« PreviousContinue »
due ceremonials had been observed. Never, or very seldom, as I said before, accepting London invitations to dinner, I generally dine in the neighbourhood of the theatres, and most frequently at the Piazza, though somewhat more, I think, on account of the sound and honour of the thing than from any particular predilection for the place, for the large room invariably reminds me of some dark, cheerless, and restored cathedral, of which the head waiter and his pursuivants, in full canonicals, are strikingly like the Dean and Chapter. There is a certain coffee-house in that neighbourhood, the name of which is not so well calculated to adorn a narrative, but into which I often look for the face of some friend or other, who, like myself, knows its advantages, and like myself may be at a loss now and then when in London to know what to do with some hour, or half-hour, which intervenes between two engagements, an undefined blank in the plan of the day or night. It is one of the very few coffee-houses now remaining in which I find
any thing which I can compare with the glorious coffee-house hours of the days of the Spectator; being resorted to by men of a certain station, and of considerable acquirements; who yet, for the most parts hang loosely upon society, and are not chained to localities by wives, children, or any set occupation or regular and daily routine of duties; whose exertions are occasional, and whose hours of relaxation often recur:—they live, for the most part, among the brilliant, the noble, and the gay; partake of the varied information of professional men, but without professional prejudices, because they are of no profession; and are men of discursive habits, tastes, and fancies; of easy manners, good spirits, well-informed minds, and lively conversation. The last time I was there, about half-a-dozen of this description were collected together, and the subjects of their discourse were various, but all treated with infinite ability, and occasionally with infinite humour. An author ventured to state his projects concerning a new publication, and was liberally and cheeringly encouraged. One of the party was going to Circassia, another to Ireland, another to the House of Commons, and remarks wandered, and witticisms scintillated, between the two poles of the world. My attention was chiefly directed to a tall thinnish gentleman, just past the middle point of life; his hair, eyes, and eyebrows were dark; his countenance singularly expressive, not altogether without a slight tragic cast, or perhaps more properly indicative, whether truly or not I know not, of high-wrought
and romantic feeling; and his voice was peculiarly agreeable and gentlemanly. I judge much of men, and of women too, by their voices; the muscles of the face may, by long practice, be subdued to any habitual expression ; physiognomy is fallacious; the organs of the head are easily concealed; but I am assured by all my experience, that the tone of the voice has a constant affinity with the tone of the mind. The gentleman I describe had, moreover, a brown coat on; and, although it was evening, his independence of what is called fashion was demonstrated by his being dressed in top-boots. He alternately contributed to the conversation, and leaned back in his arm chair as if to sleep; and all this with so easy and indolent an air that I was quite convinced he could be no other than an author ; indeed, I half suspected him of being a poet. On enquiring his name I learnt he was Sir MS-, so long and so curiously distinguished in the circles of fashion. I am always deeply
affected by contemplations of the silent lapse of time, and the changes effected by it: the “ Eheu fugaces” of Horace is the title to a volume of recollections, each with its moral attached to it. This, then, was he who had tried every changeful variety of fashion, until invention was exhausted and vanity satiated, and who had proved, more than any man now living, the fatigue of fashionable folly, and the emptiness of the most elaborate and ingenious affectation ; but who, outliving his "young days of folly,” had shewn, by subsiding into the agreeable and well-informed gentleman, that beneath this frothy exterior there had always been a purer stream of sense which his shallower imitators dreamt not of, and without which it is impossible to believe that life would have been supportable to him when youth was no more! Having stept into the coffee-house on this occasion for half an hour before the play began, I left my company somewhat unwillingly, and proceeded to Drury-lane.
I could say nothing of the theatres that would not be uninteresting to those who live in London : theatrical criticism is their province, and I have no wish to invade it. If I were to say that the performances were tediously protracted, the fault might be ascribed to my rustic hours; if I thought the ladies who sung at the oratorio reminded people more of the joys of this unhappy world than of the joys of a better, it might be ascribed to my being a country gentleman. Yet the voice of Braham was as the voice of a friend, and did “ good like a medicine;" I laughed at Liston as I had often laughed before ; and I will not be deterred from expressing my admiration of Miss Clara Fisher ; her pretty figure, her sweet and plaintive voice, and her subdued drollery and archness, reminded me of the days in which Mrs. Jordan used alternately to make me weep and laugh :—the remembrance of that delightful woman is now altogether sad, and the circumstances of her latter days are among the few subjects on which I can never speak or think without departing from the natural and customary moderation of my character.
By one of those chances which never fall out but in London, two of my most particular friends came into the very box in which I had taken my seat. When I say they were my friends, I mean as far as the most opposite habits of life can allow ; they living almost all the year round in London, and having little relish and less taste for any thing out of it. Country gentlemen are always led into the lobby : perhaps it is the effect of the transition from youth to middle age, but I could not help fancying its attractions were diminished and its grosser features increased since I saw it before. After the performances I was persuaded to accompany my two friends to O
's, which, it seems, is a famous supper-house, and which was filled, soon after we reached it, by men of fashion and of name.
arrangements, however, were by no means calculated to fortify the stomach. Nothing appeared genteel but the company; the tables were slopped, the lights were dim, the waiters were slow, the knives were wiped, the glasses were dull, and the chops, after much clamorous request on the part of the claimants, were not half-cooked. Yet to this splendidly wretched apartment numbers of young men, whose genteel appearance is unquestionable, are in the habit of resorting nightly, in hopes of destroying some part of that time which for ever weighs upon and threatens to overwhelm
VOL. VIII. NO. XXXI.
them; eternally pursuing a phantom of pleasure, with weariness for their associate. A young gentleman from Nottinghamshire (who had been convincing his faculties with Scotch whiskey for some time very assiduously, and imagined he was well qualified in oratory,) having made a tolerably argumentative speech on a question that was mooted by another, those present availed themselves very readily of so good a pretext for ringing with their glasses, thumping the table, and using all the polite methods of signifying approbation; and, kindling into enthusiasm with their own noise, at last voted him president for the night, conducted him with all solemnity to a leathern chair, and called for a toast and a song. A stout, good-looking gentleman, with brown and copious whiskers, wearing his hat on one side, and generally keeping a pipe in his mouth, gave us some songs in a style superior to any thing I had ever heard in private company. He was a Captain F: he seemed popular in the assembly ; had frequently, I was told, filled the president's chair, and was indeed, with many, the principal attraction to the house. Yet I could not help feeling surprise that a man accustomed during any part of the four and twenty hours to the life of a gentleman, should like to descend at night into such an equivocal company-a foolish reflection, which could only have been made by a country gentleman. Towards morning it became difficult to sing a solo, from the propensity of the hearers to take part in whatever they heard. My two friends could not sing, but they had become by this time so loquacious that I pleaded even more fatigue than I felt, and retired to my hotel, comparing as I went the turbulent scene I had just quitted, with the peaceful state of my distant home at the same hour, inwardly complaining of the weariness, staleness, flatness, and unprofitableness of the hours I had spent at 0's, and determining to spend the next day at least entirely in my own way.
A sleepy, dropsical-looking waiter received me, and led me along a labyrinth of passages to my bed-room, from which I had the satisfaction of feeling assured that, in case of fire, I could not make my escape. However, I had not long amused myself with “ thick-coming fancies" of being burnt to death, before I fell into a delightful sleep, to dream of the busy and infatuated multitudes that had bewildered
my senses during the day.
THE GODS OF GREECE. FROM SCHILLER.
FAIR beings of the fable-land !
When Fiction wove th’enchanting robe,
Where now-as sages teach their lore-
This guardian Laurel screen’d the maid,
For earthly race the gods above
Stern gravity and harsh control
Muse a blush betray'd, And Graces fann'd the flame.
Like palaces your temples shone, Heroic games your glory raised, Where wav'd o'er Isthmian feasts the crown, And nigh the goal the chariot blazed. The dance, that lured the soul, enwreathed Its maze your radiant altars round, And coronals that victory breathed Your fragrant tresses crown'd.
Evoe's Thyrsus waved in air,
Then the dim eye that swam in death
Then in Elysium's blissful grove
Then nobler gifts the hero braced
Fair World ! where art thou? bloon, again,
The beauteous blossoms fade and fall,
Reckless of gifts, herself provides,
course that guides,
Again her fetters to unbind,
They won't-'twas Nature's mortal day: Of grandeur and of grace bereft, All hues, all harmonies decay, A word, devoid of soul, is left. They hover, Pindus' heights among, From Time's o'erwhelming deluge free : What must immortal live in song, In life must mortal be.