its scriptural pathos, like a newly discovered chapter of the Book of Ruth; hang enamoured over its young beauty, lovelier for the antique frame of language in which it was set; and long to be acquainted with the author, though I scarcely dared aspire so high, and little anticipated those hundreds of happy evenings since passed in his society, which now crowd on me in rich confusion!—Thus is it that these subtlest of remembrancers not only revive some joyful season, but this also "contains a glass which shows us many more," unlocking the choicest stores of memory, that cellar of the brain, in which lie the treasures which make life precious.
But see! our party have seated themselves beneath that central arch to enjoy a calmer pleasure after the fatigues of their travel . They look romantic as banditti in a cave, and good-humoured as a committee of aldermen. A cask which has done good service in its day—the shell of the evaporated