Page images

selves with such singular wisdom and propriety, that they were never either heard or talked of— which, next to being universally applauded, should be the object of ambition to all sage magistrates and rulers.

His surname of Twiller is said to be a corruption of the original Twijfler, which in English means doubter; a name admirably descriptive of his deliberative habits. For though he was a man shut up within himself like an oyster, and of such a profoundly reflective turn that he scarcely ever spoke except in monosyllables; yet did he never make up his mind on any doubtful point. This was clearly accounted for by his adherents, who affirmed that he always conceived every subject on so comprehensive a scale that he had not room in his head to turn it over and examine both sides of it; so that he always remained in doubt, merely in consequence of the astonishing magnitude of his ideas!

There are two opposite ways by which some men get into notice—one by talking a vast deal and thinking a little, and the other by holding their tongues and not thinking at all. By the first, many a vapouring superficial pretender acquires the reputation of a man of quick parts— by the other, many a vacant dunderpate, like the owl, the stupidest of birds, comes to be complimented, by a discerning world, with all the attributes of wisdom. This, by the way, is a mere casual remark, which I would not for the universe have it thought I apply to Governor Van Twiller. On the contrary, he was a very wise Dutchman, for he never said a foolish thing; and of such invincible gravity that he was never known to laugh, or even to smile, through the course of a long and prosperous life. Certain, however, it is, there never was a matter proposed, however simple, and on which your common narrow minded mortals would rashly determine at the first glance, but what the renowned Wouter put on a mighty mysterious, vacant kind of look, shook his capacious head, and having smoked for five minutes with redoubled earnestness, sagely observed, that "he had his doubts about the matter:"—which, in process of time, gained him the character of a man slow of belief, and not easily imposed on.

The person of this illustrious old gentleman was as regularly formed, and nobly proportioned, as though it had been moulded by the hands of some cunning Dutch statuary, as a model of majesty and lordly grandeur. He was exactly five feet six inches in height, and six feet five inches in circumference. His head was a perfect sphere, far excelling in magnitude that of the great Pericles (who was thence waggishly called Schenocephalus, or onion head)—indeed, of such stupendous dimensions was it, that dame Nature herself, with all her sex's ingenuity, would have been puzzled to construct a neck capable of supporting it; wherefore she wisely declined the attempt, and settled it firmly on the top of his back-bone, just between the shoulders; where it remained as snugly bedded as a ship of war in the mud of the Potowmac. His body was of an oblong form, particularly capacious at bottom; which was wisely ordered by providence, seeing that he was a man of sedentary habits, and very averse to the idle labour of walking. His legs, though exceeding short, were sturdy in proportion to the weight they had to sustain; so that when erect he had not a little the appearance of a robustious beer barrel, standing on skids. His face, that infallible index of the mind, presented a vast expanse perfectly unfurrowed or deformed by any of those lines and angles which disfigure the human countenance with what is termed expression. Two small gray eyes twinkled feebly in the midst, like two stars of lesser magnitude in a hazy firmament; and his full fed cheeks, which seemed to have taken toll of every thing that went into his mouth, were curiously mottled and streaked with dusky red, like a Spitzenberg apple.

His habits were as regular as his person. He daily took his four stated meals, appropriating exactly an hour to each; he smoked and doubted eight hours, and he slept the remaining twelve of the four-and-twenty. Such was the renowned Wouter Van Twiller—a true philosopher, for his mind was either elevated above, or tranquilly settled below the cares and perplexities of this world. He had lived in it for years, without feeling the least curiosity to know whether the sun revolved round it, or it round the sun; and he had even watched, for at least half a century, the smoke curling from his pipe to the ceiling, without once troubling his head with any of those numerous theories, by which a philosopher would have perplexed his brain, in accounting for its rising above the surrounding atmosphere.

In his council he presided with great state and solemnity. He sat in a huge chair of solid oak, hewn in the celebrated forest of the Hague, fabricated by an experienced Timmerman of Amsterdam, and curiously carved about the arms and feet, into exact imitations of gigantic eagles' claws. Instead of a sceptre, he swayed a long Turkish pipe, wrought with jasmin and amber, which had been presented to a stadtholder of Holland, at the conclusion of a treaty with one of the petty Barbary powers. In this stately chair would he sit, and this magnificent pipe would he smoke, shaking his right knee with a constant motion, and fixing his eye for hours together upon a little print of Amsterdam, which hung in a black frame against the opposite wall of the council chamber. Nay, it has even been said, that when any deliberation of extraordinary length and intricacy was on the carpet, the renowned Wouter would absolutely shut his eyes for full two hours at a time, that he might not be disturbed by external objects; and at such times the internal commotion of his mind was evinced by certain regular gutteral sounds, which his admirers declared were merely the noise of conflict made by his contending doubts and opinions.



The doctors disagreed. According to four firstrate opinions, I groaned at one and the same time under rheumatism proper, rheumatic gout, gout proper, and an affection in the spinous process. The serious signs of one were the favourable VOL. III. A A

symptoms of another, and the prescriptions of the first in direct oppugnancy to the principles of the last. To-day, I was to drink water at Buxton, to-morrow to drink water at Bath, on Wednesday I was to go to Italy, and on Thursday I had better stay at home.

The fact was, the doctors could not make out my case.

Reader, if by mischance thou art one of those unhappy persons whom the climate of our famous mother England,—in punishment of thy many sins in chattering French instead of thy kindly vernacular, in giving half a guinea to Italians instead of three shillings and sixpence to Britons, in cleaving to wine and eschewing beer,—hath touched with her insular cramp in shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, back, loins, knees, ancles, or toes,—if such be the case, go not, I entreat thee for thy good, to any of the faculty, whether physician, surgeon, apothecary, or druggist, licensed or unlicensed; save thy good coin, gentle rheumatic, in thy purse for better merchandise and laissez aller les choses; torment not the creature with drenches and bandages, and peradventure it will ache thee some months the less for being entertained civilly; at all events thou wilt have economized so much money, escaped so much physic, and it will go harder with thee than with any body else, if thou get not well again every whit as soon.

True it is, though I speak it to my shame, that I did, in the impatience of my heart, betake myself to medicine for relief. It was promised to me abundantly. I am ready to communicate to any earnest inquirer twenty and five infallible

« PreviousContinue »