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SAINT JAMES'S : OB, THE COURT OF QUEEN ANNE.
“ He has more than one to manage,” cried Dammaree, brandishing his sword in the serjeant's face.
“So much the better," replied Scales.
And seizing one by the back of the neck, and the other by the collar, by a tremendous effort of strength, he dragged them both through the fire, and delivered them, very much scorched, to the guard.
Meantime, Proddy having contrived to clamber up the balustrade of the bridge, attacked Frank Willis, and tried to force the ensign from his grasp. A fierce struggle ensued, on the onset of which, the attention of the rabble had been chiefly occupied by Scales, but several persons now rushed to the assistance of the standard-bearer.
Unable to make a stand against so many, Proddy gave way, and dropped into the ditch, but never having quitted his capture, he dragged him along with him. The height from which the coachman fell was not more than twelve or fourteen feet, and the ooze into which he sunk was as soft as a feather-bed, so that he ran much greater risk of being suffocated, than of breaking a limb. In fact, he was just disappearing, when a bargernan contrived 10 pull him out with a boat-hook, and his prisoner, to whom he still clung with desperate tenacity, was consigned to the guard.
On seeing the fate of their leaders, the rioters began to exhibit symptoms of wavering, and shortly afterwards, the detachment of guards sent round by Holborn Bridge coming up, and attacking them with the flat of their swords, the whole rout was dispersed without further resistance. Almost at the same time, the fire was cleared away with forks, and the blazing fragments cast into the ditch, so as to allow a clear passage for the rest of the troop.
This accomplished, Captain Horsey inquired for the serjeant, and, complimenting him on his bravery, thanked him for the service he had rendered the queen. He would also have made similar acknowledgments to Proddy, but the coachman had retired to a neighbouring tavern, to free himself from his muddy habiliments, and prevent any injurious consequences from the immersion by a glass of brandy. Scales, however, undertook to report to his friend the commendation bestowed upon him.
The prisoners were then conveyed to Newgate, as a place of the greatest security; after which Captain Horsey and his troop returned to Whitehall.
It is the province of genius to originate commonplaces,--that is, nothing in the end becomes more commonplace than the phrase which, by force of genius, has taken possession of the minds of the many. Half the cant phrases current in the English language, are derived from Shakspeare; and there are persons who never in their lives perused consecutively a page of that divine writer, whose conversation is made up of phrases pillaged from his works. Like Monsieur Jourdain, who talked prose for forty years without knowing it, they quote Shakspeare, unwittingly, from morning till night.
The stereotyped scraps and scrips of penny-a-line belles lettres, picked up by the vulgar in the daily papers, such as “light fantastic toe,”
foreign aid of ornament,”—“patience on a monument,”—“ winter of our discontent,”—“ignorance is bliss,” &c. &c., have come to be interlarded in the discourse of the most illiterate,-like Flanders lace flouncing a fustian jacket,—till they have become loathsome by iteration.
So is it with music. Certain vocal phrases are damnatory to any new composition, as to the last degree trite and ear-worn; which probably originated with Purcell, Handel, or Haydn. It is only by force of repetition they have lost their charm.
The writer or composer in fashion, is, for the time being, the fountain-head of commonplace. During the successive reigns of the Scotch novels, the cant words of the popular characters were applied to every possible exigency, till the phrases of Dominie Sampson, Nichol Jarvie, Dandie Dinmont, Dugald Dalgetty, and their inimitable confraternity, ended by exhausting human patience. Sam Slick and Jacob Faithful had their turns; and the “ Hope I don't intrude” of Paul Pry, was long a standing nuisance.
Before these “ modern instances,” (Shakspeare, a-hem!) there was the popularity of Sheridan, of Junius, of Wilkes, to furnish cant words to the uninventive; and perhaps no one ever exercised a stronger influence over the small-talk of his day than Sterne, unless, half-acentury before, Dean Swift.
This peculiar distinction, like the barrel-organ with regard to music, may be considered a fair test of popularity; and it is a strong proof of the want of flavour of the greater number of the writers of the day, that they have not invented a single character capable of engendering a commonplace.
It has been cited as a happy illustration on the part of the noble lord, who, pointing to the antique tapestry of old Saint Stephen's, when inveighing against the insignificance of ministerial measures, exclaimed that “there were now no longer historical looms at work!” In the same spirit we beg to assure the illustrissimi of the circulating libraries, that our grand-nephews will never be bored to death with their phrases worn down into commonplace!
And yet, for all this "damnable iteration," (Shakspeare, a-hem!) it sometimes takes a couple of centuries to get to the right meaning of a phrase! What an immense time has it required for the world of letters to discover that the couplet of MiltonVOL. VI.
“ Tower'd cities please us then,
And the busy hum of men,” purported only that, when fox-hunting is over, we like to come to town for the season, and open our eyes among the fudgerations of mankind! In the simplicity of its mind, the simplicity of the dove savouring not a little of the goose,—the literary world chose to attribute the epithet to the delectation of our ears, rather than of our understandings; comparing the voices of a tumultuous city with the drone of a bee,-a beetle, –a spinning-wheel,-a bagpipe,-all the worst drowsinesses of this sleepy earth!—But praise be to the century of Mechi’s patent strop, and similar inventions, we have become sharp enough to know that the hum-bugs, rather than the hum-drums, were in the mind of John Milton when he described the pleasures of the metropolis !
The first thing, Heaven knows, which is likely to strike an unsophisticated country gentleman in our Tower of London-ed city, is the prodigious “hum of men!" From high to low,—we were about to write it from top to bottom,-humming is the grand science of the day; and of the innumerable signs and advertisements put forth by shop-keepers and office-keepers, more than three parts might be comprehended under the sweeping phrase of—“ mountebankery in all its branches.”
Which of our great men has not played the charlatan in his turn?Which of our popular characters has not favoured us with a touch of his sleight of hand or head? Cicero expressed his wonder how two Roman augurs could meet, face to face, without exploding with laughter at the success of their impostures. We have often marvelled how the triumphant hummers of the day could rise to answer each other in either house of parliament, with as decent a gravity as though they were in earnest! We have often wondered at the perfect sedateness of a fashionable physician and a couple of his brethren, meeting in consultation over the plethora of a dowager sick of four meals a day, and a bottle of Madeira.—We have often admired the imperturbable features of an auctioneer in vogue,-one of the greatest hummers of the hammer,-improvisating Raphaels and Claudes, as though such things were to be sold by the bushel, like walnuts. And above all, we have stood aghast at the virtuous indignation,—the energy of magnanimity,—the more than Roman virtue, thrilling in the soul of a hireling advocate, retained to wash white some blackamoor engrained as ebony, while endeavouring to rub off some of the sootiness of his client's complexion on the cheeks of the adverse party. The humming of the long robe may, in fact, be regarded as the Sublime and Beautiful of humming!
The French have a proverb, that such a one “hums like a dentist,” -(“il ment comme un arracheur de dents.”) For our own parts, we have always looked upon tooth-drawing as one of the positive professions. We have heard, indeed, of fashionable dentists who, when applied to for an operation, assigned that day six weeks as what creditors call “ their earliest convenience,”—drawing a tooth at forty days' sight, as they would draw a bill;—but generally speaking, they are monsters as unhumming as inhuman. The hum of men is, however, an art or science
“Wearing strange shapes, and bearing many names.”
The plate-glass windows of a bargain-shop,-or the programme of a patent theatre,-may be quite as fine a specimen of the accomplishment as ever preached in a tract, or fudged in a pamphlet! A meeting at Exeter Hall, -a meeting at the Rotunda, -a monster-meeting in Ireland, or a pigmy meeting at home,--a charity meeting of young
rds out of work during the opera recess,—or a treason meeting of commons out of employ during the parliamentary,-alike hum,alike argumentum ad humming 'em, but addressed to divers classes of the community.
We all know how Mackenzie's wife rebuked the author of the “ Man of Feeling,” for his attendance at cockfights; and that Jean Jacques, who wrote such divine essays on the beauty of parental love, as to convert all the fair Parisians into wet-nurses, sent his children to the Foundling Hospital the moment they were born. Thesis was the hum of men of letters. Of our contemporaries of literature, we say nothing; satisfied of the beam in our own eye which should teach forbearance towards their ophthalmic afflictions. But we may be permitted in a general way to observe, that some of the most solemngated among them are, under their raven's plumage, amazingly funny fellows; and most of those who do the comical, as dull as dormice, under their mask.
It has been the standing joke of a whole century against the booksellers, that a respectable country parson, having taken a volume of sermons to town for publication, during the mania for Sterne and “ Tristram Shandy," was accosted with the question then addressed to every new author touching his works: “ Pray, sir, is there any humour in them?” But the notion seems to have been prophetic. For no one will deny that the ripest humour going, now-a-days, is hatched under a gown and band.
One of the most amusing traits of the hum of men in the present age, is the spasmodic morality afflicting the public constitution. Every now and then it is taken virtuous, to a degree that threatens the eradication, root and branch, of all existing vices. Septennially or so, the symptoms return, with redoubled violence. An immoral actor is driven from the stage by his worsers; or a foreign singer, less correct in her conduct than her vocalization, is dismissed from the ancient music,-facetiously called the Queen's Bench of Bishops. It is true that, between the acts of this national comedy of the “ Hypocrite,” the audience of hummers consoles itself with cakes and ale, venting their bravoes on Alice Lowe, and their shouts in honour of some foreign Nero;—just as those strainers at gnats and swallowers of camels, the citizens of the great world, turn their backs upon some thoughtful man for his want of orthodoxy, and rush to their doors to welcome the tilted Jews of fashion, whose turtle, venison, and champagne are beyond the reach of controversy!
These are first-rate specimens of the “hum of men,” such as John Milton considered it worth while to come to town now and then for the purpose of enjoying! Magistrates who encage little boys for playing at chuck-farthing, and wink at Crockfords,-senators who vote for the suppression of fairs, and spend half their lives at horseraces,--serious families, which eschew the dancing-master, but replace his services by those of a drill-serjeant of the guards,-or others keep holy the Sabbath by sending their servants to bed at ten o'clock on Sunday nights, after keeping them up till two, after the opera, on
Sunday mornings;—Puseyites who mortify themselves by holding the plate for the poor, and mortify the poor by putting into it a sorry sixpence of their ten thousand a-year;—landed gentry, who are for trade as free as air, and the strict letter of the corn-laws,—and manufacturing gentry who are for bread as cheap as dirt, and no trade more free than welcome;—these, and millions more of the professors of Hum in the London University, are well worth a sojourn in the “ tower'd city,” to contemplate in the full bloom of their hypocrisy.
Another standard jest with the laughter-loving, is the question that passes between Mrs. Kitty and her guest, in “High Life Below Stairs:" “ Who wrote Shikspur?”—“ Ben Jonson, to be sure!” But the question would be anything but a joke, if applied among the fashionable authors of the day. “ Who wrote Lord 's novel?” would be a libel, by force of truth. We are acquainted with an able literary man, whose works, under various aristocratic sponsorships, have enjoyed the most brilliant success;-encouraged by which, he commenced disposing on his own account of the chickens of his hatching. But, alas! they had lost their flavour! The imprimatur of the coronet was wanting! For, as Hudibras says
“The pleasure is as great
In being cheated as to cheat," and the hummers had no notion of being treated honestly.
Another writer of the day, whose works suddenly attained a notoriety such as suits the purposes of publishers fully as well as fame, was suddenly seen to collapse, like a perforated balloon, and fall as flat as his own volumes! The unsophisticated stood aghast. “ Earth hath its bubbles,” and the scribbler they loved was of them. At length, the mystery was explained. At one of the fashionable club-houses appeared an advertisement of—“Wants a situation, Monsieur Saindoux, late cook to the author of
; also a butler and footman, from the same establishment.” The joke was well imagined; because the joke was earnest. Nor is the turbot-kettle and jellymould by any means an unexampled mode of humming a way to a reputation.
But if a select few hum their way to literary fame per aid of dinners, many more hum their way to dinners per aid of literary fame. There is a little man, a dot upon the eye of Apollo, who, finding his infinitesimal proportions, moral and physical, overlooked among the lofty aspirings of the day, set up, a few years ago, with enormous success, a sort of editor of the lady’s-magazinish-influence at the west-end of the “ tower'd city.” “A fetcher and carrier of bags,”a dealer in light articles for heavy reviews, -a marine-store keeper of the pilfered orts and ends of literature,-a patchworker of the piquant anecdotes of the newest French memoirs,—this Monsieur Trissotin of May Fair imposed himself on the dinner-giving dowagers, as the Arbiter Eligantiarum of modern literature; wherein his name has about as much weight and influence as that of one of the printer's devils! But then, the little animal serves as a sort of opera-glass, let out on hire at so much per dinner, through which the beau monde may contemplate at its ease the éntre-chats of the busy world of letters;and by dint of humming, sixpennyworth of literature has bought him out and out seven capital dinners a week!
Again, who has not heard of the physician, whose present opulence