Gossip in a Library
Edmund Gosse

Part 2 out of 4

and when, in 1650, Vaugelas's presence ceased to urge them forward, it
flagged altogether. Vaugelas died bankrupt, and his creditors seized
his writing-desks, the drawers of which contained a great part of the
MS. collections for the Dictionary. It was only after a lawsuit that
the Academy recovered those papers, and Mezeray was then set to
continue the editing of the work. Still twice a week the Academy met
to consult about the Dictionary, but so languidly and with so little
fire, that Boisrobert said that not the youngest of the Forty could
hope to live to print the letter G. As a matter of fact, not one of
those who started the Dictionary lived to see it published.

In this slow fashion, with long Rip Van Winkle slumbers and occasional
faint awakenings, the French Academy faltered on with fitful
persistence towards the completion of its famous Dictionary. But, as
I have said, it was a period of great enthusiasm about all such
summaries of knowledge, and Paris was thirsting for grammars,
lexicons, inventories of language and the like. The Academy insisted
that the world must wait for the approach of their vast and lumbering
machine; but meanwhile public curiosity was impatient, and all sorts
of brief and imperfect dictionaries were issued to satisfy it. The
publication of these spurious guides to knowledge infuriated the
Academy, until in 1674 the dog permanently occupied the manger by
inducing the King to issue a decree "forbidding all printers and
publishers to print any new dictionary of the French language, under
any title whatsoever, until the publication of that of the French
Academy, or until twenty years have expired since the proclamation of
the present decree." This cut the ground from under the feet of all
rivals, and the Academy could meet twice a week as before and mumble
its definitions with serene assurance. From this false security it was
roused by the incident which my "dumpy twelve" recounts.

It was from the very heart of their own body that the great attack
upon their privileges unexpectedly fell upon the Academicians. In 1662
they had elected (in the place of De Boissat, a very obscure original
member) the Abbe of Chalivoy, Antoine Furetiere. This man, born in
Paris of poor parents in 1619, had raised himself to eminence as an
Orientalist and grammarian, and was welcomed among the Forty as likely
to be particularly helpful to them in their Dictionary work. He was
probably one of those men whose true character does not come out until
they attain success. But no sooner was Furetiere an Immortal than he
began to distinguish himself in unanticipated ways. He proved himself
an adept in parody and satire, and so long as he contented himself
with laughing at people like Charles Sorel, the author of _Francion_,
who had no friends, the Academicians were calm and amused, But
Furetiere was not merely the author of that extremely amusing medley,
_Le Roman Bourgeois_ (1666), which still holds its place in French
literature as a minor classic, but he was also a real student of
philology, and one of those who most ardently desired to see the
settlement of the canon of French language. It incensed him beyond
words that his colleagues dawdled so endlessly over their committees
and their definitions. He began to make collections of his own, no
doubt at first with the perfectly loyal intention of adding them to
the common store. Meanwhile he lashed the rest of the Academy with
his tongue. Other Academicians did this also, such men as Patru and
Boisrobert, but they had not Furetiere's nasty way of putting things.
One perceives that about the year 1680 the sarcasms of Furetiere had
really become something more than the rest of the Immortals could put
up with.

He delivered himself into their hands, and here my little volume takes
up the tale. On the 3rd of January, 1685, the French Academy met to
mourn the death of its most illustrious member, the great Pierre
Corneille, and to elect his younger brother to take his place. While
the members were chatting together their Librarian handed about among
them copies of a "privilege" which had just been obtained by the Abbe
Furetiere to publish "a universal Dictionary containing generally all
French words, old as well as modern, and the terms employed in all
arts and sciences." So declares my little book; but it would seem
that the officers of the Academy at least a week earlier had their
attention drawn to what Furetiere was doing. Perhaps it was not until
the election of Thomas Corneille that an opportunity occurred of
making the members generally aware of it. One wonders whether
Furetiere himself was present on the 3rd of January; if so, what
puttings of periwigs together there must have been in corners, and
what taps of gold-headed canes on lace-frilled cuffs! It was felt, as
my little volume puts it, that "Monsieur the Abbe Furetiere, being one
of the Forty Academicians, ought not to have been privately busying
himself on a work which he knew to be the principal occupation of the
whole Academy." It is surprising, in the face of the monopoly which
that body had secured, that Furetiere was able to obtain a Privilege
for his own Dictionary, but in all probability, as he was one of the
Forty, the censors supposed that he was acting in concert with his

Then began a hue and cry with which the learned world of Paris rang
for months. Never was such a scandal, never such a rain of pamphlets
and lampoons on one side and the other. One has only to glance at the
contemporary portraits of Furetiere to see that he was not the man to
yield a point; his wrinkled face looks the very mirror of sarcastic
obstinacy and brilliant ill-nature. The Academy, in solemn session,
appointed Regnier Desmarais, their secretary, to wait on the
Chancellor to demand the cancelling of Furetiere's privilege. But the
Abbe had powerful friends also, and by their help the Chancellor's
action was delayed, while Furetiere hurried out a specimen of his
work. He says in the preface that no author ever had a more pressing
need for the protection of a prince than he has who sees the labour
of years about to be sacrificed to the envy of others. He goes on to
explain that he has never dreamed of interfering with the work of the
Academy, for which he has the greatest possible respect, but that
he only hopes to render service to the public by supplementing its
labours. The Academy, in fact, had expressly declined to include in
its Dictionary the technical terms of art and science, and it is
particularly with these that Furetiere is occupied. His answer to
those who accuse him of stealing from the unpublished _cahiers_ of the
Academy is the uniformity of his work from A to Z; whereas, if he had
stolen from his colleagues, he must have stopped at O-P, which was the
point they had reached in 1684.

The Academy was not pacified, and began to take counsel how they could
turn Furetiere out of their body. There was no precedent for such
a degradation, but a parallel was sought for in the fact that the
Sorbonne had successfully ejected one of its most famous doctors,
Arnauld. Meanwhile the suit went on, the Thirty-nine versus the One.
Furetiere is said to have bowed for a moment beneath the storm,
offering to blend his work in the general Dictionary of the Academy,
or to remove from it all words not admitted to deal technically with
art and science. But passion had gone too far, and on the 22nd of
January, 1685, at a general meeting, twenty Academicians being
present, Furetiere was expelled from the body by a majority of
nineteen to one. It is believed that the one who voted for mercy was
the most illustrious of all, Racine. Boileau and Bossuet also defended
the Abbe, and when the matter became at last so serious that the King
himself was obliged to take cognisance of it, it was understood that
his sympathies also were with Furetiere.

My little volume (written, I think, in 1687) does not know anything
about the expulsion, which was therefore probably secret. It says:
"As to Monsieur Furetiere, he no longer puts in an appearance at
the meetings of the Academy, but it is not known whether any other
Academician is to be elected in his place." As a matter of fact, the
society hesitated to go so far as this, and the seat was left vacant.
Not for long, however; the unanimous rancour of so many men of
influence and rank had successfully ruined the fortune and broken
the spirit of the old piratical lexicographer. Before retiring into
private life, however, he poured out in his _Couches de l'Academie_
a torrent of poison, which was distilled through the presses of
Amsterdam in 1687. One of his earlier colleagues at the Academy
supplied the bankrupt man with the necessaries of life, until, on the
14th of May, 1688, probably just as the "dumpy twelve" was passing
through the press, he died in Paris like a rat in a hole. His
Dictionary, being suppressed in France, was edited, after his death,
in 1690, at The Hague and Rotterdam, and enjoyed a great success. We
learn from a letter of Racine to Boileau that in 1694 the publisher
ventured to offer a copy of a new edition of it to the King of France,
and that it was graciously received. If the poor old man could have
struggled on a little longer he might have lived to see himself become
fashionable and successful again.

With all his misfortunes he managed to beat the Academy, for that
body, in spite of its superhuman efforts, did not contrive to publish
its Dictionary till four years after the appearance of Furetiere's.
The latter is a great curiosity of lexicography, a vast storehouse of
peculiar and rare information. It is always consulted by scholars, but
never without a recollection of the extraordinary struggle which its
author sustained, singlehanded, against the world, and in which he
fell, overpowered by numbers, only to triumph after all in the ashes
of his fame.


MISCELLANY POEMS. _With Two Plays. By Ardelia.

I never list presume to Parnass hill,
But piping low, in shade of lowly grove,
I play to please myself, albeit ill.

Spencer Shep. Cal. June.

Manuscript in folio. Circa_ 1696.

There is no other book in my library to which I feel that I possess so
clear a presumptive right as to this manuscript. Other rare volumes
would more fitly adorn the collections of bibliophiles more learned,
more ingenious, more elegant, than I. But if there is any person in
the two hemispheres who has so fair a claim upon the ghost of Ardelia,
let that man stand forth. Ardelia was uncultivated and unsung when I
constituted myself, years ago, her champion. With the exception of a
noble fragment of laudation from Wordsworth, no discriminating praise
from any modern critic had stirred the ashes of her name. I made it
my business to insist in many places on the talent of Ardelia. I gave
her, for the first time, a chance of challenging public taste, by
presenting to readers of Mr. Ward's _English Poets_ many pages of
extracts from her writings; and I hope it is not indiscreet to say
that, when the third volume of that compilation appeared, Mr. Matthew
Arnold told me that its greatest revelation to himself had been the
singular merit of this lady. Such being my claim on the consideration
of Ardelia, no one will, I think, grudge me the possession of this
unknown volume of her works in manuscript. It came into my hands by
a strange coincidence. In his brief life of Anne Finch, Countess of
Winchilsea--for that was Ardelia's real name--Theophilus Gibber says,
"A great number of our authoress' poems still continue unpublished,
in the hands of the Rev. Mr. Creake." In 1884 I saw advertised, in an
obscure book-list, a folio volume of old manuscript poetry. Something
excited my curiosity, and I sent for it. It proved to be a vast
collection of the poems of my beloved Anne Finch. I immediately
communicated with the bookseller, and asked him whence it came. He
replied that it had been sold, with furniture, pictures and books, at
the dispersing of the effects of a family of the name of Creake. Thank
you, divine Ardelia! It was well done; it was worthy of you.

Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, is not a commanding figure in
history, but she is an isolated and a well-defined one. She is what
one of the precursors of Shakespeare calls "a diminutive excelsitude."
She was entirely out of sympathy with her age, and her talent was
hampered and suppressed by her conditions. She was the solitary writer
of actively developed romantic tastes between Marvell and Gray, and
she was not strong enough to create an atmosphere for herself within
the vacuum in which she languished. The facts of her life are
extremely scanty, although they may now be considerably augmented
by the help of my folio. She was born about 1660, the daughter of a
Hampshire baronet. She was maid of honour to Mary of Modena, Duchess
of York, and at Court she met Heneage Finch, who was gentleman of
the bed-chamber to the Duke. They married in 1685, probably on the
occasion of the enthronement of their master and mistress, and when
the crash came in 1688, they fled together to the retirement of
Eastwell Park. They inhabited this mansion for the rest of their
lives, although it was not until the death of his nephew, in 1712,
that Heneage Finch became fourth Earl of Winchilsea. In 1713 Anne was
at last persuaded to publish a selection of her poems, and in 1720 she
died. The Earl survived her until 1726.

My manuscript was written, I think, in or about the year 1696--that
is to say, when Mrs. Finch was in retirement from the Court. She has
adopted the habit of writing,

_Betrayed by solitude to try
Amusements, which the prosperous fly_.

But her exile from the world gives her no disquietude. It seems almost
an answer to her prayer. Years before, when she was at the centre of
fashion in the Court of James II., she had written in an epistle to
the Countess of Thanet:

_Give me, O indulgent Fate,
Give me yet, before I die,
A sweet, but absolute retreat,
'Mongst paths so lost, and trees so high,
That the world may ne'er invade,
Through such windings and such shade,
My unshaken liberty_.

This was a sentiment rarely expressed and still more rarely felt by
English ladies at the close of the seventeenth century. What their
real opinion usually was is clothed in crude and ready language by
the heroines of Wycherley and Shadwell. Like Lucia, in the comedy of
_Epsom Wells_, to live out of London was to live in a wilderness, with
bears and wolves as one's companions. Alone in that age Anne Finch
truly loved the country, for its own sake, and had an eye to observe
its features.

She had one trouble, constitutional low spirits: she was a terrible
sufferer from what was then known as "The Spleen." She wrote a long
pindaric Ode on the Spleen, which was printed in a miscellany in 1701,
and was her first introduction to the public. She talks much about
her melancholy in her verses, but, with singular good sense, she
recognised that it was physical, and she tried various nostrums.
Neither tea, nor coffee, nor ratafia did her the least service:

_In vain to chase thee every art I try,
In vain all remedies apply,
In vain the Indian leaf infuse,
Or the parched eastern berry bruise,
Or pass, in vain, those bounds, and nobler liquors use_.

Her neurasthenia threw a cloud over her waking hours, and took sleep
from her eyelids at night:

_How shall I woo thee, gentle Rest,
To a sad mind, with cares oppress'd?
By what soft means shall I invite
Thy powers into my soul to-night?
Yet, gentle Sleep, if thou wilt come,
Such darkness shall prepare the room
As thy own palace overspreads,--
Thy palace stored with peaceful beds,--
And Silence, too, shall on thee wait
Deep, as in the Turkish State;
Whilst, still as death, I will be found,
My arms by one another bound,
And my dull limbs so clos'd shall be
As if already seal'd by thee_.

She tried a course of the waters at Tunbridge Wells, but without
avail. When the abhorred fit came on, the world was darkened to her.
Only two things could relieve her--the soothing influence of solitude
with nature and the Muses, or the sympathetic presence of her husband.
She disdained the little feminine arts of her age:

_Nor will in fading silks compose
Faintly the inimitable rose,
Fill up an ill-drawn bird, or paint on glass
The Sovereign's blurr'd and indistinguished face,
The threatening angel and the speaking ass_.

But she will wander at sundown through the exquisite woods of
Eastwell, and will watch the owlets in their downy nest or
the nightingale silhouetted against the fading sky. Then her
constitutional depression passes, and she is able once more to be

_Our sighs are then but vernal air,
But April-drops our tears_,

as she says in delicious numbers that might be Wordsworth's own. In
these delightful moments, released from the burden of her tyrant
malady, her eyes seem to have been touched with the herb euphrasy,
and she has the gift, denied to the rest of her generation, of seeing
nature and describing what she sees. In these moods, this contemporary
of Dryden and Congreve gives us such accurate transcripts of country
life as the following:

_When the loos'd horse now, as his pasture leads,
Comes slowly grazing through the adjoining meads,
Whose stealing face and lengthened shade we fear,
Till torn-up forage in his teeth we hear;
When nibbling sheep at large pursue their food,
And unmolested kine rechew the cud:
When curlews cry beneath the village-walls,
And to her straggling brood the partridge calls_.

In Eastwell Park there was a hill, called Parnassus, to which she was
particularly partial, and to this she commonly turned her footsteps.

Melancholy as she was, however, and devoted to reverie, she could
be gay enough upon occasion, and her sprightly poems have a genuine
sparkle. Here is an anacreontic--written "for my brother Leslie
Finch"--which has never before been printed:

_From the Park, and the Play,
And Whitehall, come away
To the Punch-bowl by far more inviting;
To the fops and 'the beaux
Leave those dull empty shows,
And see here what is truly delighting.

The half globe 'tis in figure,
And would it were bigger,
Yet here's the whole universe floating;
Here's titles and places,
Rich lands, and fair faces,
And all that is worthy our doting.

'Twas a world like to this
The hot Grecian did miss,
Of whom histories keep such a pother;
To the bottom he sunk,
And when he had drunk,
Grew maudlin, and wept for another_.

At another point, Anne Finch bore very little likeness to her
noisy sisterhood of fashion. In an age when it was the height of
ill-breeding for a wife to admit a partiality for her husband, Ardelia
was not ashamed to confess that Daphnis--for so she styled the
excellent Heneage Finch--absorbed every corner of her mind that was
not occupied by the Muses. It is a real pleasure to transcribe, for
the first time since they were written on the 2nd of April, 1685,
these honest couplets:

_This, to the crown and blessing of my life,
The much-loved husband of a happy wife;
To him whose constant passion found the art
To win a stubborn and ungrateful heart;
And to the world by tenderest proof discovers
They err who say that husbands can't be lovers.
With such return of passion as is due,
Daphnis I love, Daphnis my thoughts pursue,
Daphnis, my hopes, my joys are bounded all in you_!

Nearly thirty years later the same accent is audible, thinned a little
by advancing years, and subdued from passion to tenderness, yet as
genuine as at first. When at length the Earl began to suffer from the
gout, his faithful family songster recorded that also in her amiable
verse, and prayed that "the bad disease"

_May you but brief unfrequent visits find
To prove you patient, your Ardelia kind_.

No one can read her sensitive verses, and not be sure that she was the
sweetest and most soothing of bed-side visitants.

It was a quiet life which Daphnis and Ardelia spent in the recesses of
Eastwell Park. They saw little company and paid few visits. There
was a stately excursion now and then, to the hospitable Thynnes at
Longleat, and Anne Finch seldom omitted to leave behind her a metrical
tribute to the beauties of that mansion. They seem to have kept up
little connection with the Court or with London. There is no trace of
literary society in this volume. Nicholas Rowe twice sent down for
their perusal translations which he had made; and from another source
we learn that Lady Winchilsea had a brisk passage of compliments with
Pope. But these were rare incidents. We have rather to think of
the long years spent in the seclusion of Eastwell, by these gentle
impoverished people of quality, the husband occupied with his
mathematical studies, his painting, the care of his garden; the wife
studying further afield in her romantic reverie, watching the birds in
wild corners of her park, carrying her Tasso, hidden in a fold of her
dress, to a dell so remote that she forgets the way back, and has to
be carried home "in a Water-cart driven by one of the Underkeepers in
his green Coat, with a Hazle-bough for a Whip." It is a little
oasis of delicate and pensive refinement in that hot close of the
seventeenth century, when so many unseemly monsters were bellowing in
the social wilderness.


AMASIA: _or, The Works of the Muses. A Collection of Poems. In three
volumes. By Mr. John Hopkins. London: Printed by Tho. Warren,
for Bennet Banbury, at the Blue-Anchor, in the Lower-Walk of the
New-Exchange_, 1700.

It has often been remarked that if the author of the poorest
collection of minor verse would accurately relate in his quavering
numbers what his personal observations and adventures have been, his
book would not be entirely without value. But ninety-nine times out of
a hundred, this is precisely what he cannot do. His rhymes carry him
whither he would not, and he is lost in a fog of imitated phrases and
spurious sensations. The very odd and very rare set of three little
volumes, which now come before us, offer a curious exception to this
rule. The author of _Amasia_ was no poet, but he possessed the faculty
of writing with exactitude about himself. He prattled on in heroic
couplets from hour to hour, recording the tiny incidents of his life.
At first sight, his voluble miscellany seems a mere wilderness of tame
verses, but when we examine it closely a story gradually evolves. We
come to know John Hopkins, and live in the intimacy of his circle.
His poems contain a novelette in solution. So far as I can discover,
nothing whatever is known of him save what he reveals of himself, and
no one, I think, has ever searched his three uninviting volumes. In
the following paragraphs I have put together his story as it is to be
found in the pages of _Amasia_.

By a single allusion to the _Epistolary Poems_ of Charles Hopkins,
"very well perform'd by my Brother," in 1694, we are able to identify
the author of _Amasia_ with certainty. He was the second son of the
Right Rev. Ezekiel Hopkins, Lord Bishop of Derry. The elder brother
whom we have mentioned, Charles, was considerably his senior; for
six years the latter occupied a tolerably prominent place in London
literary society, was the intimate friend of Dryden and Congreve,
published three or four plays not without success, and possessed a
name which is pretty frequently met with in books of the time. But to
John Hopkins I have discovered scarcely an allusion. He does not seem
to have moved in his brother's circle, and his society was probably
more courtly than literary. If we may trust his own account the author
of _Amasia_ was born, doubtless at Londonderry, on the 1st of January,
1675. He was, therefore, only twenty-five when his poems were
published, and the exquisitely affected portrait which adorns the
first volume must represent him as younger still, since it was
executed by the Dutch engraver, F.H. van Hove, who was found murdered
in October, 1698.

Pause a moment, dear reader, and observe Mr. John Hopkins, _alias_
Sylvius, set out with all the artillery of ornament to storm the heart
of Amasia. Notice his embroidered silken coat, his splendid lace
cravat, the languishment of his large foolish eyes, the indubitable
touch of Spanish red on those smooth cheeks. But, above all
contemplate the wonders of his vast peruke. He has a name, be sure,
for every portion of that killing structure. Those sausage-shaped
curls, close to the ears, are _confidants_; those that dangle round
the temples, _favorites_; the sparkling lock that descends alone over
the right eyebrow is the _passagere_; and, above all, the gorgeous
knot that unites the curls and descends on the left breast, is aptly
named the _meurtriere_. If he would but turn his head, we should see
his _creves-coeur_, the two delicate curled locks at the nape of his
neck. The escutcheon below his portrait bears, very suitably, three
loaded muskets rampant. Such was Sylvius, conquering but, alas! not to

The youth of John Hopkins was passed in the best Irish society. His
father, the Bishop, married--apparently in second nuptials, for John
speaks not of her as a man speaks of his mother--the daughter of the
Earl of Radnor. Lady Araminta Hopkins seems to have been a friend of
Isabella, Duchess of Grafton, the exquisite girl who, at the age of
five, had married a bridegroom of nine, and at twenty-three was left
a widow, to be the first toast in English society. The poems of John
Hopkins are dedicated to this Dowager-duchess, who, when they were
published, had already for two years been the wife of Sir Thomas
Hanmer. At the age of twelve, and probably in Dublin, Hopkins met the
mysterious lady who animates these volumes under the name of Amasia.
Who was Amasia? That, alas! even the volubility of her lover does
not reveal. But she was Irish, the daughter of a wealthy and perhaps
titled personage, and the intimate companion for many years of the
beautiful Duchess of Grafton.

Love did not begin at first sight. Sylvius played with Amasia when
they both were children, and neither thought of love. Later on, in
early youth, the poet was devoted only to a male friend, one Martin.
To him ecstatic verses are inscribed:

_O Martin! Martin! let the grateful sound
Reach to that Heav'n which has our Friendship crown'd,
And, like our endless Friendship, meet no bound_.

But alas! one day Martin came back, after a long absence, and,
although he still

_With generous, kind, continu'd Friendship burn'd_,

he found Sylvius entirely absorbed by Amasia. Martin knew better than
to show temper; he accepted the situation, and

_the lov'd Amasia's Health flew round,
Amasia's Health the Golden Goblets crown'd_.

Now began the first and happiest portion of the story. Amasia had no
suspicion of the feelings of the poet, and he was only too happy to be
permitted to watch her movements. He records, in successive copies of
verses, the various things she did. He seems to have been on terms of
delightful intimacy with the lady, and he calls all sorts of people of
the highest position to witness how he suffered. To Lady Sandwich are
dedicated poems on "Amasia, drawing her own Picture," on "Amasia,
playing with a Clouded Fan," on "Amasia, singing, and sticking pins in
a Red Silk Pincushion." We are told how Amasia "looked at me through a
Multiplying-Glass," how she was troubled with a redness in her eyes,
how she danced before a looking-glass, how her flowered muslin
nightgown (or "night-rail," as he calls it) took fire, and how, though
she promised to sing, yet she never performed. We have a poem on the
circumstance that Amasia, "having prick'd me with a Pin, accidentally
scratched herself with it;" and another on her "asking me if I slept
well after so tempestuous a night." But perhaps the most intimate of
all is a poem "To Amasia, tickling a Gentleman." It was no perfunctory
tickling that Amasia administered:

_While round his sides your nimble Fingers played,
With pleasing softness did they swiftly rove,
While, at each touch, they made his Heart-strings move.
As round his Breast, his ravish'd Breast they crowd,
We hear their Musick when he laughs aloud_.

This is probably the only instance in literature in which a gentleman
has complacently celebrated in verse the fact that his lady-love has
tickled some other gentleman.

But this generous simplicity was not long to last. In 1690 Hopkins's
father, the Bishop, had died. We may conjecture that Lady Araminta
took charge of the boy, and that his home, in vacation time, was with
her in Dublin or London. He writes like a youth who has always been
petted; the _frou-frou_ of fine ladies' petticoats is heard in all his
verses. But he had no fortune and no prospects; he was utterly, he
confesses, without ambition. The stern papa of Amasia had no notion of
bestowing her on the penniless Sylvius, and when the latter began to
court her in earnest, she rebuffed him. She tore up his love-letters,
she teased him by sending her black page to the window when he was
ogling for her in the street below, she told him he was too young for
her, and although she had no objection to his addressing verses to
her, she gave him no serious encouragement. She was to be married, he
hints, to some one of her own rank--some rich "country booby."

At last, early in 1698, in company with the Duchess of Grafton, and
possibly on the occasion of the second marriage of the latter, Amasia
was taken off to France, and Hopkins never saw her again. A year later
he received news of her death, and his little romance was over. He
became ill, and Dr. Gibbons, the great fashionable physician of the
day, was called in to attend him. The third volume closes by his
summoning the faithful and unupbraiding Martin back to his heart:

_Love lives in Sun-Shine, or that Storm, Despair,
But gentler Friendship Breathes a Mod'rate Air_.

And so Sylvius, with all his galaxy of lovely Irish ladies, his
fashionable Muses, and his trite and tortured fancy, disappears into
thin air.

The only literary man whom he mentions as a friend is George Farquhar,
himself a native of Londonderry, and about the same age as Hopkins.
This playwright seems to be sometimes alluded to as Daphnis, sometimes
under his own name. Before the performance of _Love and a Bottle_,
Hopkins prophesied for the author a place where

_Congreve, Vanbrook, and Wicherley must sit,
The great Triumvirate of Comick Wit_,

and later on he thought that even Collier himself ought to commend the
_Constant Couple, or A Trip to the Jubilee_. At the first performance
of this play, towards the close of 1699, Hopkins was greatly perturbed
by the presence of a lady who reminded him of Amasia, and when he
visited the theatre next he was less pleased with the play. He had a
vague and infelicitous scheme for turning _Paradise Lost_ into rhyme.
These are the only traces of literary bias. In other respects Hopkins
is interested in nothing more serious than a lock of Amasia's hair;
the china cup she had, "round the sides of which were painted Trees,
and at the bottom a Naked Woman Weeping;" her box of patches, in which
she finds a silver penny; or the needlework embroidered on her gown.
When Amasia died there was no reason why Sylvius should continue to
exist, and he fades out of our vision like a ghost.


LOVE AND BUSINESS: _in a Collection of occasionary Verse and
epistolary Prose not hitherto published. By Mr. George Farquhar_. En
Orenge il n'y a point d'oranges. _London, printed for B. Lintott, at
the Post-House, in the Middle Temple-Gate, Fleet Street_. 1702.

There are some books, like some people, of whom we form an indulgent
opinion without finding it easy to justify our liking. The young man
who went to the life-insurance office and reported that his father
had died of no particular disease, but just of "plain death," would
sympathise with the feeling I mention. Sometimes we like a book, not
for any special merit, but just because it is what it is. The rare,
and yet not celebrated, miscellany of which I am about to write
has this character. It is not instructive, or very high-toned, or
exceptionally clever, but if it were a man, all people that are not
prigs would say that it was a very good sort of fellow. If it be, as
it certainly is, a literary advantage for a nondescript collection of
trifles, to reproduce minutely the personality of its writer, then
_Love and Business_ has one definite merit. Wherever we dip into its
pages we may use it as a telephone, and hear a young Englishman, of
the year 1700, talking to himself and to his friends in the most
unaffected accents.

Captain George Farquhar, in 1702, was four-and-twenty years of age.
He was a smart, soldier-like Irishman, of "a splenetic and amorous
complexion," half an actor, a quarter a poet, and altogether a very
honest and gallant gentleman. He had taken to the stage kindly enough,
and at twenty-one had written _Love and a Bottle_. Since then, two
other plays, _The Constant Couple_ and _Sir Harry Wildair_, had proved
that he had wit and fancy, and knew how to knit them together into
a rattling comedy. But he was poor, always in pursuit of that timid
wild-fowl, the occasional guinea, and with no sort of disposition to
settle down into a heavy citizen. In order to bring down a few brace
of golden game, he shovels into Lintott's hands his stray verses of
all kinds, a bundle of letters he wrote from Holland, a dignified
essay or discourse upon Comedy, and, with questionable taste perhaps,
a set of copies of the love-letters he had addressed to the lady
who became his wife. All this is not very praiseworthy, and as a
contribution to literature it is slight indeed; but, then, how genuine
and sincere, how guileless and picturesque is the self-revelation of
it! There is no attempt to make things better than they are, nor any
pandering to a cynical taste by making them worse. Why should he
conceal or falsify? The town knows what sort of a fellow George
Farquhar is. Here are some letters and some verses; the beaux at
White's may read them if they will, and then throw them away.

As we turn the desultory pages, the figure of the author rises before
us, good-natured, easygoing, high-coloured, not bad-looking, with an
air of a gentleman in spite of his misfortunes. We do not know
the exact details of his military honours. We may think of him as
swaggering in scarlet regimentals, but we have his own word for it
that he was often in _mufti_. His mind is generally dressed, he says,
like his body, in black; for though he is so brisk a spark in company,
he suffers sadly from the spleen when he is alone. We can follow him
pretty closely through his day. He is a queer mixture of profanity and
piety, of coarseness and loyalty, of cleverness and density; we do not
breed this kind of beau nowadays, and yet we might do worse, for this
specimen is, with all his faults, a man. He dresses carefully in the
morning, in his uniform or else in his black suit. When he wants to
be specially smart, as, for instance, when he designs a conquest at a
birthday-party, he has to ferret among the pawnbrokers for scraps of
finery, or secure on loan a fair, full-bottom wig. But he is not so
impoverished that he cannot on these occasions give his valet and his
barber plenty of work to do preparing his face with razors, perfumes
and washes. He would like to be Sir Fopling Flutter, if he could
afford it, and gazes a little enviously at that noble creature in his
French clothes, as he lounges luxuriantly past him in his coach with
six before and six behind.

Poor Captain Farquhar begins to expect that he himself will never be
"a first-rate Beau." So, on common mornings, a little splenetic, he
wanders down to the coffee-houses and reads the pamphlets, those which
find King William glorious, and those that rail at the watery Dutch.
He will even be a little Jacobitish for pure foppery, and have a fling
at the Church, but in his heart he is with the Ministry. He meets a
friend at White's, and they adjourn presently to the Fleece Tavern,
where the drawer brings them a bottle of New French and a neat's
tongue, over which they discuss the doctrine of predestination so
hotly that two mackerel-vendors burst in, mistaking their lifted
voices for a cry for fish. His friend has business in the city, and so
our poet strolls off to the Park, and takes a turn in the Mall with
his hat in his hand, prepared for an adventure or a chat with a
friend. Then comes the play, the inevitable early play, still, even
in 1700, apt to be so rank-lipped that respectable ladies could only
appear at it in masks. It was the transition period, and poor Comedy,
who was saying good-bye to literature, was just about to console
herself with modesty.

However, a domino may slip aside, and Mr. George Farquhar notices
a little lady in a deep mourning mantua, whose eyes are not to be
forgotten. She goes, however; it is useless to pursue her; but the
music raises his soul to such a pitch of passion that he is almost
melancholy. He strolls out into Spring Garden, but there, "with
envious eyes, I saw every Man pick up his Mate, whilst I alone walked
like solitary Adam before the Creation of his Eve; but the place was
no Paradise to me; nothing I found entertaining but the Nightingale."
So that in those sweet summer evenings of 1700, over the laced and
brocaded couples promenading in Spring Garden, as over good Sir Roger
twelve years later, the indulgent nightingale still poured her notes.
To-day you cannot hear the very bells of St. Martin's for the roar of
the traffic. So lonely, and too easily enamoured, George has to betake
himself to the tavern, and a passable Burgundy. There is no idealism
about him. He is very fit for repentance next morning. "The searching
Wine has sprung the Rheumatism in my Right Hand, my Head aches, my
Stomach pukes." Our poor, good-humoured beau has no constitution for
this mode of life, and we know, though happily he dreams not of it,
that he is to die before he reaches thirty.

This picture of Farquhar's life is nowhere given in the form just
related, but not one touch in the portrait but is to be found
somewhere in the frank and easy pages of _Love and Business_. The
poems are of their age and kind. There is a "Pindarick," of course; it
was so easy to write one, and so reputable. There are compliments in
verse to one of the female wits who were writing then for the stage,
Mrs. Trotter, author of the _Fatal Friendship_; there are amatory
explanations of all kinds. When he fails to keep an appointment with
a lady on account of the rain--for there were no umbrellas in those
days--he likens himself to Leander, wistful on the Sestian shore. He
is not always very discreet; Damon's thoughts when "Night's black
Curtain o'er the World was spread" were very innocent, but such as we
have decided nowadays to say nothing about. It was the fashion of the
time to be outspoken. There is no value, however, in the verse,
except that it is graphic now and then. The letters are much more
interesting. Those sent from Holland in the autumn of 1700 are very
good reading. I make bold to quote one passage from the first,
describing the storm he encountered in crossing. It depicts our hero
to the life, with all his inconsistencies. He says: "By a kind of
Poetical Philosophy I bore up pretty well under my Apprehensions;
though never worse prepared for Death, I must confess, for I think I
never had so much Money about me at a time. We had some Ladies aboard,
that were so extremely sick, that they often wished for Death, but
were damnably afraid of being drown'd. But, as the Scripture says,
'Sorrow may last for a Night, but Joy cometh in the Morning,'" and so
on. The poor fellow means no harm by all this, as Hodgson once said of
certain remarks of Byron's.

The love-letters are very curious. It is believed that the sequel of
them was a very unhappy marriage. Captain Farquhar was of a loving
disposition, and as inflammable as a hay-rick. He cannot have been
much more than twenty-one when he described what he desired in a wife.
"O could I find," he said--

_O could I find (Grant, Heaven, that once I may!)
A Nymph fair, kind, poetical and gay
Whose Love should blaze, unsullied and divine.
Lighted at first by the bright Lamp of mine.
Free as a Mistress, faithful as a wife.
And one that lov'd a Fiddle as her Life,
Free from all sordid Ends, from Interest free,
For my own Sake affecting only me,
What a blest Union should our Souls combine!
I hers alone, and she be only mine!_

It does not seem a very exacting ideal, but the poor poet missed it.
Whether Mrs. Farquhar loved a fiddle as her life is not recorded, but
she certainly was not free from all sordid ends and unworthy tricks.
The little lady in the mourning mantua soon fell in love with our
gallant spark, and when he made court to her, she represented herself
as very wealthy. The deed accomplished, Mrs. Farquhar turned out to be
penniless; and the poet, like a gentleman as he was, never reproached
her, but sat down cheerfully to a double poverty. In _Love and
Business_ the story does not proceed so far. He receives Miss Penelope
V----'s timid advances, describes himself to her, is soon as much in
love with his little lady as she with him, and is making broad demands
and rich-blooded confidences in fine style, no offence taken where
no harm is meant. In one of the letters to Penelope we get a very
interesting glance at a famous, and, as it happens, rather obscure,
event--the funeral of the great Dryden, in May 1700. Farquhar says:

"I come now from Mr. Dryden's Funeral, where we had an Ode in Horace
sung, instead of David's Psalms; whence you may find that we don't
think a Poet worth Christian Burial; the Pomp of the Ceremony was a
kind of Rhapsody, and fitter, I think, for Hudibras than him; because
the Cavalcade was mostly Burlesque; but he was an extraordinary Man,
and bury'd after an extraordinary Fashion; for I believe there was
never such another Burial seen; the Oration indeed was great and
ingenious, worthy the Subject, and like the Author [Dr. Garth], whose
Prescriptions can restore the Living, and his Pen embalm the Dead.
And so much for Mr. Dryden, whose Burial was the same with his
Life,--Variety, and not of a Piece. The Quality and Mob, Farce and
Heroicks, the Sublime and Ridicule mixt in a Piece, great Cleopatra in
a Hackney Coach."


Who was Ann Lang? Alas! I am not sure; but she flourished one hundred
and sixty years ago, under his glorious Majesty, George I., and I have
become the happy possessor of a portion of her library. It consists
of a number of cheap novels, all published in 1723 and 1724, when Ann
Lang probably bought them; and each carries, written on the back of
the title, "ann Lang book 1727," which is doubtless the date of her
lending them to some younger female friend. The letters of this
inscription are round and laboriously shaped, while the form is always
the same, and never "Ann Lang, her book," which is what one would
expect. It is not the hand of a person of quality: I venture to
conclude that she who wrote it was a milliner's apprentice or a
servant-girl. There are five novels in this little collection, and
a play, and a pamphlet of poems, and a bundle of love-letters, all
signed upon their title-pages by the Ouida of the period, the great
Eliza Haywood.

No one who has not dabbled among old books knows how rare have become
the strictly popular publications of a non-literary kind which a
generation of the lower middle class has read and thrown away. Eliza
Haywood lives in the minds of men solely through one very coarse and
cruel allusion to her made by Pope in the _Dunciad_. She was never
recognised among people of intellectual quality; she ardently desired
to belong to literature, but her wish was never seriously gratified,
even by her friend Aaron Hill. Yet she probably numbered more readers,
for a year or two, than any other person in the British realm. She
poured forth what she called "little Performances" from a tolerably
respectable press; and the wonder is that in these days her abundant
writings are so seldom to be met with. The secret doubtless is that
her large public consisted almost wholly of people like Ann Lang.
Eliza was read by servants in the kitchen, by seamstresses, by
basket-women, by 'prentices of all sorts, male and female, but mostly
the latter. For girls of this sort there was no other reading of a
light kind in 1724. It was Eliza Haywood or nothing. The men of the
same class read Defoe; but he, with his cynical severity, his absence
of all pity for a melting mood, his savagery towards women, was not
likely to be preferred by "straggling nymphs." The footman might read
_Roxana_, and the hackney-writer sit up after his toil over _Moll
Flanders_; there was much in these romances to interest men. But what
had Ann Lang to do with stories so cold and harsh? She read Eliza

But most of her sisters, of Eliza's great _clientele_, did not know
how to treat a book. They read it to tatters, and they threw it away.
It may be news to some readers that these early novels were very
cheap. Ann Lang bought _Love in Excess_, which is quite a thick
volume, for two shillings; and the first volume of _Idalia_ (for Eliza
was Ouidaesque even in her titles) only cost her eighteen-pence. She
seems to have been a clean girl. She did not drop warm lard on the
leaves. She did not tottle up her milk-scores on the bastard-title.
She did not scribble in the margin "Emanuella is a foul wench." She
did not dog's-ear her little library, or stain it, or tear it. I owe
it to that rare and fortunate circumstance of her neatness that her
beloved books have come into my possession after the passage of so
many generations. It must be recollected that Eliza Haywood lived in
the very twilight of English fiction. Sixteen years were still to
pass, in 1724, before the British novel properly began to dawn in
_Pamela_, twenty-five years before it broke in the full splendour of
_Tom Jones_. Eliza Haywood simply followed where, two generations
earlier, the redoubtable Mrs. Aphra Behn had led. She preserved the
old romantic manner, a kind of corruption of the splendid Scudery and
Calprenede folly of the middle of the seventeenth century. All that
distinguished her was her vehement exuberance and the emptiness of the
field. Ann Lang was young, and instinctively attracted to the study of
the passion of love. She must read something, and there was nothing
but Eliza Haywood for her to read.

The heroines of these old stories were all palpitating with
sensibility, although that name had not yet been invented to describe
their condition. When they received a letter beginning "To the divine
Lassellia," or "To the incomparable Donna Emanuella," they were
thrown into the most violent disorder; "a thousand different Passions
succeeded one another in their turns," and as a rule "'twas all too
sudden to admit disguise." When a lady in Eliza Haywood's novels
receives a note from a gentleman, "all her Limbs forget their
Function, and she sinks fainting on the Bank, in much the same posture
as she was before she rais'd herself a little to take the Letter." I
am positive that Ann Lang practised this series of attitudes in the
solitude of her garret.

There is no respite for the emotions from Eliza's first page to her
last. The implacable Douxmoure (for such was her singular name)
"continued for some time in a Condition little different from Madness;
but when Reason had a little recovered its usual Sway, a deadly
Melancholy succeeded Passion." When Bevillia tried to explain to her
cousin that Emilius was no fit suitor for her hand, the young lady
swooned twice before she seized Bevillia's "cruel meaning;" and
then--ah! then--"silent the stormy Passions roll'd in her tortured
Bosom, disdaining the mean Ease of raging or complaining. It was a
considerable time before she utter'd the least Syllable; and when she
did, she seem'd to start as from some dreadful Dream, and cry'd, 'It
is enough--in knowing one I know the whole deceiving Sex'"; and she
began to address an imaginary Women's Rights Meeting.

Plot was not a matter about which Eliza Haywood greatly troubled
herself. A contemporary admirer remarked, with justice:

'_Tis Love Eliza's soft Affections fires;
Eliza writes, but Love alone inspires;
'Tis Love that gives D'Elmont his manly Charms,
And tears Amena from her Father's Arms_.

These last-named persons are the hero and heroine of _Love in Excess;
or The Fatal Inquiry_, which seems to have been the most popular of
the whole series. This novel might be called _Love Through a Window_;
for it almost entirely consists of a relation of how the gentleman
prowled by moonlight in a garden, while the lady, in an agitated
disorder, peeped out of her lattice in "a most charming Dishabillee."
Alas! there was a lock to the door of a garden staircase, and while
the lady "was paying a Compliment to the Recluse, he was dextrous
enough to slip the Key out of the Door unperceived." Ann Lang!--"a
sudden cry of Murder, and the noise of clashing Swords," come none too
soon to save those blushes which, we hope, you had in readiness for
the turning of the page! Eliza Haywood assures us, in _Idalia_, that
her object in writing is that "the Warmth and Vigour of Youth may be
temper'd by a due Consideration"; yet the moralist must complain
that she goes a strange way about it. Idalia herself was "a lovely
Inconsiderate" of Venice, who escaped in a "Gondula" up "the River
Brent," and set all Vicenza by the ears through her "stock of
Haughtiness, which nothing could surmount." At last, after adventures
which can scarcely have edified Ann Lang, Idalia abruptly "remember'd
to have heard of a Monastery at Verona," and left Vicenza at break of
day, taking her "unguarded languishments" out of that city and out of
the novel. It is true that Ann Lang, for 2s., bought a continuation of
the career of Idalia; but we need not follow her.

The perusal of so many throbbing and melting romances must necessarily
have awakened in the breast of female readers a desire to see the
creator of these tender scenes. I am happy to inform my readers that
there is every reason to believe that Ann Lang gratified this innocent
wish. At all events, there exists among her volumes the little book of
the play sold at the doors of Drury Lane Theatre, when, in the summer
of 1724, Eliza Haywood's new comedy of _A Wife to be Lett_ was acted
there, with the author performing in the part of Mrs. Graspall. The
play itself is wretched, and tradition says that it owed what little
success it enjoyed to the eager desire which the novelist's readers
felt to gaze upon her features. She was about thirty years of age
at the time; but no one says that she was handsome, and she was
undoubtedly a bad actress, I think the disappointment that evening
at the Theatre Royal opened the eyes of Ann Lang. Perhaps it was the
appearance of Eliza in the flesh which prevented her old admirer from
buying _The Secret History of Cleomina, suppos'd dead_, which I miss
from the collection.

If Ann Lang lived on until the publication of _Pamela_--especially if
during the interval she had bettered her social condition--with
what ardour must she have hailed the advent of what, with all its
shortcomings, was a book worth gold. Perhaps she went to Vauxhall with
it in her muff, and shook it triumphantly at some middle-aged lady of
her acquaintance. Perhaps she lived long enough to see one great novel
after another break forth to lighten the darkness of life. She must
have looked back on the pompous and lascivious pages of Eliza Haywood,
with their long-drawn palpitating intrigues, with positive disgust.
The English novel began in 1740, and after that date there was always
something wholesome for Ann Lang and her sisters to read.


LES CHATS. _A Rotterdam, chez Jean Daniel Beman, MDCCXXVIII_.

An accomplished lady of my acquaintance tells me that she is preparing
an anthology of the cat. This announcement has reminded me of one of
the oddest and most entertaining volumes in my library. People who
collect prints of the eighteenth century know an engraving which
represents a tom-cat, rampant, holding up an oval portrait of a
gentleman and standing, in order to do so, on a volume. The volume
is _Les Chats_, the book before us, and the portrait is that of the
author, the amiable and amusing Augustin Paradis de Moncrif. He was
the son of English, or more probably of Scotch parents settled in
Paris, where he was born in 1687. All we know of his earlier years
is to be found in a single sparkling page of d'Alembert, who makes
Moncrif float out of obscurity like the most elegant of iridescent
bubbles. He was handsome and seductive, turned a copy of verses with
the best of gentlemen, but was particularly distinguished by the art
with which he purveyed little dramas for the amateur stage, then so
much in fashion in France. Somebody said of him, when he was famous
as the laureate of the cats, that he had risen in life by never
scratching, by always having velvet paws, and by never putting up his
back, even when he was startled. Voltaire called him "my very dear
Sylph," and he was the ideal of all that was noiseless, graceful,
good-humoured, and well-bred. He slipped unobtrusively into the French
Academy, and lived to be eighty-three, dying at last, like Anacreon,
in the midst of music and dances and fair nymphs of the Opera,
affecting to be a sad old rogue to the very last.

This book on Cats, the only one by which he is now remembered, was the
sole production of his lifetime which cost him any annoyance. He was
forty years of age when it appeared, and the subject was considered a
little frivolous, even for such a _petit conteur_ as Moncrif. People
continued to tease him about it, and the only rough thing he ever did
was the result of one such twitting. The poet Roy made an epigram
about "cats" and "rats," in execrable taste, no doubt; this stung our
Sylph to such an excess that he waited outside the Palais Royal and
beat Roy with a stick when he came out. The poet was, perhaps, not
much hurt; at all events, he had the presence of mind to retort,
"Patte de velours, patte de velours, Minon-minet!" It was six years
after this that Moncrif was elected into the French Academy, and
then the shower of epigrams broke out again. He wished to be made
historiographer; "Oh, nonsense," the wits cried, "he must mean
historiogriffe" and they invited him, on nights when the Academy met,
to climb on to the roof and miau from the chimneypots. He had the
weakness to apologise for his charming book, and to withdraw it from
circulation. His pastoral tales and heroic ballets, his _Zelindors_
and _Zeloides_ and _Erosines_, which to us seem utterly vapid and
frivolous, never gave him a moment's uneasiness. His crumpled
rose-leaf was the book by which his name lives in literature.

The book of cats is written in the form of eleven letters to Madame la
Marquise de B----. The anonymous author represents himself as too much
excited to sleep, after an evening spent in a fashionable house,
where the company was abusing cats. He was unsupported; where was
the Marquise, who would have brought a thousand arguments to his
assistance, founded on her own experience of virtuous pussies? Instead
of going to bed he will sit up and indite the panegyric of the feline
race. He is still sore at the prejudice and injustice of the people
he has just left. It culminated in the conduct of a lady who declared
that cats were poison, and who, "when pussy appeared in the room, had
the presence of mind to faint." These people had rallied him on the
absurdity of his enthusiasm; but, as he says, the Marquise well knows,
"how many women have a passion for cats, and how many men are women in
this respect."

So he starts away on his dissertation, with all its elegant pedantry,
its paradoxical wit, its genuine touches of observation and its
constant sparkle of anecdote. He is troubled to account for the
existence of the cat. An Ottoman legend relates that when the animals
were in the Ark, Noah gave the lion a great box on the ear, which made
him sneeze, and produce a cat out his nose. But the author questions
this origin, and is more inclined to agree with a Turkish Minister of
Religion, sometime Ambassador to France, that the ape, "weary of a
sedentary life" in the Ark, paid his attentions to a very agreeable
young lioness, whose infidelities resulted in the birth of a Tom-cat
and a Puss-cat, and that these, combining the qualities of their
parents, spread through the Ark _un esprit de coquetterie_--which
lasted during the whole of the sojourn there. Moncrif has no
difficulty in showing that the East has always been devoted to cats,
and he tells the story of Mahomet, who, being consulted one day on
a point of piety, preferred to cut off his sleeve, on which his
favourite pussy was asleep, rather than wake her violently by rising.

From the French poets, Moncrif collects a good many curious tributes
to the "harmless, necessary cat." I am seized with an ambition to put
some fragments of these into English verse. Most of them are highly
complimentary. It is true that Ronsard was one of those who could not
appreciate a "matou." He sang or said:

_There is no man now living anywhere
Who hates cats with a deeper hate than I;
I hate their eyes, their heads, the way they stare,
And when I see one come, I turn and fly_.

But among the _precieuses_ of the seventeenth century there was much
more appreciation. Mme. Deshoulieres wrote a whole series of songs
and couplets about her cat, Grisette. In a letter to her husband,
referring to the attentions she herself receives from admirers, she

_Deshoulieres cares not for the smart
Her bright eyes cause, disdainful hussy,
But, like a mouse, her idle heart
Is captured by a pussy_.

Much better than these is the sonnet on the cat of the Duchess of
Lesdiguieres, with its admirable line:

_Chatte pour tout le monde, et pour les chats tigresse_.

A fugitive epistle by Scarron, delightfully turned, is too long to be
quoted here, nor can I pause to cite the rondeau which the Duchess of
Maine addressed to her favourite. But she supplemented it as follows:

_My pretty puss, my solace and delight,
To celebrate thy loveliness aright
I ought to call to life the bard who sung
Of Lesbia's sparrow with so sweet a tongue;
But 'tis in vain to summon here to me
So famous a dead personage as he,
And you must take contentedly to-day
This poor rondeau that Cupid wafts your way_.

When this cat died the Duchess was too much affected to write its
epitaph herself, and accordingly it was done for her, in the following
style, by La Mothe le Vayer, the author of the _Dialogues_:

_Puss passer-by, within this simple tomb
Lies one whose life fell Atropos hath shred;
The happiest cat on earth hath heard her doom,
And sleeps for ever in a marble bed.
Alas! what long delicious days I've seen!
O cats of Egypt, my illustrious sires,
You who on altars, bound with garlands green,
Have melted hearts, and kindled fond desires,--
Hymns in your praise were paid, and offerings too,
But I'm not jealous of those rights divine.
Since Ludovisa loved me, close and true,
Your ancient glory was less proud than mine.
To live a simple pussy by her side
Was nobler far than to be deified_.

To these and other tributes Moncrif adds idyls and romances of his
own, while regretting that it never occurred to Theocritus to write a
_bergerie de chats_. He tells stories of blameless pussies beloved
by Fontanelle and La Fontaine, and quotes Marot in praise of "the
green-eyed Venus." But he tears himself away at last from all these
historical reminiscences, and in his eleventh letter he deals with
cats as they are. We hasten as lightly as possible over a story of the
disinterestedness of a feline Heloise, which is too pathetic for a
nineteenth-century ear. But we may repeat the touching anecdote of
Bayle's friend, Mlle. Dupuy. This lady excelled to a surprising
degree in playing the harp, and she attributed her excellence in this
accomplishment to her cat, whose critical taste was only equalled by
his close attention to Mlle. Dupuy's performance. She felt that she
owed so much to this cat, under whose care her reputation for skill on
the harp had become universal, that when she died she left him, in her
will, one agreeable house in town and another in the country. To this
bequest she added a revenue sufficient to supply all the requirements
of a well-bred tom-cat, and at the same time she left pensions to
certain persons whose duty it should be to wait upon him. Her ignoble
family contested the will, and there was a long suit. Moncrif gives
a handsome double-plate illustration of this incident. Mlle. Dupuy,
sadly wasted by illness, is seen in bed, with her cat in her arms,
dictating her will to the family lawyer in a periwig; her physician is
also present.

This leads me to speak of the illustrations to _Les Chats_, which
greatly add to its value. They were engraved by Otten from original
drawings by Coypel. In another edition the same drawings are engraved
by Count Caylus. Some of them are of a charming absurdity. One, a
double plate, represents a tragedy acted by cats on the roof of a
fashionable house. The actors are tricked out in the most magnificent
feathers and furbelows, but the audience consists of common cats.
Cupid sits above, with his bow and fluttering wings. Another plate
shows the mausoleum of the Duchess of Lesdiguieres' cat, with a marble
pussy of heroic size, upon a marble pillow, in a grove of poplars.
Another is a medal to "Chat Noir premier, ne en 1725," with the proud
inscription, "Knowing to whom I belong, I am aware of my value." The
profile within is that of as haughty a tom as ever shook out his
whiskers in a lady's boudoir.


POEMS ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS. _By Christopher Smart, A.M., Fellow of
Pembroke-Hall, Cambridge. London: Printed for the Author, by W.
Strahan; And sold by J. Newbery, at the Bible and Sun, in St. Paul's
Churchyard. MDCCLII_.

The third section of Robert Browning's _Parleyings with certain People
of Importance in their Day_ drew attention to a Cambridge poet of whom
little had hitherto been known, Christopher Smart, once fellow of
Pembroke College. It may be interesting, therefore, to supply some
sketch of the events of his life, and of the particular poem which
Browning has aptly compared to a gorgeous chapel lying perdue in
a dull old commonplace mansion. No one can afford to be entirely
indifferent to the author of verses which one of the greatest of
modern writers has declared to be unequalled of their kind between
Milton and Keats.

What has hitherto been known of the facts of Smart's life has been
founded on the anonymous biography prefixed to the two-volume Reading
edition of his works, published in 1791. The copy of this edition
in Trinity Library belonged to Dr. Farmer, and contains these words
in his handwriting: "From the Editor, Francis Newbery, Esq.; the
Life by Mr. Hunter." As this Newbery was the son of Smart's
half-brother-in-law and literary employer, it may be taken for granted
that the information given in these volumes is authoritative. We may
therefore believe it to be correct that Smart was born (as he himself
tells us, in _The Hop Garden)_ at Shipbourne, in Kent, on the 11th of
April 1722, that his father was steward to the nobleman who afterwards
became Earl of Darlington, and that he was "discerned and patronised"
by the Duchess of Cleveland. This great lady, we are left in doubt for
what reason, carried her complaisance so far as to allow the future
poet L40 a year until her death. In a painfully fulsome ode to another
member of the Raby Castle family, Smart records the generosity of the
dead in order to stimulate that of the living, and oddly remarks that

_dignity itself restrains
By condescension's silken reins,
While you the lowly Muse upraise_.

Smart passed, already "an infant bard," from what he calls "the
splendour in retreat" of Raby Castle, to Durham School, and in his
eighteenth year was admitted of Pembroke Hall, October 30, 1739. His
biographer expressly states that his allowance from home was scanty,
and that his chief dependence, until he derived an income from his
college, was on the bounty of the Duchess of Cleveland.

From this point I am able to supply a certain amount of information
with regard to the poet's college life which is entirely new, and
which is not, I think, without interest. My friend Mr. R.A. Neil has
been so kind as to admit me to the Treasury at Pembroke, and in his
company I have had the advantage of searching the contemporary records
of the college. What we were lucky enough to discover may here be
briefly summarised. The earliest mention of Smart is dated 1740, and
refers to the rooms assigned to him as an undergraduate. In January
1743, we find him taking his B.A., and in July of the same year he
is elected scholar. As is correctly stated in his Life, he became
a fellow of Pembroke on the 3rd of July 1745. That he showed no
indication as yet of that disturbance of brain and instability of
character which so painfully distinguished him a little later on, is
proved by the fact that on the 10th of October 1745, Smart was chosen
to be Praelector in Philosophy, and Keeper of the Common Chest. In
1746 he was re-elected to those offices, and also made Praelector
in Rhetoric. In 1747 he was not chosen to hold any such college
situations, no doubt from the growing extravagance of his conduct.

In November 1747, Smart was in parlous case. Gray complains of his
"lies, impertinence and ingratitude," and describes him as confined to
his room, lest his creditors should snap him up. He gives a melancholy
impression of Smart's moral and physical state, but hastens to add
"not that I, nor any other mortal, pity him." The records of the
Treasury at Pembroke supply evidence that the members of the college
now made a great effort to restore one of whose talents it is certain
they were proud. In 1748 we find Smart proposed for catechist, a proof
that he had, at all events for the moment, turned over a new leaf.
Probably, but for fresh relapses, he would now have taken orders. His
allusions to college life are singularly ungracious. He calls Pembroke

_this servile cell,
Where discipline and dulness dwell_,

and commiserates a captive eagle as being doomed in the college courts
to watch

_scholastic pride
Take his precise, pedantic stride_;

words which painfully remind us of Gray's reported manner of enjoying
a constitutional. It is certain that there was considerable friction
between these two men of genius, and Gray roundly prophesied that
Smart would find his way to gaol or to Bedlam. Both alternatives of
this prediction were fulfilled, and in October, 1751, Gray curtly
remarks: "Smart sets out for Bedlam." Of this event we find curious
evidence in the Treasury. "October 12, 1751--Ordered that Mr. Smart,
being obliged to be absent, there will be allowed him in lieu of
commons for the year ended Michaelmas, 1751, the sum of L10." There
can be little question that Smart's conduct and condition became more
and more unsatisfactory. This particular visit to a madhouse was
probably brief, but it was possibly not the first and was soon
repeated; for in 1749 and 1752 there are similar entries recording the
fact that "Mr. Smart, being obliged to be absent," certain allowances
were paid by the college "in consideration of his circumstances." The
most curious discovery, however, which we have been able to make is
recorded in the following entry:

"Nov. 27, 1753.--Ordered that the dividend assigned to Mr. Smart be
deposited in the Treasury till the Society be satisfied that he has a
right to the same; it being credibly reported that he has been married
for some time, and that notice be sent to Mr. Smart of his dividend
being detained."

As a matter of fact, Smart was by this time married to a relative of
Newbery, the publisher, for whom he was doing hack work in London. He
had, however, formed the habit of writing the Seatonian prize poem,
which he had already gained four times, in 1750, 1751, 1752, and 1753.
He seems to have clutched at the distinction which he brought on
his college by these poems as the last straw by which to keep his
fellowship, and, singular to say, he must have succeeded; for on the
16th of January 1754, this order was recorded:

"That Mr. Smart have leave to keep his name in the college books
without any expense, so long as he continues to write for the premium
left by Mr. Seaton."

How long this inexpensive indulgence lasted does not seem to be known.
Smart gained the Seatonian prize in 1755, having apparently failed in
1754, and then appears no more in Pembroke records.

The circumstance of his having made Cambridge too hot to hold him
seems to have pulled Smart's loose faculties together. The next five
years were probably the sanest and the busiest in his life. He had
collected his scattered odes and ballads, and published them, with his
ambitious georgic, _The Hop Garden_, in the handsome quarto before
us. Among the seven hundred subscribers to this venture we find "Mr.
Voltaire, historiographer of France," and M. Roubilliac, the great
statuary, besides such English celebrities as Gray, Collins,
Richardson, Savage, Charles Avison, Garrick, and Mason. The kind
reception of this work awakened in the poet an inordinate vanity,
which found expression, in 1753, in that extraordinary effusion, _The
Hilliad_, an attempt to preserve Dr. John Hill in such amber as Pope
held at the command of his satiric passion. But these efforts, and an
annual Seatonian, were ill adapted to support a poet who had recently
appended a wife and family to a phenomenal appetite for strong waters,
and who, moreover, had just been deprived of his stipend as a fellow.
Smart descended into Grub Street, and bound himself over, hand and
foot, to be the serf of such men as the publisher Newbery, who was
none the milder master for being his relative. It was not long after,
doubtless, that Smart fell lower still, and let himself out on a lease
for ninety-nine years, to toil for a set pittance in the garrets of
Gardner's shop; and it was about this time, 1754, that the Rev. T.
Tyers was introduced to Smart by a friend who had more sympathy with
his frailties than Gray had, namely, Dr. Samuel Johnson.

After a world of vicissitudes, which are very uncomfortable reading,
about 1761 Smart became violently insane once more and was shut up
again in Bedlam. Dr. Johnson, commenting on this period of the poet's
life, told Dr. Burney that Smart grew fat when he was in the madhouse,
where he dug in the garden, and Johnson added: "I did not think he
ought to be shut up. His infirmities were not noxious to society. He
insisted on people praying with him; and I'd as lief pray with Kit
Smart as with any one else. Another charge was that he did not love
clean linen; and I have no passion for it." When Boswell paid Johnson
his memorable first visit in 1763, Smart had recently been released
from Bedlam, and Johnson naturally spoke of him. He said: "My poor
friend Smart showed the disturbance of his mind by falling upon his
knees and saying his prayers in the street, or in any other unusual
place." Gray about the same time reports that money is being collected
to help "poor Smart," not for the first time, since in January 1759,
Gray had written: "Poor Smart is not dead, as was said, and _Merope_
is acted for his benefit this week," with the _Guardian_, a farce
which Garrick had kindly composed for that occasion.

It was in 1763, immediately after Smart's release, that the now famous
_Song to David_ was published. A long and interesting letter in the
correspondence of Hawkesworth, dated October 1764, gives a pleasant
idea of Smart restored to cheerfulness and placed "with very decent
people in a house, most delightfully situated, with a terrace that
overlooks St. James's Park." But this relief was only temporary;
Smart fell back presently into drunkenness and debt, and was happily
relieved by death in 1770, in his forty-eighth year, at the close of a
career as melancholy as any recorded in the chronicles of literature.

Save for one single lyric, that glows with all the flush and bloom of
Eden, Smart would take but a poor place on the English Parnassus.
His odes and ballads, his psalms and satires, his masques and his
georgics, are not bad, but they are mediocre. Here and there the very
careful reader may come across lines and phrases that display the
concealed author of the _Song to David_, such as the following, from
an excessively tiresome ode to Dr. Webster:

_When Israel's host, with all their stores,
Passed through_ the ruby-tinctured crystal shores,
The wilderness of waters and of land.

But these are rare. His odes are founded upon those of Gray, and the
best that can be said of them is that if they do not quite rise to the
frozen elegance of Akenside, they seldom sink to the flaccidity of
Mason. Never, for one consecutive stanza or stroke, do they approach
Collins or Gray in delicacy or power. But the _Song to David_--the
lyric in 516 lines which Smart is so absurdly fabled to have scratched
with a key on the white-washed walls of his cell--this was a portent
of beauty and originality. Strange to say, it was utterly neglected
when it appeared, and the editor of the 1791 edition of Smart's works
expressly omitted to print it on the ground that it bore too many
"melancholy proofs of the estrangement of Smart's mind" to be fit for
republication. It became rare to the very verge of extinction, and is
now scarcely to be found in its entirety save in a pretty reprint of
1819, itself now rare, due to the piety of a Rev. R. Harvey.

It is obvious that Smart's contemporaries and immediate successors
looked upon the _Song to David_ as the work of a hopelessly deranged
person. In 1763 poetry had to be very sane indeed to be attended to.
The year preceding had welcomed the _Shipwreck_ of Falconer, the year
to follow would welcome Goldsmith's _Traveller_ and Grainger's _Sugar
Cane_, works of various merit, but all eminently sane. In 1763
Shenstone was dying and Rogers was being born. The tidy, spruce, and
discreet poetry of the eighteenth century was passing into its final
and most pronounced stage. The _Song to David_, with its bold mention
of unfamiliar things, its warm and highly-coloured phraseology, its
daring adjectives and unexampled adverbs, was an outrage upon taste,
and one which was best accounted for by the tap of the forefinger
on the forehead. No doubt the poem presented and still may present
legitimate difficulties. Here, for instance, is a stanza which it is
not for those who run to read:

_Increasing days their reign exalt,
Nor in the pink and mottled vault
The opposing spirits tilt;
And, by the coasting reader spy'd,
The silverlings and crusions glide
For Adoration gilt_.

This is charming; but if it were in one of the tongues of the heathen
we should get Dr. Verrall to explain it away. Poor Mr. Harvey, the
editor of 1819, being hopelessly puzzled by "silverlings," the only
dictionary meaning of which is "shekels," explained "crusions" to be
some other kind of money, from [Greek: krousis]. But "crusions" are
golden carp, and when I was a child the Devonshire fishermen used to
call the long white fish with argent stripes (whose proper name, I
think, is the launce) a silverling. The "coasting reader" is the
courteous reader when walking along the coast, and what he sees are
silver fish and gold fish, adoring the Lord by the beauty of their
scales. The _Song to David_ is cryptic to a very high degree, but
I think there are no lines in it which patient reflection will not
solve. On every page are stanzas the verbal splendour of which no
lover of poetry will question, and lines which will always, to me
at least, retain an echo of that gusto with which I have heard Mr.
Browning's strong voice recite them:

_The wealthy crops of whitening rice
'Mongst thyine woods and groves of spice,
For Adoration grow;
And, marshall'd in the fenced land,
The peaches and pomegranates stand,
Where wild carnations blow.

The laurels with the winter strive;
The crocus burnishes alive
Upon the snow-clad earth;

* * * * *

For Adoration ripening canes
And cocoa's purest milk detains
The westering pilgrim's staff;
Where rain in, clasping boughs inclos'd,
And vines with oranges dispos'd,
Embower the social laugh.

For Adoration, beyond match,
The scholar bulfinch aims to catch
The soft flute's ivory touch;
And, careless on the hazle spray,
The daring redbreast keeps at bay
The damsel's greedy clutch_.

To quote at further length from so fascinating, so divine a poem,
would be "purpling too much my mere grey argument." Browning's praise
ought to send every one to the original. But here is one more stanza
that I cannot resist copying, because it seems so pathetically
applicable to Smart himself as a man, and to the one exquisite poem
which was "the more than Abishag of his age":

_His muse, bright angel of his verse,
Gives balm for all the thorns that pierce,
For all the pangs that rage;
Blest light, still gaining on the gloom,
The more than Michal of his bloom,
The Abishag of his age_.


THE HISTORY OF POMPEY THE LITTLE; _or, the Life and Adventures of a
Lap-Dog. London: Printed for M. Cooper, at the Globe in Paternoster

In February 1751 the town, which had been suffering from rather a
dreary spell since the acceptable publication of _Tom Jones_, was
refreshed and enlivened by the simultaneous issue of two delightfully
scandalous productions, eminently well adapted to occupy the polite
conversation of ladies at drums and at the card-table. Of these one
was _The Memoirs of a Lady of Quality_, so oddly foisted by Smollett
into the third volume of his _Peregrine Pickle_. This was recognised
at once as being the work of the frail and adventurous Lady Vane,
about whom so many strange stories were already current in society.
The other puzzled the gossips much longer, and it seems to have been
the poet Gray who first discovered the authorship of _Pompey the
Little_. Gray wrote to tell Horace Walpole who had written the
anonymous book that everybody was talking about, adding that he had
discovered the secret through the author's own carelessness, three
of the characters being taken from a comedy shown him by a young
clergyman at Magdalen College, Cambridge. This was the Rev. Francis
Coventry, then some twenty-five years of age. The discovery of the
authorship made Coventry a nine-days' hero, while his book went into
a multitude of editions. It was one of the most successful _jeux
d'esprit_ of the eighteenth century.

The copy of the first edition of _Pompey the Little_, which lies
before me, contains an excellent impression of the frontispiece by
Louis Boitard, the fashionable engraver-designer, whose print of the
Ranelagh Rotunda is so much sought after by amateurs. It represents
a curtain drawn aside to reveal a velvet cushion, on which sits a
graceful little Italian lap-dog with pendant silky ears and sleek
sides spotted like the pard. This is Pompey the Little, whose life and
adventures the book proceeds to recount. "_Pompey_, the son of _Julio_
and _Phyllis_, was born A.D. 1735, at _Bologna_ in _Italy_, a place
famous for lap-dogs and sausages." At an early age he was carried
away from the boudoir of his Italian mistress by Hillario, an English
gentleman illustrious for his gallantries, who brought him to London.
The rest of the history is really a chain of social episodes, each
closed by the incident that Pompey becomes the property of some fresh
person. In this way we find ourselves in a dozen successive scenes,
each strongly contrasted with the others. It is the art of the author
that he knows exactly how much to tell us without wearying our
attention, and is able to make the transition to the next scene a
plausible one.

There is low life as well as high life in _Pompey the Little_,
sketches after Hogarth, no less than studies _a la_ Watteau. But the
high life is by far the better described. Francis Coventry was the
cousin of the Earl of that name, he who married the beautiful and
silly Maria Gunning. When he painted the ladies of quality at their
routs and drums, masquerades, and hurly-burlies, he knew what he was
talking about, for this was the life he himself led, when he was not
at college. Even at Cambridge, he was under the dazzling influence of
his famous and fashionable cousin, Henry Coventry, fellow of the
same college of Magdalen, author of the polite _Philemonto Hydaspes_
dialogues, and the latest person who dressed well in the University.
The embroidered coats of Henry Coventry, stiff with gold lace, his
"most prominent Roman nose" and air of being much a gentleman, were
not lost on the younger member of the family, who seems to paint him
slyly in his portrait of Mr. Williams.

The great charm of _Pompey the Little_ to contemporaries was, of
course, the fact that it was supposed to be a _roman a clef_. The
Countess of Bute hastened to send out a copy of it to her mother in
Italy, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu did not hesitate to discover the
likenesses of various dear friends of hers. She found it impossible
to go to bed till she had finished it. She was charmed, and she tells
Lady Bute, what the curious may now read with great satisfaction, that
it was "a real and exact representation of life, as it is now acted
in London." What is odd is that Lady Mary identified, with absolute
complacency, the portrait of herself, as Mrs. Qualmsick, that
hysterical lady with whom "it was not unusual for her to fancy herself
a Glass bottle, a Tea-pot, a Hay-rick, or a Field of Turnips." Instead
of being angry, Lady Mary screamed with laughter at the satire of her
own whimsies, of how "Red was too glaring for her eyes; Green put her
in Mind of Willows, and made her melancholic; Blue remembered her of
her dear Sister, who had died ten Years before in a blue Bed." In
fact, all this fun seems, for the moment at least, to have cured the
original Mrs. Qualmsick of her whimsies, and her remarks on _Pompey
the Little_ are so good-natured that we may well forgive her for the
pleasure with which she recognised Lady Townshend in Lady Tempest and
the Countess of Orford in the pedantic and deistical Lady Sophister,
who rates the physicians for their theology, and will not be bled by
any man who accepts the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.

Coventry's romance does not deserve the entire neglect into which it
has fallen. It is sprightly and graceful from the first page to the
last. Not written, indeed, by a man of genius, it is yet the work of a
very refined observer, who had been modern enough to catch the tone of
the new school of novelists. The writer owes much to Fielding, who
yet does not escape without a flap from one of Pompey's silken ears.
Coventry's manner may be best exemplified by one of his own bright
passages of satire. This notion of a man of quality, that no place can
be full that is not crowded with people of fashion, is not new, but it
is deliciously expressed. Aurora has come back from Bath, and assures
the Count that she has had a pleasant season there:

"'You amaze me," cries the Count; 'Impossible, Madam! How can it be,
Ladies? I had Letters from Lord _Monkeyman_ and Lady _Betty Scornful_
assuring me that, except yourselves, there were not three human
Creatures in the Place. Let me see, I have Lady _Betty's_ Letter in my
Pocket, I believe, at this Moment. Oh no, upon Recollection, I put
it this morning into my Cabinet, where I preserve all my Letters of
Quality.' _Aurora_, smothering a Laugh as well as she could, said
she was extremely obliged to Lord _Monkeyman_ and Lady _Betty_, for
vouchsafing to rank her and her Sister in the Catalogue of human
Beings. 'But, surely,' added she, 'they must have been asleep, both
of them, when they wrote their Letters; for the _Bath_ was extremely
full,' 'Full!' cries the Count, interrupting her; "Oh, Madam, that is
very possible, and yet there might be no Company--that is, none of us;
Nobody that one knows. For as to all the Tramontanes that come by the
cross Post, we never reckon them as anything but Monsters in human
Shape, that serve to fill up the Stage of Life, like Cyphers in a
play. For Instance, you often see an awkward Girl, who has sewed a
Tail to a Gown, and pinned two Lappits to a Night-cap, come running
headlong into the Rooms with a wild, frosty Face, as if she was just
come from feeding Poultry in her Father's Chicken-Yard. Or you see a
Booby Squire, with a Head resembling a Stone ball over a Gate-post.
Now, it would be the most ridiculous Thing in Life to call such People
Company. 'Tis the Want of Titles, and not the Want of Faces, that
makes a Place empty.'"

There are indications, which I think have escaped the notice of
Goldsmith's editors, that the author of the _Citizen of the World_
condescended to take some of his ideas from _Pompey the Little_. In
Count Tag, the impoverished little fop who fancies himself a man
of quality, and who begs pardon of people who accost him in the
Park--"but really, Lady Betty or Lady Mary is just entering the
Mall,"--we have the direct prototype of Beau Tibbs; while Mr. Rhymer,
the starving poet, whose furniture consists of "the first Act of a
Comedy, a Pair of yellow Stays, two political Pamphlets, a plate of
Bread-and-butter, three dirty Night-caps, and a Volume of Miscellany
Poems," is a figure wonderfully like that of Goldsmith himself, as Dr.
Percy found him eight years later, in that "wretched, dirty room," at
the top of Breakneck Steps, Green Arbour Court. The whole conception
of that Dickens-like scene, in which it is described how Lady Frippery
had a drum in spite of all local difficulties, is much more in the
humour of Goldsmith than in that of any of Coventry's immediate

Strangely enough, in spite of the great success of his one book, the
author of _Pompey the Little_ never tried to repeat it. He became
perpetual curate of Edgware, and died in the neighbouring village of
Stanmore Parva a few years after the publication of his solitary book;
I have, however, searched the registers of that parish in vain for
any record of the fact. Francis Coventry had gifts of wit and
picturesqueness which deserved a better fate than to amuse a few
dissipated women over their citron-waters, and then to be forgotten.


THE LIFE OF JOHN BUNCLE, ESQ., _containing various observations and
reflections made in several parts of the world; and many extraordinary
relations. London: Printed for J. Noon, at the White Hart in
Cheapside, near the Poultry, MDCCLVI_.

[_Vol. II. London: Printed for J. Johnson and B. Davenport, at the
Globe, in Pater Noster Row, MDCCLXVI_.]

In the year 1756, there resided in the Barbican, where the great John
Milton had lived before him, a funny elderly personage called Mr.
Thomas Amory, of whom not nearly so much is recorded as the lovers of
literary anecdote would like to possess. He was sixty-five years
of age; he was an Irish gentleman of means, and he was an ardent
Unitarian. Some unkind people have suggested that he was out of his
mind, and he had, it is certain, many peculiarities. One was, that he
never left his house, or ventured into the streets, save "like a
but, in the dusk of the evening." He was, in short, what is called a
"crank," and he gloried in his eccentricity. He desired that it might
be written on his tombstone, "Here lies an Odd Man." For sixty years
he had made no effort to attract popular attention, but in 1755 he
had published a sort of romance, called _Memoirs of Several Ladies of
Great Britain_, and now he succeeded it by the truly extraordinary
work, the name of which stands at the head of this article. Ten years
later there would appear another volume of _John Buncle_, and then
Amory disappeared again. All we know is, that he died in 1788, at the
very respectable age of ninety-seven. So little is known about him,
so successfully did he hide "like a but" through the dusk of nearly a
century, that we may be glad to eke out the scanty information given
above by a passage of autobiography from the preface of the book
before us:

"I was born in London, and carried an infant to Ireland, where I
learned the Irish language, and became intimately acquainted with its
original inhabitants. I was not only a lover of books from the time
I could spell them to this hour, but read with an extraordinary
pleasure, before I was twenty, the works of several of the Fathers,
and all the old romances; which tinged my ideas with a certain piety
and extravagance that rendered my virtues as well as my imperfections
particularly mine.... The dull, the formal, and the visionary, the
hard-honest man, and the poor-liver, are a people I have had no
connection with; but have always kept company with the polite, the
generous, the lively, the rational, and the brightest freethinkers of
this age. Besides all this, I was in the days of my youth, one of the
most active men in the world at every exercise; and to a degree of
rashness, often venturesome, when there was no necessity for running
any hazards; _in diebus illis_, I have descended headforemost, from a
high cliff into the ocean, to swim, when I could, and ought, to have
gone off a rock not a yard from the surface of the deep. I have swam
near a mile and a half out in the sea to a ship that lay off, gone on
board, got clothes from the mate of the vessel, and proceeded with
them to the next port; while my companion I left on the beach
concluded me drowned, and related my sad fate in the town. I have
taken a cool thrust over a bottle, without the least animosity on
either side, but both of us depending on our skill in the small sword
for preservation from mischief. Such things as these I now call

If this is not a person of whom we would like to know more, I know not
what the romance of biography is. Thomas Amory's life must have been a
streak of crimson on the grey surface of the eighteenth century. It is
really a misfortune that the red is almost all washed off.

No odder book than _John Buncle_ was published in England throughout
the long life of Amory. Romances there were, like _Gulliver's Travels_
and _Peter Wilkins_, in which the incidents were much more incredible,
but there was no supposition that these would be treated as real
history. The curious feature of _John Buncle_ is that the story is
told with the strictest attention to realism and detail, and yet is
embroidered all over with the impossible. There can be no doubt that
Amory, who belonged to an older school, was affected by the form of
the new novels which were the fashion in 1756. He wished to be as
particular as Mr. Richardson, as manly as Captain Fielding, as breezy
and vigorous as Dr. Smollett, the three new writers who were all the
talk of the town. But there was a twist in his brain which made his
pictures of real life appear like scenes looked at through flawed

The memoirs of John Buncle take the form of an autobiography, and
there has been much discussion as to how much is, and how much is not,
the personal history of Amory. I confess I cannot see why we should
not suppose all of it to be invented, although it certainly is odd to
relate anecdotes and impressions of Dr. Swift, _a propos_ of nothing
at all, unless they formed part of the author's experience. For one
thing, the hero is represented as being born about thirteen years
later than Amory was--if, indeed, we possess the true date of our
worthy's birth. Buncle goes to college and becomes an earnest
Unitarian. The incidents of his life are all intellectual, until one
"glorious first of August," when he sallies forth from college with
his gun and dog, and after four hours' walk discovers that he has lost
his way. He is in the midst of splendid mountain scenery--which leads
us to wonder at which English University he was studying--and descends
through woody ravines and cliffs that overhang torrents, till he
suddenly comes in sight of a "little harmonic building that had every
charm and proportion architecture could give it." Finding one of the
garden doors open, and being very hungry, the adventurous Buncle
strolls in, and finds himself in "a grotto or shell-house, in which a
politeness of fancy had produced and blended the greatest beauties of
nature and decoration." (There are more grottoes in the pages of Amory
than exist in the whole of the British Islands.) This shell-house
opened into a library, and in the library a beauteous object was
sitting and reading. She was studying a Hebrew Bible, and making
philological notes on a small desk. She raised her eyes and approached
the stranger, "to know who I wanted" (for Buncle's style, though
picturesque, is not always grammatically irreproachable.)

Before he could answer, a venerable gentleman was at his side, to whom
the young sportsman confessed that he was dying of hunger and had
lost his way. Mr. Noel, a patriarchal widower of vast wealth, was
inhabiting this mansion in the sole company of his only daughter, the
lovely being just referred to. Mr. Buncle was immediately "stiffened
by enchantment" at the beauty of Miss Harriot Noel, and could not be
induced to leave when he had eaten his breakfast. This difficulty was
removed by the old gentleman asking him to stay to dinner, until the
time of which meal Miss Noel should entertain him. At about 10 A.M.
Mr. Buncle offers his hand to the astonished Miss Noel, who, with
great propriety, bids him recollect that he is an entire stranger to
her. They then have a long conversation about the Chaldeans, and the
"primaevity" of the Hebrew language, and the extraordinary longevity
of the Antediluvians; at the close of which _(circa_ 11.15 A.M.)
Buncle proposes again. "You force me to smile (the illustrious Miss
Noel replied), and oblige me to call you an odd compound of a man,"
and to distract his thoughts, she takes him round her famous grotto.
The conversation, all repeated at length, turns on conchology and on
the philosophy of Epictetus until it is time for dinner, when Mr.
Noel and young Buncle drink a bottle of old Alicant, and discuss the
gallery of Verres and the poetry of Catullus. Left alone at last,
Buncle still does not go away, but at 5 P.M. proposes for the third
time, "over a pot of tea." Miss Noel says that the conversation
will have to take some other turn, or she must leave the room. They
therefore immediately "consider the miracle at Babel," and the
argument of Hutchinson on the Hebrew word _Shephah_, until, while Miss
Noel is in the very act of explaining that "the Aramitish was the
customary language of the line of Shem," young Buncle _(circa_ 7.30)
"could not help snatching this beauty to my arms, and without thinking
what I did, impressed on her balmy mouth half a dozen kisses. This was
wrong, and gave offence," but then papa returning, the trio sat down
peacefully to cribbage and a little music. Of course Miss Noel is
ultimately won, and this is a very fair specimen of the conduct of the

A fortnight before the marriage, however, "the small-pox steps in, and
in seven days' time reduced the finest human frame in the universe to
the most hideous and offensive block," and Miss Harriot Noel dies. If
this dismal occurrence is rather abruptly introduced, it is because
Buncle has to be betrothed, in succession, to six other lively and
delicious young females, all of them beautiful, all of them learned,
and all of them earnestly convinced Unitarians. If they did not
rapidly die off, how could they be seven? Buncle mourns the decease of
each, and then hastily forms an equally violent attachment to another.
It must be admitted that he is a sad wife-waster. Azora is one of
the most delightful of these deciduous loves. She "had an amazing
collection of the most rational philosophical ideas, and she delivered
them in the most pleasing dress." She resided in a grotto within a
romantic dale in Yorkshire, in a "little female republic" of one
hundred souls, all of them "straight, clean, handsome girls." In this
glen there is only one man, and he a fossil. Miss Melmoth, who would
discuss the _paulo-post futurum_ of a Greek verb with the utmost care
and politeness, and had studied "the Minerva of Sanctius and Hickes'
Northern Thesaurus," was another nice young lady, though rather free
in her manner with gentlemen. But they all die, sacrificed to the
insatiable fate of Buncle.

Here the reader may like to enjoy a sample of Buncle as a philosopher.
It is a characteristic passage:

"Such was the soliloquy I spoke, as I gazed on the skeleton of John
Orton; and just as I had ended, the boys brought in the wild turkey,
which they had very ingeniously roasted, and with some of Mrs.
Burcot's fine ale and bread, I had an excellent supper. The bones of
the penitent Orton I removed to a hole I had ordered my lad to dig for
them; the skull excepted, which I kept, and still keep on my table for
a _memento mori_; and that I may never forget the good lesson which
the percipient who once resided in it had given. It is often the
subject of my meditation. When I am alone of an evening, in my closet,
which is often my case, I have the skull of John Orton before me, and
as I smoke a philosophic pipe, with my eyes fastened on it, I learn
more from the solemn object than I could from the most philosophical
and laboured speculations. What a wild and hot head once--how cold and
still now; poor skull, I say: and what was the end of all thy daring,
frolics and gambols--thy licentiousness and impiety--a severe and
bitter repentance. In piety and goodness John Orton found at last that
happiness the world could not give him."

Hazlitt has said that "the soul of Rabelais passed into John Amory."
His name was Thomas, not John, and there is very little that is
Rabelaisian in his spirit. One sees what Hazlitt meant--the voluble
and diffuse learning, the desultory thread of narration, the mixture
of religion and animalism. But the resemblance is very superficial,
and the parallel too complimentary to Amory. It is difficult to think
of the soul of Rabelais in connection with a pedantic and uxorious
Unitarian. To lovers of odd books, _John Buncle_ will always have a
genuine attraction. Its learning would have dazzled Dr. Primrose, and
is put on in glittering spars and shells, like the ornaments of the
many grottoes that it describes. It is diversified by descriptions of
natural scenery, which are often exceedingly felicitous and original,
and it is quickened by the human warmth and flush of the love
passages, which, with all their quaintness, are extremely human. It is
essentially a "healthy" book, as Charles Lamb, with such a startling
result, assured the Scotchman. Amory was a fervid admirer of
womankind, and he favoured a rare type, the learned lady who bears
her learning lightly and can discuss "the quadrations of curvilinear
spaces" without ceasing to be "a bouncing, dear, delightful girl," and
adroit in the preparation of toast and chocolate. The style of the
book is very careless and irregular, but rises in its best pages to an
admirable picturesqueness.


THE LIFE OF RICHARD NASH, ESQ.; _late Master of the Ceremonies at
Bath. Extracted principally from his Original Papers. The Second
Edition. London: J. Newbery._ 1762.

There are cases, not known to every collector of books, where it is
not the first which is the really desirable edition of a work, but the
second. One of these rare examples of the exception which proves
the rule is the second edition of Goldsmith's _Life of Beau Nash_.
Disappointment awaits him who possesses only the first; it is in the
second that the best things originally appeared. The story is rather
to be divined than told as history, but we can see pretty plainly
how the lines of it must have run. In the early part of 1762, Oliver
Goldsmith, at that time still undistinguished, but in the very act of
blossoming into fame, received a commission of fourteen guineas to
write for Newbery a life of the strange old beau, Mr. Nash, who had
died in 1761. On the same day, which was March 5th, he gave a receipt
to the publisher for three other publications, written or to be
written, so that very probably it was not expected that he should
immediately supply all the matter sold. In the summer he seems to have
gone down to Bath on a short visit, and to have made friends with
the Beau's executor, Mr. George Scott. It has even been said that he
cultivated the Mayor and Aldermen of Bath with such success that they
presented him with yet another fifteen guineas. But of this, in itself
highly improbable, instance of municipal benefaction, the archives of
the city yield no proof. At least Mr. Scott gave him access to Nash's
papers, and with these he seems to have betaken himself back to

It is a heart-rending delusion and a cruel snare to be paid for your
work before you accomplish it. As soon as once your work is finished
you ought to be promptly paid; but to receive your lucre one minute
before it is due, is to tempt Providence to make a Micawber of you.
Goldsmith, of course, without any temptation being needed, was
the very ideal Micawber of letters, and the result of paying him
beforehand was that he had, simply, to be popped into the mill by
force, and the copy ground out of him. It is evident that in the case
of the first edition of the _Life of Beau Nash_, the grinding process
was too mercifully applied, and the book when it appeared was short
measure. It has no dedication, no "advertisement," and very few
notes, while it actually omits many of the best stories. The wise
bibliophile, therefore, will eschew it, and will try to get the second
edition issued a few weeks later in the same year, which Newbery
evidently insisted that Goldsmith should send out to the public in
proper order.

Goldsmith treats Nash with very much the same sort of indulgent and
apologetic sympathy with which the late M. Barbey d'Aurevilly treats
Brummell. He does not affect to think that the world calls for a
full-length statue of such a fantastic hero; but he seems to
claim leave to execute a statuette in terracotta for a cabinet of
curiosities. From that point of view, as a queer object of _vertu_,
as a specimen of the _bric-a-brac_ of manners, both the one and the
other, the King of Beaux and the Emperor of Dandies, are welcome to
amateurs of the odd and the entertaining. At the head of Goldsmith's
book stands a fine portrait of Nash, engraved by Anthony Walker, one
of the best and rarest of early English line-engravers, after
an oil-picture by William Hoare, presently to be one of the
foundation-members of the Royal Academy, and now and throughout his
long life the principal representative of the fine arts at Bath. Nash
is here represented in his famous white hat--_galero albo_, as his
epitaph has it; the ensign of his rule at Bath, the more than coronet
of his social sway.

The breast of his handsome coat is copiously trimmed with rich lace,
and his old, old eyes, with their wrinkles and their crow's feet,
look demurely out from under an incredible wig, an umbrageous,
deep-coloured ramilie of early youth. It is a wonderfully
hard-featured, serious, fatuous face, and it lives for us under the
delicate strokes of Anthony Walker's graver. The great Beau looks as
he must have looked when the Duchess of Queensberry dared to appear
at the Assembly House on a ball night with a white apron on. It is a
pleasant story, and only told properly in our second edition. King
Nash had issued an edict forbidding the wearing of aprons. The Duchess
dared to disobey. Nash walked up to her and deftly snatched her apron
from her, throwing it on to the back benches where the ladies' women
sat. What a splendid moment! Imagine the excitement of all that
fashionable company--the drawn battle between the Majesty of Etiquette
and the Majesty of Beauty! The Beau remarked, with sublime calm, that
"none but Abigails appeared in white aprons." The Duchess hesitated,
felt that her ground had slipped from under her, gave way with the
most admirable tact, and "with great good sense and humour, begged his
_Majesty's_ pardon,"

Aprons were not the only red rags to the bull of ceremony. He was
quite as unflinching an enemy to top-boots. He had already banished
swords from the assembly-room, because their clash frightened the
ladies, and their scabbards tore people's dresses. But boots were not
so easily banished. The country squires liked to ride into the city,
and, leaving their horses at a stable, walk straight into the dignity
of the minuet. Nash, who had a genius for propriety, saw how hateful
this was, and determined to put a stop to it. He slew top-boots and
aprons at the same time, and with the shaft of Apollo. He indited a
poem on the occasion, and a very good example of satire by irony it
is. It is short enough to quote entire:


_Come, one and all,
To Hoyden Hall,
For there's th' Assembly to-night.
None but prude fools
Mind manners and rules,
We Hoydens do decency slight_.
_Come, Trollops and Slatterns,
Cocked hats and white aprons,
This best our modesty suits;
For why should not we
In dress be as free
As Hogs-Norton squires in boots?_

Why, indeed? But the Hogs-Norton squires, as is their wont, were not
so easily pierced to the heart as the noble slatterns. Nash turned
Aristophanes, and depicted on a little stage a play in which Mr.
Punch, tinder very disgraceful circumstances, excused himself for
wearing boots by quoting the practice of the pump-room beaux. This
seems to have gone to the conscience of Hogs-Norton at last; but what
really gave the death-blow to top-boots, as a part of evening dress,
was the incident of Nash's going up to a gentleman, who had made
his appearance in the ball-room in this unpardonable costume, and
remarking, "bowing in an arch manner," that he appeared to have
"forgotten his horse."

It had not been without labour and a long struggle that Nash had risen
to this position of unquestioned authority at Bath. His majestic rule
was the result of more than half a century of painstaking. He had been
born far back in the seventeenth century, so far back that, incredible
as it sounds, a love adventure of his early youth had supplied
Vanbrugh, in 1695, with an episode for his comedy of _Aesop_. But
after trying many forms of life, and weary of his own affluence, he
came to Bath just at the moment when the fortunes of that ancient
centre of social pleasure were at their lowest ebb. Queen Anne had
been obliged to divert herself, in 1703, with a fiddle and a hautboy,
and with country dances on the bowling-green. The lodgings were dingy
and expensive, the pump-house had no director, the nobility had
haughtily withdrawn from such vulgar entertainments as the city now
alone afforded. The famous and choleric physician, Dr. Radcliffe, in
revenge for some slight he had endured, had threatened to "throw a
toad into King Bladud's Well," by writing a pamphlet against the
medicinal efficacy of the waters.

The moment was critical; the greatness of Bath, which had been slowly
declining since the days of Elizabeth, was threatened with extinction
when Nash came to it, wealthy, idle, patient, with a genius for
organisation, and in half a century he made it what he left it when he
died in his eighty-ninth year, the most elegant and attractive of the
smaller social resorts of Europe. Such a man, let us be certain, was
not wholly ridiculous. There must have been something more in him than
in a mere idol of the dandies, like Brummell, or a mere irresistible
buck and lady-killer, like Lauzun. In these latter men the force
is wholly destructive; they are animated by a feline vanity, a
tiger-spirit of egotism. Against the story of Nash and the Duchess of
Queensberry, so wholesome and humane, we put that frightful anecdote
that Saint-Simon tells of Lauzun's getting the hand of another duchess
under his high heel, and pirouetting on it to make the heel dig deeper
into the flesh. In all the repertory of Nash's extravagances there is
not one story of this kind, not one that reveals a wicked force. He
was fatuous, but beneficent; silly, but neither cruel nor corrupt.

Goldsmith, in this second edition at least, has taken more pains
with his life of Nash than he ever took again in a biography. His
_Parnell_, his _Bolingbroke_, his _Voltaire_, are not worthy of his
name and fame; not all the industry of annotators can ever make them
more than they were at first--potboilers, turned out with no care or
enthusiasm, and unconscientiously prepared. But this subtle figure
of a Master of Ceremonial; this queer old presentment of a pump-room
king, crowned with a white hat, waiting all day long in his best at
the bow-window of the Smyrna Coffee-House to get a bow from that
other, and alas! better accredited royalty, the Prince of Wales; this
picture, of an old beau, with his toy-shop of gold snuff-boxes, his
agate-rings, his senseless obelisk, his rattle of faded jokes and
blunted stories--all this had something very attractive to Goldsmith
both in its humour and its pathos; and he has left us, in his _Life of
Nash_, a study which is far too little known, but which deserves to
rank among the best-read productions of that infinitely sympathetic
pen, which has bequeathed to posterity Mr. Tibbs and Moses Primrose
and Tony Lumpkin.


SOUTHAMPTON; _with Engravings, and an Appendix. London: Printed by
T. Bensley, for B. White and Son, at Horace's Head, Fleet Street.

It is not always the most confidently conducted books, or those
best preceded by blasts on the public trumpet, which are eventually
received with highest honours into the palace of literature. No more
curious incident of this fact is to be found than is presented by the
personal history of that enchanting classic, White's _Selborne_. If
ever an author hesitated and reflected, dipped his toe into the bath
of publicity, and hastily withdrew it again, loitered on the brink and
could not be induced to plunge, it was the Rev. Gilbert White. This
man of singular genius was not to be persuaded that the town would
tolerate his lucubrations. He was ready to make a present of them to
any one who would father them, he allowed his life to slip by until
his seventieth year was reached, before he would print them, and when
they appeared, he could not find the courage to put his name on the
title-page. Not one of his own titlarks or sedge-warblers could be
more shy of public observation. Even the fact that his own brother was
a publisher gave him no real confidence in printers' ink.


Back to Full Books