Page images

the Heads of the Scotch Rebels that were stuck on Temple Bar in 1745. These have vanished; and in their stead the curious and romantic eye must be content to pore in Pennant for the site of old London Wall, or to peruse the sentimental mile-stone that marks the distance to the place "where Hicks's Hall formerly stood."

The Cockney lives in a go-cart of local prejudices and positive illusions; and when he is turned out of it, he hardly knows how to stand or move. He ventures through Hyde Park Corner as a cat crosses a gutter. The trees pass by the coach very oddly. The country has a strange blank appearance: it is not lined with houses all the way, like London. He comes to places he never saw or heard of. He finds the world is bigger than he thought it. He might have dropped from the moon, for any thing he knows of the matter. He is mightily disposed to laugh, but is half afraid of making some blunder. Between sheepishness and conceit, he is in a very ludicrous situation. He finds that the people walk on two legs, and wonders to hear them talk a dialect so different from his own. He perceives London fashions have got down into the country before him, and that some of the better sort are dressed as well as he is. A drove of pigs or cattle stopping the road is a very troublesome interruption: a crow in a field, a magpie in a hedge, are to him very odd animals—he can't tell what to make of them, or how they live. He does not altogether like the accommodation at the inns—it is not what he has been used to in town. He begins to be communicative—says

he was "born within the sound of Bow bell;" and attempts some jokes, at which nobody laughs. He asks the coachman a question, to which he receives no answer. All this is to him very unaccountable and unexpected. He arrives at his journey's end; and instead of being the great man he anticipated among his friends and country relations, finds that they are barely civil to him, or make a butt of him; have topics of their own which he is as completely ignorant of as they are indifferent to what he says, so that he is glad to get back to London again, where he meets with his favourite indulgences and associates, and fancies the whole world is occupied with what he hears and sees.

A Cockney loves a tea-garden in summer, as he loves a play or the cider-cellar in winter; where he sweetens the air with the fumes of tobacco, and makes it echo to the sound of his own voice. This kind of suburban retreat is a most agreeable relief to the close and confined air of a city life. The imagination, long pent up behind a counter or between brick walls, with noisome smells and dingy objects, cannot bear at once to launch into the boundless expanse of the country, but "shorter excursions tries," coveting something between the two, and finding it at White Conduit House, or the Rosemary Branch, or Bagnigge Wells. The landlady is seen at a bow-window in near perspective, with punch-bowls and lemons disposed orderly around —the lime-trees or poplars wave overhead to "catch the breezy air," through which, typical of the huge dense cloud that hangs over the metropolis, curls up the thin, blue, odoriferous vapour of Virginia or Oronooko; the benches are ranged in rows, the fields and hedge-rows spread out their verdure; Hampstead and Highgate are seen in the background, and contain the imagination within gentle limits—here the holiday people are playing ball—here they are playing bowls—here they are quaffing ale, there sipping tea—here the loud wager is heard, there the political debate. In a sequestered nook a slender youth, with purple face and drooping head, nodding over a glass of gin toddy, breathes in tender accents—

"There** nought so sweet on earth
As Love's young dream."

While " Rosy Ann" takes its turn; and "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled" is thundering forth in accents that might wake the dead. In another part sits carpers and critics, who dispute the score of the reckoning or the game, or cavil at the taste and execution of the would-be Brahams and Durusets. Hazlitt.


Ben Jonson has a play called the The Silent Woman, who turns out, as might be expected, to be no woman to all—nothing, as Master Slender said, but "a great lubberly boy;" thereby, as I apprehend, discourteously presuming that a silent woman is a nonentity. If the learned dramatist, thus happily prepared, had happened to fall in with such a specimen of female loqua

City as I have just parted with, he might perhaps have given us a pendant to his picture in the Talking Lady. Pity but he had! He would have done her justice, which I could not at any time, least of all now: I am too much stunned, too much like one escaped from a belfry on a coronation day. I am just resting from the fatigue of four days' hard listening,—four snowy, sleety, rainy days—days of every variety of falling weather, all of them too bad to admit the possibility that any petticoated thing, were she as hardy as a Scotch fir, should stir out,—four days chained by " sad civility" to that fireside, once so quiet, and again—cheering thought!—again I trust to be so, when the echo of that visitor's incessant tongue shall have died away.

The visitor in question is a very excellent and respectable lady, upright in mind and body, with a figure that does honour to her dancing-master; a face exceedingly well preserved, wrinkled and freckled, but still fair; and an air of gentility over her whole person, which is not in the least affected by her out-of-fashioned garb. She could never be taken for any thing but a woman of family, and perhaps she could as little pass for any other than an old maid. She took us in her way from London to the west of England; and being, as she wrote, " not quite well, not equal to much company, prayed that no other guest might be admitted, so that she might have the pleasure of our conversation all to herself."— (Ours! as if it were possible for any of us to slide in a word edgewise!)—and especially enjoy the gratification of talking over old times with the master of the house, her countryman. Such was the promise of her letter, and to the letter it has been kept. All the news and scandal of a large county forty years ago, and a hundred years before, and ever since all the marriages, deaths, births, elopements, lawsuits, and casualties of her own times, her father's, grandfather's, great-grandfather's nephew's, and grandnephew's, has she detailed with a minuteness, an accuracy, a prodigality of learning, a profuseness of proper names, a pedantry of locality which would excite the envy of a county historian, a king at arms, or even a Scotch novelist. Her knowledge is astonishing; but the most astonishing part of all is how she came by that knowledge. It should seem, to listen to her, as if, at some time of her life, she must have listened herself; and yet her countryman declares that, in the forty years he had known her, no such event has occurred; and she knows new news too!—It must be intuition. The manner of her speech has little remarkable. It is rather old fashioned and provincial, but perfectly ladylike, low, and gentle, and not seeming so fast as it is; like the great pedestrians, she clears her ground easily, and never seems to use any exertion; yet " I would my horse had the speed of her tongue, and so good a continuer." She will talk you sixteen hours a-day, for twenty days together, and not deduct one poor five minutes for halts and baiting time. Talking, sheer talking, is meat and drink and sleep to her. She likes nothing else. Eating is a sad interruption. For the tea-table she has some toleration; but dinner, with its clatter of

« PreviousContinue »