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his repose; and as the secret chamber was assigned for this purpose, it furnished Caleb with a first-rate and most plausible apology for all the deficiences of furniture, bedding, &c.
"For wha," said he, " would have thought of the secret chaumer being needed? it has not been used since the time of the Gowrie Conspiracy; and I durst never let a woman ken of the entrance to it, or your honour will allow that it wad not hae been a secret chaumer lang."
SIR WALTER SCOTT.
CHARACTER OF A COCKNEY.
The true Cockney has never travelled beyond the purlieus of the metropolis, either in the body or the spirit. Primrose Hill is the ultima Thule of his most romantic desires; Greenwich Park stands him in the stead of the Vales of Arcady. Time and space are lost to him. He is confined to one spot, and to the present moment. He sees every thing near, superficial, little, in hasty succession. The world turns round, and his head with it, like a roundabout at a fair, till he becomes stunned and giddy with the motion. Figures glide by as in a camera obscura. There is a glare, a perpetual hubbub, a noise, a crowd about him; he sees and hears a vast number of things, and knows nothing. He is pert, raw, ignorant, conceited, ridiculous, shallow, contemptible. His senses keep him alive; and he knows, inquires, and cares for nothing farther. He meets the Lord Mayor's coach, and, without ceremony, treats himself to an imaginary ride in it. He notices the people going to court or to a city feast, and is satisfied with the show. He takes the wall of a lord, and fancies himself as good as he. He sees an infinite quantity of people pass along the street, and thinks there is no such thing as life or a knowledge of character to be found out of London. "Beyond Hyde Park all is a desert to him." He despises the country, because he is ignorant of it; and the town, because he is familiar with it. He is as well acquainted with St. Paul's as if he had built it; and talks of Westminster Abbey and Poets' Corner with great indifference. The King, the House of Lords and Commons, are his very good friends. He knows the members for Westminster or the city by sight, and bows to the sheriffs or sheriffs' men. He is hand and glove with the chairman of some committee. He is, in short, a great man by proxy, and comes so often in contact with fine persons and things, that he rubs off a little of the gilding, and is surcharged with a sort of secondhand, vapid, tingling, troublesome self-importance. His personal vanity is thus continually flattered and perked into ridiculous self-complacency, while his imagination is jaded and impaired by daily misuse. Every thing is vulgarised in his mind. Nothing dwells long enough on it to produce an interest; nothing is contemplated sufficiently at a distance to excite curiosity or wonder. Your true Cockney is your only true leveller. Let him be as low as he will, he fancies he is as good as any body else. He has no respect for himself, and still less (if possible) for you. He cares little about his own advantages, if he can only make a jest at yours. Every feeling comes to him through a medium of levity and impertinence; nor does he like to have this habit of mind disturbed by being brought into collision with any thing serious or respectable. He despairs (in such a crowd of competitors) of distinguishing himself, but laughs heartily at the idea of being able to trip up the heels of other people's pretensions. A Cockney feels no gratitude. This is a first principle with him. He regards any obligation you confer upon him as a species of imposition, of a ludicrous assumption of fancied superiority. He talks about every thing, for he has heard something about it; and, understanding nothing of the matter, concludes he has as good a right as you. He is a politician, for he has seen the Parliament House: he is a critic, because he knows the principal actors by sight; has a taste for music, because he belongs to a glee club at the West End; and is gallant, in virtue of sometimes frequenting the lobbies at half-price. A mere Londoner, in fact, from the opportunities he has of knowing something of a number of objects (and those striking ones) fancies himself a sort of privileged person, remains satisfied with the assumption of merits, so much the more unquestionable as they are not his own; and from being dazzled with noise and show and appearances, is less capable of giving a real opinion, or entering into any subject than the meanest peasant. There are greater lawyers, orators, painters, philosophers, players, in London, than in any other part of the United Kingdom: he is a Londoner, and therefore it would be strange if he did not know more of law, eloquence, art, philosophy, acting, than any one without his local advantages, and who is merely from the country. This is a non sequitur, and it constantly appears so when put to the test.
A real Cockney is the poorest creature in the world; the most literal, the most mechanical, and yet he too lives in a world of romance—a fairy land of his own. He is a citizen of London; and this abstraction leads his imagination the finest dance in the world. London is the first city on the habitable globe; and therefore he must be superior to every one who lives out of it. There are more people in London than any where else; and though a dwarf in stature, his person swells out and expands into ideal importance and borrowed magnitude. He resides in a garret or in a two pair of stairs' back room; yet he talks of the magnificence of London, and gives himself airs of consequence upon it, as if all the houses in Portman or in Grosvenor Square were his by right or in reversion. "He is owner of all he surveys." The Monument, the Tower of London, St. James's Palace, the Mansion House, Whitehall, are part and parcel of his being.
Let us suppose him to be a lawyer's clerk at half-a-guinea a week: but he knows the Inns of Court, the Temple Gardens, and Gray's Inn Passage; sees the lawyers in their wigs walking up and down Chancery Lane; and has advanced within half a dozen yards of the chancellor's chair:—who can doubt that he understands (by implication) every point of law (however intricate) better than the most expert country practitioner? He is a shopman, and nailed all day behind the counter; but he sees hundreds and thousands of gay, well dressed people pass—an endless phantasmagoria—and enjoys their liberty and gaudy fluttering pride. He is a footman— but he rides behind beauty, through a crowd of carriages, and visits a thousand shops. Is he a tailor? The stigma on his profession is lost in the elegance of the patterns he provides, and of the persons he adorns; and he is something very different from a mere country botcher. Nay, the very scavenger and nightman thinks the dirt in the street has something precious in it, and his employment is solemn, silent, sacred, peculiar to London! A barker in Monmouth Street, a slopseller in Ratcliffe Highway, a tapster at a night cellar, a beggar in St. Giles's, a drab in Fleet Ditch, live in the eyes of millions, and eke out a dreary, wretched, scanty, or loathsome existence from the gorgeous, busy, glowing scene around them. It is a common saying among such persons, that " they had rather be hanged in London than die a natural death out of it any where else." Such is the force of habit and imagination. Even the eye of childhood is dazzled and delighted with the polished splendour of the jewellers' shops, the neatness of the turnery ware, the festoons of artificial flowers, the confectionery, the chymists' shops, the lamps, the horses, the carriages, the sedan-chairs: to this was formerly added a set of traditional associations—Whittington and his Cat, Guy Faux and the Gunpowder Treason, the Fire and the Plague of London, and VOL. III. F