Sketches by Boz
Part 13 out of 15
now relates, in broken English, a witticism of little Dick's
bearing upon the subject just discussed, which delights Mr.
Whiffler beyond measure, and causes him to declare that he would
have sworn that was Dick's if he had heard it anywhere. Then he
requests that Mrs. Whiffler will tell Saunders what Tom said about
mad bulls; and Mrs. Whiffler relating the anecdote, a discussion
ensues upon the different character of Tom's wit and Dick's wit,
from which it appears that Dick's humour is of a lively turn, while
Tom's style is the dry and caustic. This discussion being
enlivened by various illustrations, lasts a long time, and is only
stopped by Mrs. Whiffler instructing the footman to ring the
nursery bell, as the children were promised that they should come
down and taste the pudding.
The friend turns pale when this order is given, and paler still
when it is followed up by a great pattering on the staircase, (not
unlike the sound of rain upon a skylight,) a violent bursting open
of the dining-room door, and the tumultuous appearance of six small
children, closely succeeded by a strong nursery-maid with a twin in
each arm. As the whole eight are screaming, shouting, or kicking--
some influenced by a ravenous appetite, some by a horror of the
stranger, and some by a conflict of the two feelings--a pretty long
space elapses before all their heads can be ranged round the table
and anything like order restored; in bringing about which happy
state of things both the nurse and footman are severely scratched.
At length Mrs. Whiffler is heard to say, 'Mr. Saunders, shall I
give you some pudding?' A breathless silence ensues, and sixteen
small eyes are fixed upon the guest in expectation of his reply. A
wild shout of joy proclaims that he has said 'No, thank you.'
Spoons are waved in the air, legs appear above the table-cloth in
uncontrollable ecstasy, and eighty short fingers dabble in damson
While the pudding is being disposed of, Mr. and Mrs. Whiffler look
on with beaming countenances, and Mr. Whiffler nudging his friend
Saunders, begs him to take notice of Tom's eyes, or Dick's chin, or
Ned's nose, or Mary Anne's hair, or Emily's figure, or little Bob's
calves, or Fanny's mouth, or Carry's head, as the case may be.
Whatever the attention of Mr. Saunders is called to, Mr. Saunders
admires of course; though he is rather confused about the sex of
the youngest branches and looks at the wrong children, turning to a
girl when Mr. Whiffler directs his attention to a boy, and falling
into raptures with a boy when he ought to be enchanted with a girl.
Then the dessert comes, and there is a vast deal of scrambling
after fruit, and sudden spirting forth of juice out of tight
oranges into infant eyes, and much screeching and wailing in
consequence. At length it becomes time for Mrs. Whiffler to
retire, and all the children are by force of arms compelled to kiss
and love Mr. Saunders before going up-stairs, except Tom, who,
lying on his back in the hall, proclaims that Mr. Saunders 'is a
naughty beast;' and Dick, who having drunk his father's wine when
he was looking another way, is found to be intoxicated and is
carried out, very limp and helpless.
Mr. Whiffler and his friend are left alone together, but Mr.
Whiffler's thoughts are still with his family, if his family are
not with him. 'Saunders,' says he, after a short silence, 'if you
please, we'll drink Mrs. Whiffler and the children.' Mr. Saunders
feels this to be a reproach against himself for not proposing the
same sentiment, and drinks it in some confusion. 'Ah!' Mr.
Whiffler sighs, 'these children, Saunders, make one quite an old
man.' Mr. Saunders thinks that if they were his, they would make
him a very old man; but he says nothing. 'And yet,' pursues Mr.
Whiffler, 'what can equal domestic happiness? what can equal the
engaging ways of children! Saunders, why don't you get married?'
Now, this is an embarrassing question, because Mr. Saunders has
been thinking that if he had at any time entertained matrimonial
designs, the revelation of that day would surely have routed them
for ever. 'I am glad, however,' says Mr. Whiffler, 'that you ARE a
bachelor,--glad on one account, Saunders; a selfish one, I admit.
Will you do Mrs. Whiffler and myself a favour?' Mr. Saunders is
surprised--evidently surprised; but he replies, 'with the greatest
pleasure.' 'Then, will you, Saunders,' says Mr. Whiffler, in an
impressive manner, 'will you cement and consolidate our friendship
by coming into the family (so to speak) as a godfather?' 'I shall
be proud and delighted,' replies Mr. Saunders: 'which of the
children is it? really, I thought they were all christened; or--'
'Saunders,' Mr. Whiffler interposes, 'they ARE all christened; you
are right. The fact is, that Mrs. Whiffler is--in short, we expect
another.' 'Not a ninth!' cries the friend, all aghast at the idea.
'Yes, Saunders,' rejoins Mr. Whiffler, solemnly, 'a ninth. Did we
drink Mrs. Whiffler's health? Let us drink it again, Saunders, and
wish her well over it!'
Doctor Johnson used to tell a story of a man who had but one idea,
which was a wrong one. The couple who dote upon their children are
in the same predicament: at home or abroad, at all times, and in
all places, their thoughts are bound up in this one subject, and
have no sphere beyond. They relate the clever things their
offspring say or do, and weary every company with their prolixity
and absurdity. Mr. Whiffler takes a friend by the button at a
street corner on a windy day to tell him a bon mot of his youngest
boy's; and Mrs. Whiffler, calling to see a sick acquaintance,
entertains her with a cheerful account of all her own past
sufferings and present expectations. In such cases the sins of the
fathers indeed descend upon the children; for people soon come to
regard them as predestined little bores. The couple who dote upon
their children cannot be said to be actuated by a general love for
these engaging little people (which would be a great excuse); for
they are apt to underrate and entertain a jealousy of any children
but their own. If they examined their own hearts, they would,
perhaps, find at the bottom of all this, more self-love and egotism
than they think of. Self-love and egotism are bad qualities, of
which the unrestrained exhibition, though it may be sometimes
amusing, never fails to be wearisome and unpleasant. Couples who
dote upon their children, therefore, are best avoided.
THE COOL COUPLE
There is an old-fashioned weather-glass representing a house with
two doorways, in one of which is the figure of a gentleman, in the
other the figure of a lady. When the weather is to be fine the
lady comes out and the gentleman goes in; when wet, the gentleman
comes out and the lady goes in. They never seek each other's
society, are never elevated and depressed by the same cause, and
have nothing in common. They are the model of a cool couple,
except that there is something of politeness and consideration
about the behaviour of the gentleman in the weather-glass, in
which, neither of the cool couple can be said to participate.
The cool couple are seldom alone together, and when they are,
nothing can exceed their apathy and dulness: the gentleman being
for the most part drowsy, and the lady silent. If they enter into
conversation, it is usually of an ironical or recriminatory nature.
Thus, when the gentleman has indulged in a very long yawn and
settled himself more snugly in his easy-chair, the lady will
perhaps remark, 'Well, I am sure, Charles! I hope you're
comfortable.' To which the gentleman replies, 'Oh yes, he's quite
comfortable quite.' 'There are not many married men, I hope,'
returns the lady, 'who seek comfort in such selfish gratifications
as you do.' 'Nor many wives who seek comfort in such selfish
gratifications as YOU do, I hope,' retorts the gentleman. 'Whose
fault is that?' demands the lady. The gentleman becoming more
sleepy, returns no answer. 'Whose fault is that?' the lady
repeats. The gentleman still returning no answer, she goes on to
say that she believes there never was in all this world anybody so
attached to her home, so thoroughly domestic, so unwilling to seek
a moment's gratification or pleasure beyond her own fireside as
she. God knows that before she was married she never thought or
dreamt of such a thing; and she remembers that her poor papa used
to say again and again, almost every day of his life, 'Oh, my dear
Louisa, if you only marry a man who understands you, and takes the
trouble to consider your happiness and accommodate himself a very
little to your disposition, what a treasure he will find in you!'
She supposes her papa knew what her disposition was--he had known
her long enough--he ought to have been acquainted with it, but what
can she do? If her home is always dull and lonely, and her husband
is always absent and finds no pleasure in her society, she is
naturally sometimes driven (seldom enough, she is sure) to seek a
little recreation elsewhere; she is not expected to pine and mope
to death, she hopes. 'Then come, Louisa,' says the gentleman,
waking up as suddenly as he fell asleep, 'stop at home this
evening, and so will I.' 'I should be sorry to suppose, Charles,
that you took a pleasure in aggravating me,' replies the lady; 'but
you know as well as I do that I am particularly engaged to Mrs.
Mortimer, and that it would be an act of the grossest rudeness and
ill-breeding, after accepting a seat in her box and preventing her
from inviting anybody else, not to go.' 'Ah! there it is!' says
the gentleman, shrugging his shoulders, 'I knew that perfectly
well. I knew you couldn't devote an evening to your own home. Now
all I have to say, Louisa, is this--recollect that _I_ was quite
willing to stay at home, and that it's no fault of MINE we are not
With that the gentleman goes away to keep an old appointment at his
club, and the lady hurries off to dress for Mrs. Mortimer's; and
neither thinks of the other until by some odd chance they find
themselves alone again.
But it must not be supposed that the cool couple are habitually a
quarrelsome one. Quite the contrary. These differences are only
occasions for a little self-excuse,--nothing more. In general they
are as easy and careless, and dispute as seldom, as any common
acquaintances may; for it is neither worth their while to put each
other out of the way, nor to ruffle themselves.
When they meet in society, the cool couple are the best-bred people
in existence. The lady is seated in a corner among a little knot
of lady friends, one of whom exclaims, 'Why, I vow and declare
there is your husband, my dear!' 'Whose?--mine?' she says,
carelessly. 'Ay, yours, and coming this way too.' 'How very odd!'
says the lady, in a languid tone, 'I thought he had been at Dover.'
The gentleman coming up, and speaking to all the other ladies and
nodding slightly to his wife, it turns out that he has been at
Dover, and has just now returned. 'What a strange creature you
are!' cries his wife; 'and what on earth brought you here, I
wonder?' 'I came to look after you, OF COURSE,' rejoins her
husband. This is so pleasant a jest that the lady is mightily
amused, as are all the other ladies similarly situated who are
within hearing; and while they are enjoying it to the full, the
gentleman nods again, turns upon his heel, and saunters away.
There are times, however, when his company is not so agreeable,
though equally unexpected; such as when the lady has invited one or
two particular friends to tea and scandal, and he happens to come
home in the very midst of their diversion. It is a hundred chances
to one that he remains in the house half an hour, but the lady is
rather disturbed by the intrusion, notwithstanding, and reasons
within herself,--'I am sure I never interfere with him, and why
should he interfere with me? It can scarcely be accidental; it
never happens that I have a particular reason for not wishing him
to come home, but he always comes. It's very provoking and
tiresome; and I am sure when he leaves me so much alone for his own
pleasure, the least he could do would be to do as much for mine.'
Observing what passes in her mind, the gentleman, who has come home
for his own accommodation, makes a merit of it with himself;
arrives at the conclusion that it is the very last place in which
he can hope to be comfortable; and determines, as he takes up his
hat and cane, never to be so virtuous again.
Thus a great many cool couples go on until they are cold couples,
and the grave has closed over their folly and indifference. Loss
of name, station, character, life itself, has ensued from causes as
slight as these, before now; and when gossips tell such tales, and
aggravate their deformities, they elevate their hands and eyebrows,
and call each other to witness what a cool couple Mr. and Mrs. So-
and-so always were, even in the best of times.
THE PLAUSIBLE COUPLE
The plausible couple have many titles. They are 'a delightful
couple,' an 'affectionate couple,' 'a most agreeable couple, 'a
good-hearted couple,' and 'the best-natured couple in existence.'
The truth is, that the plausible couple are people of the world;
and either the way of pleasing the world has grown much easier than
it was in the days of the old man and his ass, or the old man was
but a bad hand at it, and knew very little of the trade.
'But is it really possible to please the world!' says some doubting
reader. It is indeed. Nay, it is not only very possible, but very
easy. The ways are crooked, and sometimes foul and low. What
then? A man need but crawl upon his hands and knees, know when to
close his eyes and when his ears, when to stoop and when to stand
upright; and if by the world is meant that atom of it in which he
moves himself, he shall please it, never fear.
Now, it will be readily seen, that if a plausible man or woman have
an easy means of pleasing the world by an adaptation of self to all
its twistings and twinings, a plausible man AND woman, or, in other
words, a plausible couple, playing into each other's hands, and
acting in concert, have a manifest advantage. Hence it is that
plausible couples scarcely ever fail of success on a pretty large
scale; and hence it is that if the reader, laying down this
unwieldy volume at the next full stop, will have the goodness to
review his or her circle of acquaintance, and to search
particularly for some man and wife with a large connexion and a
good name, not easily referable to their abilities or their wealth,
he or she (that is, the male or female reader) will certainly find
that gentleman or lady, on a very short reflection, to be a
The plausible couple are the most ecstatic people living: the most
sensitive people--to merit--on the face of the earth. Nothing
clever or virtuous escapes them. They have microscopic eyes for
such endowments, and can find them anywhere. The plausible couple
never fawn--oh no! They don't even scruple to tell their friends
of their faults. One is too generous, another too candid; a third
has a tendency to think all people like himself, and to regard
mankind as a company of angels; a fourth is kind-hearted to a
fault. 'We never flatter, my dear Mrs. Jackson,' say the plausible
couple; 'we speak our minds. Neither you nor Mr. Jackson have
faults enough. It may sound strangely, but it is true. You have
not faults enough. You know our way,--we must speak out, and
always do. Quarrel with us for saying so, if you will; but we
repeat it,--you have not faults enough!'
The plausible couple are no less plausible to each other than to
third parties. They are always loving and harmonious. The
plausible gentleman calls his wife 'darling,' and the plausible
lady addresses him as 'dearest.' If it be Mr. and Mrs. Bobtail
Widger, Mrs. Widger is 'Lavinia, darling,' and Mr. Widger is
'Bobtail, dearest.' Speaking of each other, they observe the same
tender form. Mrs. Widger relates what 'Bobtail' said, and Mr.
Widger recounts what 'darling' thought and did.
If you sit next to the plausible lady at a dinner-table, she takes
the earliest opportunity of expressing her belief that you are
acquainted with the Clickits; she is sure she has heard the
Clickits speak of you--she must not tell you in what terms, or you
will take her for a flatterer. You admit a knowledge of the
Clickits; the plausible lady immediately launches out in their
praise. She quite loves the Clickits. Were there ever such true-
hearted, hospitable, excellent people--such a gentle, interesting
little woman as Mrs. Clickit, or such a frank, unaffected creature
as Mr. Clickit? were there ever two people, in short, so little
spoiled by the world as they are? 'As who, darling?' cries Mr.
Widger, from the opposite side of the table. 'The Clickits,
dearest,' replies Mrs. Widger. 'Indeed you are right, darling,'
Mr. Widger rejoins; 'the Clickits are a very high-minded, worthy,
estimable couple.' Mrs. Widger remarking that Bobtail always grows
quite eloquent upon this subject, Mr. Widger admits that he feels
very strongly whenever such people as the Clickits and some other
friends of his (here he glances at the host and hostess) are
mentioned; for they are an honour to human nature, and do one good
to think of. 'YOU know the Clickits, Mrs. Jackson?' he says,
addressing the lady of the house. 'No, indeed; we have not that
pleasure,' she replies. 'You astonish me!' exclaims Mr. Widger:
'not know the Clickits! why, you are the very people of all others
who ought to be their bosom friends. You are kindred beings; you
are one and the same thing:- not know the Clickits! Now WILL you
know the Clickits? Will you make a point of knowing them? Will
you meet them in a friendly way at our house one evening, and be
acquainted with them?' Mrs. Jackson will be quite delighted;
nothing would give her more pleasure. 'Then, Lavinia, my darling,'
says Mr. Widger, 'mind you don't lose sight of that; now, pray take
care that Mr. and Mrs. Jackson know the Clickits without loss of
time. Such people ought not to be strangers to each other.' Mrs.
Widger books both families as the centre of attraction for her next
party; and Mr. Widger, going on to expatiate upon the virtues of
the Clickits, adds to their other moral qualities, that they keep
one of the neatest phaetons in town, and have two thousand a year.
As the plausible couple never laud the merits of any absent person,
without dexterously contriving that their praises shall reflect
upon somebody who is present, so they never depreciate anything or
anybody, without turning their depreciation to the same account.
Their friend, Mr. Slummery, say they, is unquestionably a clever
painter, and would no doubt be very popular, and sell his pictures
at a very high price, if that cruel Mr. Fithers had not forestalled
him in his department of art, and made it thoroughly and completely
his own;--Fithers, it is to be observed, being present and within
hearing, and Slummery elsewhere. Is Mrs. Tabblewick really as
beautiful as people say? Why, there indeed you ask them a very
puzzling question, because there is no doubt that she is a very
charming woman, and they have long known her intimately. She is no
doubt beautiful, very beautiful; they once thought her the most
beautiful woman ever seen; still if you press them for an honest
answer, they are bound to say that this was before they had ever
seen our lovely friend on the sofa, (the sofa is hard by, and our
lovely friend can't help hearing the whispers in which this is
said;) since that time, perhaps, they have been hardly fair judges;
Mrs. Tabblewick is no doubt extremely handsome,--very like our
friend, in fact, in the form of the features,--but in point of
expression, and soul, and figure, and air altogether--oh dear!
But while the plausible couple depreciate, they are still careful
to preserve their character for amiability and kind feeling; indeed
the depreciation itself is often made to grow out of their
excessive sympathy and good will. The plausible lady calls on a
lady who dotes upon her children, and is sitting with a little girl
upon her knee, enraptured by her artless replies, and protesting
that there is nothing she delights in so much as conversing with
these fairies; when the other lady inquires if she has seen young
Mrs. Finching lately, and whether the baby has turned out a finer
one than it promised to be. 'Oh dear!' cries the plausible lady,
'you cannot think how often Bobtail and I have talked about poor
Mrs. Finching--she is such a dear soul, and was so anxious that the
baby should be a fine child--and very naturally, because she was
very much here at one time, and there is, you know, a natural
emulation among mothers--that it is impossible to tell you how much
we have felt for her.' 'Is it weak or plain, or what?' inquires
the other. 'Weak or plain, my love,' returns the plausible lady,
'it's a fright--a perfect little fright; you never saw such a
miserable creature in all your days. Positively you must not let
her see one of these beautiful dears again, or you'll break her
heart, you will indeed.--Heaven bless this child, see how she is
looking in my face! can you conceive anything prettier than that?
If poor Mrs. Finching could only hope--but that's impossible--and
the gifts of Providence, you know--What DID I do with my pocket-
What prompts the mother, who dotes upon her children, to comment to
her lord that evening on the plausible lady's engaging qualities
and feeling heart, and what is it that procures Mr. and Mrs.
Bobtail Widger an immediate invitation to dinner?
THE NICE LITTLE COUPLE
A custom once prevailed in old-fashioned circles, that when a lady
or gentleman was unable to sing a song, he or she should enliven
the company with a story. As we find ourself in the predicament of
not being able to describe (to our own satisfaction) nice little
couples in the abstract, we purpose telling in this place a little
story about a nice little couple of our acquaintance.
Mr. and Mrs. Chirrup are the nice little couple in question. Mr.
Chirrup has the smartness, and something of the brisk, quick manner
of a small bird. Mrs. Chirrup is the prettiest of all little
women, and has the prettiest little figure conceivable. She has
the neatest little foot, and the softest little voice, and the
pleasantest little smile, and the tidiest little curls, and the
brightest little eyes, and the quietest little manner, and is, in
short, altogether one of the most engaging of all little women,
dead or alive. She is a condensation of all the domestic virtues,-
-a pocket edition of the young man's best companion,--a little
woman at a very high pressure, with an amazing quantity of goodness
and usefulness in an exceedingly small space. Little as she is,
Mrs. Chirrup might furnish forth matter for the moral equipment of
a score of housewives, six feet high in their stockings--if, in the
presence of ladies, we may be allowed the expression--and of
Nobody knows all this better than Mr. Chirrup, though he rather
takes on that he don't. Accordingly he is very proud of his
better-half, and evidently considers himself, as all other people
consider him, rather fortunate in having her to wife. We say
evidently, because Mr. Chirrup is a warm-hearted little fellow; and
if you catch his eye when he has been slyly glancing at Mrs.
Chirrup in company, there is a certain complacent twinkle in it,
accompanied, perhaps, by a half-expressed toss of the head, which
as clearly indicates what has been passing in his mind as if he had
put it into words, and shouted it out through a speaking-trumpet.
Moreover, Mr. Chirrup has a particularly mild and bird-like manner
of calling Mrs. Chirrup 'my dear;' and--for he is of a jocose turn-
-of cutting little witticisms upon her, and making her the subject
of various harmless pleasantries, which nobody enjoys more
thoroughly than Mrs. Chirrup herself. Mr. Chirrup, too, now and
then affects to deplore his bachelor-days, and to bemoan (with a
marvellously contented and smirking face) the loss of his freedom,
and the sorrow of his heart at having been taken captive by Mrs.
Chirrup--all of which circumstances combine to show the secret
triumph and satisfaction of Mr. Chirrup's soul.
We have already had occasion to observe that Mrs. Chirrup is an
incomparable housewife. In all the arts of domestic arrangement
and management, in all the mysteries of confectionery-making,
pickling, and preserving, never was such a thorough adept as that
nice little body. She is, besides, a cunning worker in muslin and
fine linen, and a special hand at marketing to the very best
advantage. But if there be one branch of housekeeping in which she
excels to an utterly unparalleled and unprecedented extent, it is
in the important one of carving. A roast goose is universally
allowed to be the great stumbling-block in the way of young
aspirants to perfection in this department of science; many
promising carvers, beginning with legs of mutton, and preserving a
good reputation through fillets of veal, sirloins of beef, quarters
of lamb, fowls, and even ducks, have sunk before a roast goose, and
lost caste and character for ever. To Mrs. Chirrup the resolving a
goose into its smallest component parts is a pleasant pastime--a
practical joke--a thing to be done in a minute or so, without the
smallest interruption to the conversation of the time. No handing
the dish over to an unfortunate man upon her right or left, no wild
sharpening of the knife, no hacking and sawing at an unruly joint,
no noise, no splash, no heat, no leaving off in despair; all is
confidence and cheerfulness. The dish is set upon the table, the
cover is removed; for an instant, and only an instant, you observe
that Mrs. Chirrup's attention is distracted; she smiles, but
heareth not. You proceed with your story; meanwhile the glittering
knife is slowly upraised, both Mrs. Chirrup's wrists are slightly
but not ungracefully agitated, she compresses her lips for an
instant, then breaks into a smile, and all is over. The legs of
the bird slide gently down into a pool of gravy, the wings seem to
melt from the body, the breast separates into a row of juicy
slices, the smaller and more complicated parts of his anatomy are
perfectly developed, a cavern of stuffing is revealed, and the
goose is gone!
To dine with Mr. and Mrs. Chirrup is one of the pleasantest things
in the world. Mr. Chirrup has a bachelor friend, who lived with
him in his own days of single blessedness, and to whom he is
mightily attached. Contrary to the usual custom, this bachelor
friend is no less a friend of Mrs. Chirrup's, and, consequently,
whenever you dine with Mr. and Mrs. Chirrup, you meet the bachelor
friend. It would put any reasonably-conditioned mortal into good-
humour to observe the entire unanimity which subsists between these
three; but there is a quiet welcome dimpling in Mrs. Chirrup's
face, a bustling hospitality oozing as it were out of the
waistcoat-pockets of Mr. Chirrup, and a patronising enjoyment of
their cordiality and satisfaction on the part of the bachelor
friend, which is quite delightful. On these occasions Mr. Chirrup
usually takes an opportunity of rallying the friend on being
single, and the friend retorts on Mr. Chirrup for being married, at
which moments some single young ladies present are like to die of
laughter; and we have more than once observed them bestow looks
upon the friend, which convinces us that his position is by no
means a safe one, as, indeed, we hold no bachelor's to be who
visits married friends and cracks jokes on wedlock, for certain it
is that such men walk among traps and nets and pitfalls
innumerable, and often find themselves down upon their knees at the
altar rails, taking M. or N. for their wedded wives, before they
know anything about the matter.
However, this is no business of Mr. Chirrup's, who talks, and
laughs, and drinks his wine, and laughs again, and talks more,
until it is time to repair to the drawing-room, where, coffee
served and over, Mrs. Chirrup prepares for a round game, by sorting
the nicest possible little fish into the nicest possible little
pools, and calling Mr. Chirrup to assist her, which Mr. Chirrup
does. As they stand side by side, you find that Mr. Chirrup is the
least possible shadow of a shade taller than Mrs. Chirrup, and that
they are the neatest and best-matched little couple that can be,
which the chances are ten to one against your observing with such
effect at any other time, unless you see them in the street arm-in-
arm, or meet them some rainy day trotting along under a very small
umbrella. The round game (at which Mr. Chirrup is the merriest of
the party) being done and over, in course of time a nice little
tray appears, on which is a nice little supper; and when that is
finished likewise, and you have said 'Good night,' you find
yourself repeating a dozen times, as you ride home, that there
never was such a nice little couple as Mr. and Mrs. Chirrup.
Whether it is that pleasant qualities, being packed more closely in
small bodies than in large, come more readily to hand than when
they are diffused over a wider space, and have to be gathered
together for use, we don't know, but as a general rule,--
strengthened like all other rules by its exceptions,--we hold that
little people are sprightly and good-natured. The more sprightly
and good-natured people we have, the better; therefore, let us wish
well to all nice little couples, and hope that they may increase
THE EGOTISTICAL COUPLE
Egotism in couples is of two kinds.--It is our purpose to show this
by two examples.
The egotistical couple may be young, old, middle-aged, well to do,
or ill to do; they may have a small family, a large family, or no
family at all. There is no outward sign by which an egotistical
couple may be known and avoided. They come upon you unawares;
there is no guarding against them. No man can of himself be
forewarned or forearmed against an egotistical couple.
The egotistical couple have undergone every calamity, and
experienced every pleasurable and painful sensation of which our
nature is susceptible. You cannot by possibility tell the
egotistical couple anything they don't know, or describe to them
anything they have not felt. They have been everything but dead.
Sometimes we are tempted to wish they had been even that, but only
in our uncharitable moments, which are few and far between.
We happened the other day, in the course of a morning call, to
encounter an egotistical couple, nor were we suffered to remain
long in ignorance of the fact, for our very first inquiry of the
lady of the house brought them into active and vigorous operation.
The inquiry was of course touching the lady's health, and the
answer happened to be, that she had not been very well. 'Oh, my
dear!' said the egotistical lady, 'don't talk of not being well.
We have been in SUCH a state since we saw you last!'--The lady of
the house happening to remark that her lord had not been well
either, the egotistical gentleman struck in: 'Never let Briggs
complain of not being well--never let Briggs complain, my dear Mrs.
Briggs, after what I have undergone within these six weeks. He
doesn't know what it is to be ill, he hasn't the least idea of it;
not the faintest conception.'--'My dear,' interposed his wife
smiling, 'you talk as if it were almost a crime in Mr. Briggs not
to have been as ill as we have been, instead of feeling thankful to
Providence that both he and our dear Mrs. Briggs are in such
blissful ignorance of real suffering.'--'My love,' returned the
egotistical gentleman, in a low and pious voice, 'you mistake me;--
I feel grateful--very grateful. I trust our friends may never
purchase their experience as dearly as we have bought ours; I hope
they never may!'
Having put down Mrs. Briggs upon this theme, and settled the
question thus, the egotistical gentleman turned to us, and, after a
few preliminary remarks, all tending towards and leading up to the
point he had in his mind, inquired if we happened to be acquainted
with the Dowager Lady Snorflerer. On our replying in the negative,
he presumed we had often met Lord Slang, or beyond all doubt, that
we were on intimate terms with Sir Chipkins Glogwog. Finding that
we were equally unable to lay claim to either of these
distinctions, he expressed great astonishment, and turning to his
wife with a retrospective smile, inquired who it was that had told
that capital story about the mashed potatoes. 'Who, my dear?'
returned the egotistical lady, 'why Sir Chipkins, of course; how
can you ask! Don't you remember his applying it to our cook, and
saying that you and I were so like the Prince and Princess, that he
could almost have sworn we were they?' 'To be sure, I remember
that,' said the egotistical gentleman, 'but are you quite certain
that didn't apply to the other anecdote about the Emperor of
Austria and the pump?' 'Upon my word then, I think it did,'
replied his wife. 'To be sure it did,' said the egotistical
gentleman, 'it was Slang's story, I remember now, perfectly.'
However, it turned out, a few seconds afterwards, that the
egotistical gentleman's memory was rather treacherous, as he began
to have a misgiving that the story had been told by the Dowager
Lady Snorflerer the very last time they dined there; but there
appearing, on further consideration, strong circumstantial evidence
tending to show that this couldn't be, inasmuch as the Dowager Lady
Snorflerer had been, on the occasion in question, wholly engrossed
by the egotistical lady, the egotistical gentleman recanted this
opinion; and after laying the story at the doors of a great many
great people, happily left it at last with the Duke of Scuttlewig:-
observing that it was not extraordinary he had forgotten his Grace
hitherto, as it often happened that the names of those with whom we
were upon the most familiar footing were the very last to present
themselves to our thoughts.
It not only appeared that the egotistical couple knew everybody,
but that scarcely any event of importance or notoriety had occurred
for many years with which they had not been in some way or other
connected. Thus we learned that when the well-known attempt upon
the life of George the Third was made by Hatfield in Drury Lane
theatre, the egotistical gentleman's grandfather sat upon his right
hand and was the first man who collared him; and that the
egotistical lady's aunt, sitting within a few boxes of the royal
party, was the only person in the audience who heard his Majesty
exclaim, 'Charlotte, Charlotte, don't be frightened, don't be
frightened; they're letting off squibs, they're letting off
squibs.' When the fire broke out, which ended in the destruction
of the two Houses of Parliament, the egotistical couple, being at
the time at a drawing-room window on Blackheath, then and there
simultaneously exclaimed, to the astonishment of a whole party--
'It's the House of Lords!' Nor was this a solitary instance of
their peculiar discernment, for chancing to be (as by a comparison
of dates and circumstances they afterwards found) in the same
omnibus with Mr. Greenacre, when he carried his victim's head about
town in a blue bag, they both remarked a singular twitching in the
muscles of his countenance; and walking down Fish Street Hill, a
few weeks since, the egotistical gentleman said to his lady--
slightly casting up his eyes to the top of the Monument--'There's a
boy up there, my dear, reading a Bible. It's very strange. I
don't like it.--In five seconds afterwards, Sir,' says the
egotistical gentleman, bringing his hands together with one violent
clap--'the lad was over!'
Diversifying these topics by the introduction of many others of the
same kind, and entertaining us between whiles with a minute account
of what weather and diet agreed with them, and what weather and
diet disagreed with them, and at what time they usually got up, and
at what time went to bed, with many other particulars of their
domestic economy too numerous to mention; the egotistical couple at
length took their leave, and afforded us an opportunity of doing
Mr. and Mrs. Sliverstone are an egotistical couple of another
class, for all the lady's egotism is about her husband, and all the
gentleman's about his wife. For example:- Mr. Sliverstone is a
clerical gentleman, and occasionally writes sermons, as clerical
gentlemen do. If you happen to obtain admission at the street-door
while he is so engaged, Mrs. Sliverstone appears on tip-toe, and
speaking in a solemn whisper, as if there were at least three or
four particular friends up-stairs, all upon the point of death,
implores you to be very silent, for Mr. Sliverstone is composing,
and she need not say how very important it is that he should not be
disturbed. Unwilling to interrupt anything so serious, you hasten
to withdraw, with many apologies; but this Mrs. Sliverstone will by
no means allow, observing, that she knows you would like to see
him, as it is very natural you should, and that she is determined
to make a trial for you, as you are a great favourite. So you are
led up-stairs--still on tip-toe--to the door of a little back room,
in which, as the lady informs you in a whisper, Mr. Sliverstone
always writes. No answer being returned to a couple of soft taps,
the lady opens the door, and there, sure enough, is Mr.
Sliverstone, with dishevelled hair, powdering away with pen, ink,
and paper, at a rate which, if he has any power of sustaining it,
would settle the longest sermon in no time. At first he is too
much absorbed to be roused by this intrusion; but presently looking
up, says faintly, 'Ah!' and pointing to his desk with a weary and
languid smile, extends his hand, and hopes you'll forgive him.
Then Mrs. Sliverstone sits down beside him, and taking his hand in
hers, tells you how that Mr. Sliverstone has been shut up there
ever since nine o'clock in the morning, (it is by this time twelve
at noon,) and how she knows it cannot be good for his health, and
is very uneasy about it. Unto this Mr. Sliverstone replies firmly,
that 'It must be done;' which agonizes Mrs. Sliverstone still more,
and she goes on to tell you that such were Mr. Sliverstone's
labours last week--what with the buryings, marryings, churchings,
christenings, and all together,--that when he was going up the
pulpit stairs on Sunday evening, he was obliged to hold on by the
rails, or he would certainly have fallen over into his own pew.
Mr. Sliverstone, who has been listening and smiling meekly, says,
'Not quite so bad as that, not quite so bad!' he admits though, on
cross-examination, that he WAS very near falling upon the verger
who was following him up to bolt the door; but adds, that it was
his duty as a Christian to fall upon him, if need were, and that
he, Mr. Sliverstone, and (possibly the verger too) ought to glory
This sentiment communicates new impulse to Mrs. Sliverstone, who
launches into new praises of Mr. Sliverstone's worth and
excellence, to which he listens in the same meek silence, save when
he puts in a word of self-denial relative to some question of fact,
as--'Not seventy-two christenings that week, my dear. Only
seventy-one, only seventy-one.' At length his lady has quite
concluded, and then he says, Why should he repine, why should he
give way, why should he suffer his heart to sink within him? Is it
he alone who toils and suffers? What has she gone through, he
should like to know? What does she go through every day for him
and for society?
With such an exordium Mr. Sliverstone launches out into glowing
praises of the conduct of Mrs. Sliverstone in the production of
eight young children, and the subsequent rearing and fostering of
the same; and thus the husband magnifies the wife, and the wife the
This would be well enough if Mr. and Mrs. Sliverstone kept it to
themselves, or even to themselves and a friend or two; but they do
not. The more hearers they have, the more egotistical the couple
become, and the more anxious they are to make believers in their
merits. Perhaps this is the worst kind of egotism. It has not
even the poor excuse of being spontaneous, but is the result of a
deliberate system and malice aforethought. Mere empty-headed
conceit excites our pity, but ostentatious hypocrisy awakens our
THE COUPLE WHO CODDLE THEMSELVES
Mrs. Merrywinkle's maiden name was Chopper. She was the only child
of Mr. and Mrs. Chopper. Her father died when she was, as the
play-books express it, 'yet an infant;' and so old Mrs. Chopper,
when her daughter married, made the house of her son-in-law her
home from that time henceforth, and set up her staff of rest with
Mr. and Mrs. Merrywinkle.
Mr. and Mrs. Merrywinkle are a couple who coddle themselves; and
the venerable Mrs. Chopper is an aider and abettor in the same.
Mr. Merrywinkle is a rather lean and long-necked gentleman, middle-
aged and middle-sized, and usually troubled with a cold in the
head. Mrs. Merrywinkle is a delicate-looking lady, with very light
hair, and is exceedingly subject to the same unpleasant disorder.
The venerable Mrs. Chopper--who is strictly entitled to the
appellation, her daughter not being very young, otherwise than by
courtesy, at the time of her marriage, which was some years ago--is
a mysterious old lady who lurks behind a pair of spectacles, and is
afflicted with a chronic disease, respecting which she has taken a
vast deal of medical advice, and referred to a vast number of
medical books, without meeting any definition of symptoms that at
all suits her, or enables her to say, 'That's my complaint.'
Indeed, the absence of authentic information upon the subject of
this complaint would seem to be Mrs. Chopper's greatest ill, as in
all other respects she is an uncommonly hale and hearty
Both Mr. and Mrs. Chopper wear an extraordinary quantity of
flannel, and have a habit of putting their feet in hot water to an
unnatural extent. They likewise indulge in chamomile tea and such-
like compounds, and rub themselves on the slightest provocation
with camphorated spirits and other lotions applicable to mumps,
sore-throat, rheumatism, or lumbago.
Mr. Merrywinkle's leaving home to go to business on a damp or wet
morning is a very elaborate affair. He puts on wash-leather socks
over his stockings, and India-rubber shoes above his boots, and
wears under his waistcoat a cuirass of hare-skin. Besides these
precautions, he winds a thick shawl round his throat, and blocks up
his mouth with a large silk handkerchief. Thus accoutred, and
furnished besides with a great-coat and umbrella, he braves the
dangers of the streets; travelling in severe weather at a gentle
trot, the better to preserve the circulation, and bringing his
mouth to the surface to take breath, but very seldom, and with the
utmost caution. His office-door opened, he shoots past his clerk
at the same pace, and diving into his own private room, closes the
door, examines the window-fastenings, and gradually unrobes
himself: hanging his pocket-handkerchief on the fender to air, and
determining to write to the newspapers about the fog, which, he
says, 'has really got to that pitch that it is quite unbearable.'
In this last opinion Mrs. Merrywinkle and her respected mother
fully concur; for though not present, their thoughts and tongues
are occupied with the same subject, which is their constant theme
all day. If anybody happens to call, Mrs. Merrywinkle opines that
they must assuredly be mad, and her first salutation is, 'Why, what
in the name of goodness can bring you out in such weather? You
know you MUST catch your death.' This assurance is corroborated by
Mrs. Chopper, who adds, in further confirmation, a dismal legend
concerning an individual of her acquaintance who, making a call
under precisely parallel circumstances, and being then in the best
health and spirits, expired in forty-eight hours afterwards, of a
complication of inflammatory disorders. The visitor, rendered not
altogether comfortable perhaps by this and other precedents,
inquires very affectionately after Mr. Merrywinkle, but by so doing
brings about no change of the subject; for Mr. Merrywinkle's name
is inseparably connected with his complaints, and his complaints
are inseparably connected with Mrs. Merrywinkle's; and when these
are done with, Mrs. Chopper, who has been biding her time, cuts in
with the chronic disorder--a subject upon which the amiable old
lady never leaves off speaking until she is left alone, and very
often not then.
But Mr. Merrywinkle comes home to dinner. He is received by Mrs.
Merrywinkle and Mrs. Chopper, who, on his remarking that he thinks
his feet are damp, turn pale as ashes and drag him up-stairs,
imploring him to have them rubbed directly with a dry coarse towel.
Rubbed they are, one by Mrs. Merrywinkle and one by Mrs. Chopper,
until the friction causes Mr. Merrywinkle to make horrible faces,
and look as if he had been smelling very powerful onions; when they
desist, and the patient, provided for his better security with
thick worsted stockings and list slippers, is borne down-stairs to
dinner. Now, the dinner is always a good one, the appetites of the
diners being delicate, and requiring a little of what Mrs.
Merrywinkle calls 'tittivation;' the secret of which is understood
to lie in good cookery and tasteful spices, and which process is so
successfully performed in the present instance, that both Mr. and
Mrs. Merrywinkle eat a remarkably good dinner, and even the
afflicted Mrs. Chopper wields her knife and fork with much of the
spirit and elasticity of youth. But Mr. Merrywinkle, in his desire
to gratify his appetite, is not unmindful of his health, for he has
a bottle of carbonate of soda with which to qualify his porter, and
a little pair of scales in which to weigh it out. Neither in his
anxiety to take care of his body is he unmindful of the welfare of
his immortal part, as he always prays that for what he is going to
receive he may be made truly thankful; and in order that he may be
as thankful as possible, eats and drinks to the utmost.
Either from eating and drinking so much, or from being the victim
of this constitutional infirmity, among others, Mr. Merrywinkle,
after two or three glasses of wine, falls fast asleep; and he has
scarcely closed his eyes, when Mrs. Merrywinkle and Mrs. Chopper
fall asleep likewise. It is on awakening at tea-time that their
most alarming symptoms prevail; for then Mr. Merrywinkle feels as
if his temples were tightly bound round with the chain of the
street-door, and Mrs. Merrywinkle as if she had made a hearty
dinner of half-hundredweights, and Mrs. Chopper as if cold water
were running down her back, and oyster-knives with sharp points
were plunging of their own accord into her ribs. Symptoms like
these are enough to make people peevish, and no wonder that they
remain so until supper-time, doing little more than doze and
complain, unless Mr. Merrywinkle calls out very loudly to a servant
'to keep that draught out,' or rushes into the passage to flourish
his fist in the countenance of the twopenny-postman, for daring to
give such a knock as he had just performed at the door of a private
gentleman with nerves.
Supper, coming after dinner, should consist of some gentle
provocative; and therefore the tittivating art is again in
requisition, and again--done honour to by Mr. and Mrs. Merrywinkle,
still comforted and abetted by Mrs. Chopper. After supper, it is
ten to one but the last-named old lady becomes worse, and is led
off to bed with the chronic complaint in full vigour. Mr. and Mrs.
Merrywinkle, having administered to her a warm cordial, which is
something of the strongest, then repair to their own room, where
Mr. Merrywinkle, with his legs and feet in hot water, superintends
the mulling of some wine which he is to drink at the very moment he
plunges into bed, while Mrs. Merrywinkle, in garments whose nature
is unknown to and unimagined by all but married men, takes four
small pills with a spasmodic look between each, and finally comes
to something hot and fragrant out of another little saucepan, which
serves as her composing-draught for the night.
There is another kind of couple who coddle themselves, and who do
so at a cheaper rate and on more spare diet, because they are
niggardly and parsimonious; for which reason they are kind enough
to coddle their visitors too. It is unnecessary to describe them,
for our readers may rest assured of the accuracy of these general
principles:- that all couples who coddle themselves are selfish and
slothful,--that they charge upon every wind that blows, every rain
that falls, and every vapour that hangs in the air, the evils which
arise from their own imprudence or the gloom which is engendered in
their own tempers,--and that all men and women, in couples or
otherwise, who fall into exclusive habits of self-indulgence, and
forget their natural sympathy and close connexion with everybody
and everything in the world around them, not only neglect the first
duty of life, but, by a happy retributive justice, deprive
themselves of its truest and best enjoyment.
THE OLD COUPLE
They are grandfather and grandmother to a dozen grown people and
have great-grandchildren besides; their bodies are bent, their hair
is grey, their step tottering and infirm. Is this the lightsome
pair whose wedding was so merry, and have the young couple indeed
grown old so soon!
It seems but yesterday--and yet what a host of cares and griefs are
crowded into the intervening time which, reckoned by them,
lengthens out into a century! How many new associations have
wreathed themselves about their hearts since then! The old time is
gone, and a new time has come for others--not for them. They are
but the rusting link that feebly joins the two, and is silently
loosening its hold and dropping asunder.
It seems but yesterday--and yet three of their children have sunk
into the grave, and the tree that shades it has grown quite old.
One was an infant--they wept for him; the next a girl, a slight
young thing too delicate for earth--her loss was hard indeed to
bear. The third, a man. That was the worst of all, but even that
grief is softened now.
It seems but yesterday--and yet how the gay and laughing faces of
that bright morning have changed and vanished from above ground!
Faint likenesses of some remain about them yet, but they are very
faint and scarcely to be traced. The rest are only seen in dreams,
and even they are unlike what they were, in eyes so old and dim.
One or two dresses from the bridal wardrobe are yet preserved.
They are of a quaint and antique fashion, and seldom seen except in
pictures. White has turned yellow, and brighter hues have faded.
Do you wonder, child? The wrinkled face was once as smooth as
yours, the eyes as bright, the shrivelled skin as fair and
delicate. It is the work of hands that have been dust these many
Where are the fairy lovers of that happy day whose annual return
comes upon the old man and his wife, like the echo of some village
bell which has long been silent? Let yonder peevish bachelor,
racked by rheumatic pains, and quarrelling with the world, let him
answer to the question. He recollects something of a favourite
playmate; her name was Lucy--so they tell him. He is not sure
whether she was married, or went abroad, or died. It is a long
while ago, and he don't remember.
Is nothing as it used to be; does no one feel, or think, or act, as
in days of yore? Yes. There is an aged woman who once lived
servant with the old lady's father, and is sheltered in an alms-
house not far off. She is still attached to the family, and loves
them all; she nursed the children in her lap, and tended in their
sickness those who are no more. Her old mistress has still
something of youth in her eyes; the young ladies are like what she
was but not quite so handsome, nor are the gentlemen as stately as
Mr. Harvey used to be. She has seen a great deal of trouble; her
husband and her son died long ago; but she has got over that, and
is happy now--quite happy.
If ever her attachment to her old protectors were disturbed by
fresher cares and hopes, it has long since resumed its former
current. It has filled the void in the poor creature's heart, and
replaced the love of kindred. Death has not left her alone, and
this, with a roof above her head, and a warm hearth to sit by,
makes her cheerful and contented. Does she remember the marriage
of great-grandmamma? Ay, that she does, as well--as if it was only
yesterday. You wouldn't think it to look at her now, and perhaps
she ought not to say so of herself, but she was as smart a young
girl then as you'd wish to see. She recollects she took a friend
of hers up-stairs to see Miss Emma dressed for church; her name
was--ah! she forgets the name, but she remembers that she was a
very pretty girl, and that she married not long afterwards, and
lived--it has quite passed out of her mind where she lived, but she
knows she had a bad husband who used her ill, and that she died in
Lambeth work-house. Dear, dear, in Lambeth workhouse!
And the old couple--have they no comfort or enjoyment of existence?
See them among their grandchildren and great-grandchildren; how
garrulous they are, how they compare one with another, and insist
on likenesses which no one else can see; how gently the old lady
lectures the girls on points of breeding and decorum, and points
the moral by anecdotes of herself in her young days--how the old
gentleman chuckles over boyish feats and roguish tricks, and tells
long stories of a 'barring-out' achieved at the school he went to:
which was very wrong, he tells the boys, and never to be imitated
of course, but which he cannot help letting them know was very
pleasant too--especially when he kissed the master's niece. This
last, however, is a point on which the old lady is very tender, for
she considers it a shocking and indelicate thing to talk about, and
always says so whenever it is mentioned, never failing to observe
that he ought to be very penitent for having been so sinful. So
the old gentleman gets no further, and what the schoolmaster's
niece said afterwards (which he is always going to tell) is lost to
The old gentleman is eighty years old, to-day--'Eighty years old,
Crofts, and never had a headache,' he tells the barber who shaves
him (the barber being a young fellow, and very subject to that
complaint). 'That's a great age, Crofts,' says the old gentleman.
'I don't think it's sich a wery great age, Sir,' replied the
barber. 'Crofts,' rejoins the old gentleman, 'you're talking
nonsense to me. Eighty not a great age?' 'It's a wery great age,
Sir, for a gentleman to be as healthy and active as you are,'
returns the barber; 'but my grandfather, Sir, he was ninety-four.'
'You don't mean that, Crofts?' says the old gentleman. 'I do
indeed, Sir,' retorts the barber, 'and as wiggerous as Julius
Caesar, my grandfather was.' The old gentleman muses a little
time, and then says, 'What did he die of, Crofts?' 'He died
accidentally, Sir,' returns the barber; 'he didn't mean to do it.
He always would go a running about the streets--walking never
satisfied HIS spirit--and he run against a post and died of a hurt
in his chest.' The old gentleman says no more until the shaving is
concluded, and then he gives Crofts half-a-crown to drink his
health. He is a little doubtful of the barber's veracity
afterwards, and telling the anecdote to the old lady, affects to
make very light of it--though to be sure (he adds) there was old
Parr, and in some parts of England, ninety-five or so is a common
age, quite a common age.
This morning the old couple are cheerful but serious, recalling old
times as well as they can remember them, and dwelling upon many
passages in their past lives which the day brings to mind. The old
lady reads aloud, in a tremulous voice, out of a great Bible, and
the old gentleman with his hand to his ear, listens with profound
respect. When the book is closed, they sit silent for a short
space, and afterwards resume their conversation, with a reference
perhaps to their dead children, as a subject not unsuited to that
they have just left. By degrees they are led to consider which of
those who survive are the most like those dearly-remembered
objects, and so they fall into a less solemn strain, and become
How many people in all, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and one
or two intimate friends of the family, dine together to-day at the
eldest son's to congratulate the old couple, and wish them many
happy returns, is a calculation beyond our powers; but this we
know, that the old couple no sooner present themselves, very
sprucely and carefully attired, than there is a violent shouting
and rushing forward of the younger branches with all manner of
presents, such as pocket-books, pencil-cases, pen-wipers, watch-
papers, pin-cushions, sleeve-buckles, worked-slippers, watch-
guards, and even a nutmeg-grater: the latter article being
presented by a very chubby and very little boy, who exhibits it in
great triumph as an extraordinary variety. The old couple's
emotion at these tokens of remembrance occasions quite a pathetic
scene, of which the chief ingredients are a vast quantity of
kissing and hugging, and repeated wipings of small eyes and noses
with small square pocket-handkerchiefs, which don't come at all
easily out of small pockets. Even the peevish bachelor is moved,
and he says, as he presents the old gentleman with a queer sort of
antique ring from his own finger, that he'll be de'ed if he doesn't
think he looks younger than he did ten years ago.
But the great time is after dinner, when the dessert and wine are
on the table, which is pushed back to make plenty of room, and they
are all gathered in a large circle round the fire, for it is then--
the glasses being filled, and everybody ready to drink the toast--
that two great-grandchildren rush out at a given signal, and
presently return, dragging in old Jane Adams leaning upon her
crutched stick, and trembling with age and pleasure. Who so
popular as poor old Jane, nurse and story-teller in ordinary to two
generations; and who so happy as she, striving to bend her stiff
limbs into a curtsey, while tears of pleasure steal down her
The old couple sit side by side, and the old time seems like
yesterday indeed. Looking back upon the path they have travelled,
its dust and ashes disappear; the flowers that withered long ago,
show brightly again upon its borders, and they grow young once more
in the youth of those about them.
We have taken for the subjects of the foregoing moral essays,
twelve samples of married couples, carefully selected from a large
stock on hand, open to the inspection of all comers. These samples
are intended for the benefit of the rising generation of both
sexes, and, for their more easy and pleasant information, have been
separately ticketed and labelled in the manner they have seen.
We have purposely excluded from consideration the couple in which
the lady reigns paramount and supreme, holding such cases to be of
a very unnatural kind, and like hideous births and other monstrous
deformities, only to be discreetly and sparingly exhibited.
And here our self-imposed task would have ended, but that to those
young ladies and gentlemen who are yet revolving singly round the
church, awaiting the advent of that time when the mysterious laws
of attraction shall draw them towards it in couples, we are
desirous of addressing a few last words.
Before marriage and afterwards, let them learn to centre all their
hopes of real and lasting happiness in their own fireside; let them
cherish the faith that in home, and all the English virtues which
the love of home engenders, lies the only true source of domestic
felicity; let them believe that round the household gods,
contentment and tranquillity cluster in their gentlest and most
graceful forms; and that many weary hunters of happiness through
the noisy world, have learnt this truth too late, and found a
cheerful spirit and a quiet mind only at home at last.
How much may depend on the education of daughters and the conduct
of mothers; how much of the brightest part of our old national
character may be perpetuated by their wisdom or frittered away by
their folly--how much of it may have been lost already, and how
much more in danger of vanishing every day--are questions too
weighty for discussion here, but well deserving a little serious
consideration from all young couples nevertheless.
To that one young couple on whose bright destiny the thoughts of
nations are fixed, may the youth of England look, and not in vain,
for an example. From that one young couple, blessed and favoured
as they are, may they learn that even the glare and glitter of a
court, the splendour of a palace, and the pomp and glory of a
throne, yield in their power of conferring happiness, to domestic
worth and virtue. From that one young couple may they learn that
the crown of a great empire, costly and jewelled though it be,
gives place in the estimation of a Queen to the plain gold ring
that links her woman's nature to that of tens of thousands of her
humble subjects, and guards in her woman's heart one secret store
of tenderness, whose proudest boast shall be that it knows no
Royalty save Nature's own, and no pride of birth but being the
child of heaven!
So shall the highest young couple in the land for once hear the
truth, when men throw up their caps, and cry with loving shouts -
GOD BLESS THEM.
THE MUDFOG AND OTHER SKETCHES
PUBLIC LIFE OF MR. TULRUMBLE--ONCE MAYOR OF MUDFOG
Mudfog is a pleasant town--a remarkably pleasant town--situated in
a charming hollow by the side of a river, from which river, Mudfog
derives an agreeable scent of pitch, tar, coals, and rope-yarn, a
roving population in oilskin hats, a pretty steady influx of
drunken bargemen, and a great many other maritime advantages.
There is a good deal of water about Mudfog, and yet it is not
exactly the sort of town for a watering-place, either. Water is a
perverse sort of element at the best of times, and in Mudfog it is
particularly so. In winter, it comes oozing down the streets and
tumbling over the fields,--nay, rushes into the very cellars and
kitchens of the houses, with a lavish prodigality that might well
be dispensed with; but in the hot summer weather it WILL dry up,
and turn green: and, although green is a very good colour in its
way, especially in grass, still it certainly is not becoming to
water; and it cannot be denied that the beauty of Mudfog is rather
impaired, even by this trifling circumstance. Mudfog is a healthy
place--very healthy;--damp, perhaps, but none the worse for that.
It's quite a mistake to suppose that damp is unwholesome: plants
thrive best in damp situations, and why shouldn't men? The
inhabitants of Mudfog are unanimous in asserting that there exists
not a finer race of people on the face of the earth; here we have
an indisputable and veracious contradiction of the vulgar error at
once. So, admitting Mudfog to be damp, we distinctly state that it
The town of Mudfog is extremely picturesque. Limehouse and
Ratcliff Highway are both something like it, but they give you a
very faint idea of Mudfog. There are a great many more public-
houses in Mudfog--more than in Ratcliff Highway and Limehouse put
together. The public buildings, too, are very imposing. We
consider the town-hall one of the finest specimens of shed
architecture, extant: it is a combination of the pig-sty and tea-
garden-box orders; and the simplicity of its design is of
surpassing beauty. The idea of placing a large window on one side
of the door, and a small one on the other, is particularly happy.
There is a fine old Doric beauty, too, about the padlock and
scraper, which is strictly in keeping with the general effect.
In this room do the mayor and corporation of Mudfog assemble
together in solemn council for the public weal. Seated on the
massive wooden benches, which, with the table in the centre, form
the only furniture of the whitewashed apartment, the sage men of
Mudfog spend hour after hour in grave deliberation. Here they
settle at what hour of the night the public-houses shall be closed,
at what hour of the morning they shall be permitted to open, how
soon it shall be lawful for people to eat their dinner on church-
days, and other great political questions; and sometimes, long
after silence has fallen on the town, and the distant lights from
the shops and houses have ceased to twinkle, like far-off stars, to
the sight of the boatmen on the river, the illumination in the two
unequal-sized windows of the town-hall, warns the inhabitants of
Mudfog that its little body of legislators, like a larger and
better-known body of the same genus, a great deal more noisy, and
not a whit more profound, are patriotically dozing away in company,
far into the night, for their country's good.
Among this knot of sage and learned men, no one was so eminently
distinguished, during many years, for the quiet modesty of his
appearance and demeanour, as Nicholas Tulrumble, the well-known
coal-dealer. However exciting the subject of discussion, however
animated the tone of the debate, or however warm the personalities
exchanged, (and even in Mudfog we get personal sometimes,) Nicholas
Tulrumble was always the same. To say truth, Nicholas, being an
industrious man, and always up betimes, was apt to fall asleep when
a debate began, and to remain asleep till it was over, when he
would wake up very much refreshed, and give his vote with the
greatest complacency. The fact was, that Nicholas Tulrumble,
knowing that everybody there had made up his mind beforehand,
considered the talking as just a long botheration about nothing at
all; and to the present hour it remains a question, whether, on
this point at all events, Nicholas Tulrumble was not pretty near
Time, which strews a man's head with silver, sometimes fills his
pockets with gold. As he gradually performed one good office for
Nicholas Tulrumble, he was obliging enough, not to omit the other.
Nicholas began life in a wooden tenement of four feet square, with
a capital of two and ninepence, and a stock in trade of three
bushels and a-half of coals, exclusive of the large lump which
hung, by way of sign-board, outside. Then he enlarged the shed,
and kept a truck; then he left the shed, and the truck too, and
started a donkey and a Mrs. Tulrumble; then he moved again and set
up a cart; the cart was soon afterwards exchanged for a waggon; and
so he went on like his great predecessor Whittington--only without
a cat for a partner--increasing in wealth and fame, until at last
he gave up business altogether, and retired with Mrs. Tulrumble and
family to Mudfog Hall, which he had himself erected, on something
which he attempted to delude himself into the belief was a hill,
about a quarter of a mile distant from the town of Mudfog.
About this time, it began to be murmured in Mudfog that Nicholas
Tulrumble was growing vain and haughty; that prosperity and success
had corrupted the simplicity of his manners, and tainted the
natural goodness of his heart; in short, that he was setting up for
a public character, and a great gentleman, and affected to look
down upon his old companions with compassion and contempt. Whether
these reports were at the time well-founded, or not, certain it is
that Mrs. Tulrumble very shortly afterwards started a four-wheel
chaise, driven by a tall postilion in a yellow cap,--that Mr.
Tulrumble junior took to smoking cigars, and calling the footman a
'feller,'--and that Mr. Tulrumble from that time forth, was no more
seen in his old seat in the chimney-corner of the Lighterman's Arms
at night. This looked bad; but, more than this, it began to be
observed that Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble attended the corporation
meetings more frequently than heretofore; and he no longer went to
sleep as he had done for so many years, but propped his eyelids
open with his two forefingers; that he read the newspapers by
himself at home; and that he was in the habit of indulging abroad
in distant and mysterious allusions to 'masses of people,' and 'the
property of the country,' and 'productive power,' and 'the monied
interest:' all of which denoted and proved that Nicholas Tulrumble
was either mad, or worse; and it puzzled the good people of Mudfog
At length, about the middle of the month of October, Mr. Tulrumble
and family went up to London; the middle of October being, as Mrs.
Tulrumble informed her acquaintance in Mudfog, the very height of
the fashionable season.
Somehow or other, just about this time, despite the health-
preserving air of Mudfog, the Mayor died. It was a most
extraordinary circumstance; he had lived in Mudfog for eighty-five
years. The corporation didn't understand it at all; indeed it was
with great difficulty that one old gentleman, who was a great
stickler for forms, was dissuaded from proposing a vote of censure
on such unaccountable conduct. Strange as it was, however, die he
did, without taking the slightest notice of the corporation; and
the corporation were imperatively called upon to elect his
successor. So, they met for the purpose; and being very full of
Nicholas Tulrumble just then, and Nicholas Tulrumble being a very
important man, they elected him, and wrote off to London by the
very next post to acquaint Nicholas Tulrumble with his new
Now, it being November time, and Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble being in
the capital, it fell out that he was present at the Lord Mayor's
show and dinner, at sight of the glory and splendour whereof, he,
Mr. Tulrumble, was greatly mortified, inasmuch as the reflection
would force itself on his mind, that, had he been born in London
instead of in Mudfog, he might have been a Lord Mayor too, and have
patronized the judges, and been affable to the Lord Chancellor, and
friendly with the Premier, and coldly condescending to the
Secretary to the Treasury, and have dined with a flag behind his
back, and done a great many other acts and deeds which unto Lord
Mayors of London peculiarly appertain. The more he thought of the
Lord Mayor, the more enviable a personage he seemed. To be a King
was all very well; but what was the King to the Lord Mayor! When
the King made a speech, everybody knew it was somebody else's
writing; whereas here was the Lord Mayor, talking away for half an
hour-all out of his own head--amidst the enthusiastic applause of
the whole company, while it was notorious that the King might talk
to his parliament till he was black in the face without getting so
much as a single cheer. As all these reflections passed through
the mind of Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble, the Lord Mayor of London
appeared to him the greatest sovereign on the face of the earth,
beating the Emperor of Russia all to nothing, and leaving the Great
Mogul immeasurably behind.
Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble was pondering over these things, and
inwardly cursing the fate which had pitched his coal-shed in
Mudfog, when the letter of the corporation was put into his hand.
A crimson flush mantled over his face as he read it, for visions of
brightness were already dancing before his imagination.
'My dear,' said Mr. Tulrumble to his wife, 'they have elected me,
Mayor of Mudfog.'
'Lor-a-mussy!' said Mrs. Tulrumble: 'why what's become of old
'The late Mr. Sniggs, Mrs. Tulrumble,' said Mr. Tulrumble sharply,
for he by no means approved of the notion of unceremoniously
designating a gentleman who filled the high office of Mayor, as
'Old Sniggs,'--'The late Mr. Sniggs, Mrs. Tulrumble, is dead.'
The communication was very unexpected; but Mrs. Tulrumble only
ejaculated 'Lor-a-mussy!' once again, as if a Mayor were a mere
ordinary Christian, at which Mr. Tulrumble frowned gloomily.
'What a pity 'tan't in London, ain't it?' said Mrs. Tulrumble,
after a short pause; 'what a pity 'tan't in London, where you might
have had a show.'
'I MIGHT have a show in Mudfog, if I thought proper, I apprehend,'
said Mr. Tulrumble mysteriously.
'Lor! so you might, I declare,' replied Mrs. Tulrumble.
'And a good one too,' said Mr. Tulrumble.
'Delightful!' exclaimed Mrs. Tulrumble.
'One which would rather astonish the ignorant people down there,'
said Mr. Tulrumble.
'It would kill them with envy,' said Mrs. Tulrumble.
So it was agreed that his Majesty's lieges in Mudfog should be
astonished with splendour, and slaughtered with envy, and that such
a show should take place as had never been seen in that town, or in
any other town before,--no, not even in London itself.
On the very next day after the receipt of the letter, down came the
tall postilion in a post-chaise,--not upon one of the horses, but
inside--actually inside the chaise,--and, driving up to the very
door of the town-hall, where the corporation were assembled,
delivered a letter, written by the Lord knows who, and signed by
Nicholas Tulrumble, in which Nicholas said, all through four sides
of closely-written, gilt-edged, hot-pressed, Bath post letter
paper, that he responded to the call of his fellow-townsmen with
feelings of heartfelt delight; that he accepted the arduous office
which their confidence had imposed upon him; that they would never
find him shrinking from the discharge of his duty; that he would
endeavour to execute his functions with all that dignity which
their magnitude and importance demanded; and a great deal more to
the same effect. But even this was not all. The tall postilion
produced from his right-hand top-boot, a damp copy of that
afternoon's number of the county paper; and there, in large type,
running the whole length of the very first column, was a long
address from Nicholas Tulrumble to the inhabitants of Mudfog, in
which he said that he cheerfully complied with their requisition,
and, in short, as if to prevent any mistake about the matter, told
them over again what a grand fellow he meant to be, in very much
the same terms as those in which he had already told them all about
the matter in his letter.
The corporation stared at one another very hard at all this, and
then looked as if for explanation to the tall postilion, but as the
tall postilion was intently contemplating the gold tassel on the
top of his yellow cap, and could have afforded no explanation
whatever, even if his thoughts had been entirely disengaged, they
contented themselves with coughing very dubiously, and looking very
grave. The tall postilion then delivered another letter, in which
Nicholas Tulrumble informed the corporation, that he intended
repairing to the town-hall, in grand state and gorgeous procession,
on the Monday afternoon next ensuing. At this the corporation
looked still more solemn; but, as the epistle wound up with a
formal invitation to the whole body to dine with the Mayor on that
day, at Mudfog Hall, Mudfog Hill, Mudfog, they began to see the fun
of the thing directly, and sent back their compliments, and they'd
be sure to come.
Now there happened to be in Mudfog, as somehow or other there does
happen to be, in almost every town in the British dominions, and
perhaps in foreign dominions too--we think it very likely, but,
being no great traveller, cannot distinctly say--there happened to
be, in Mudfog, a merry-tempered, pleasant-faced, good-for-nothing
sort of vagabond, with an invincible dislike to manual labour, and
an unconquerable attachment to strong beer and spirits, whom
everybody knew, and nobody, except his wife, took the trouble to
quarrel with, who inherited from his ancestors the appellation of
Edward Twigger, and rejoiced in the sobriquet of Bottle-nosed Ned.
He was drunk upon the average once a day, and penitent upon an
equally fair calculation once a month; and when he was penitent, he
was invariably in the very last stage of maudlin intoxication. He
was a ragged, roving, roaring kind of fellow, with a burly form, a
sharp wit, and a ready head, and could turn his hand to anything
when he chose to do it. He was by no means opposed to hard labour
on principle, for he would work away at a cricket-match by the day
together,--running, and catching, and batting, and bowling, and
revelling in toil which would exhaust a galley-slave. He would
have been invaluable to a fire-office; never was a man with such a
natural taste for pumping engines, running up ladders, and throwing
furniture out of two-pair-of-stairs' windows: nor was this the
only element in which he was at home; he was a humane society in
himself, a portable drag, an animated life-preserver, and had saved
more people, in his time, from drowning, than the Plymouth life-
boat, or Captain Manby's apparatus. With all these qualifications,
notwithstanding his dissipation, Bottle-nosed Ned was a general
favourite; and the authorities of Mudfog, remembering his numerous
services to the population, allowed him in return to get drunk in
his own way, without the fear of stocks, fine, or imprisonment. He
had a general licence, and he showed his sense of the compliment by
making the most of it.
We have been thus particular in describing the character and
avocations of Bottle-nosed Ned, because it enables us to introduce
a fact politely, without hauling it into the reader's presence with
indecent haste by the head and shoulders, and brings us very
naturally to relate, that on the very same evening on which Mr.
Nicholas Tulrumble and family returned to Mudfog, Mr. Tulrumble's
new secretary, just imported from London, with a pale face and
light whiskers, thrust his head down to the very bottom of his
neckcloth-tie, in at the tap-room door of the Lighterman's Arms,
and inquiring whether one Ned Twigger was luxuriating within,
announced himself as the bearer of a message from Nicholas
Tulrumble, Esquire, requiring Mr. Twigger's immediate attendance at
the hall, on private and particular business. It being by no means
Mr. Twigger's interest to affront the Mayor, he rose from the
fireplace with a slight sigh, and followed the light-whiskered
secretary through the dirt and wet of Mudfog streets, up to Mudfog
Hall, without further ado.
Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble was seated in a small cavern with a
skylight, which he called his library, sketching out a plan of the
procession on a large sheet of paper; and into the cavern the
secretary ushered Ned Twigger.
'Well, Twigger!' said Nicholas Tulrumble, condescendingly.
There was a time when Twigger would have replied, 'Well, Nick!' but
that was in the days of the truck, and a couple of years before the
donkey; so, he only bowed.
'I want you to go into training, Twigger,' said Mr. Tulrumble.
'What for, sir?' inquired Ned, with a stare.
'Hush, hush, Twigger!' said the Mayor. 'Shut the door, Mr.
Jennings. Look here, Twigger.'
As the Mayor said this, he unlocked a high closet, and disclosed a
complete suit of brass armour, of gigantic dimensions.
'I want you to wear this next Monday, Twigger,' said the Mayor.
'Bless your heart and soul, sir!' replied Ned, 'you might as well
ask me to wear a seventy-four pounder, or a cast-iron boiler.'
'Nonsense, Twigger, nonsense!' said the Mayor.
'I couldn't stand under it, sir,' said Twigger; 'it would make
mashed potatoes of me, if I attempted it.'
'Pooh, pooh, Twigger!' returned the Mayor. 'I tell you I have seen
it done with my own eyes, in London, and the man wasn't half such a
man as you are, either.'
'I should as soon have thought of a man's wearing the case of an
eight-day clock to save his linen,' said Twigger, casting a look of
apprehension at the brass suit.
'It's the easiest thing in the world,' rejoined the Mayor.
'It's nothing,' said Mr. Jennings.
'When you're used to it,' added Ned.
'You do it by degrees,' said the Mayor. 'You would begin with one
piece to-morrow, and two the next day, and so on, till you had got
it all on. Mr. Jennings, give Twigger a glass of rum. Just try
the breast-plate, Twigger. Stay; take another glass of rum first.
Help me to lift it, Mr. Jennings. Stand firm, Twigger! There!--it
isn't half as heavy as it looks, is it?'
Twigger was a good strong, stout fellow; so, after a great deal of
staggering, he managed to keep himself up, under the breastplate,
and even contrived, with the aid of another glass of rum, to walk
about in it, and the gauntlets into the bargain. He made a trial
of the helmet, but was not equally successful, inasmuch as he
tipped over instantly,--an accident which Mr. Tulrumble clearly
demonstrated to be occasioned by his not having a counteracting
weight of brass on his legs.
'Now, wear that with grace and propriety on Monday next,' said
Tulrumble, 'and I'll make your fortune.'
'I'll try what I can do, sir,' said Twigger.
'It must be kept a profound secret,' said Tulrumble.
'Of course, sir,' replied Twigger.
'And you must be sober,' said Tulrumble; 'perfectly sober.' Mr.
Twigger at once solemnly pledged himself to be as sober as a judge,
and Nicholas Tulrumble was satisfied, although, had we been
Nicholas, we should certainly have exacted some promise of a more
specific nature; inasmuch as, having attended the Mudfog assizes in
the evening more than once, we can solemnly testify to having seen
judges with very strong symptoms of dinner under their wigs.
However, that's neither here nor there.
The next day, and the day following, and the day after that, Ned
Twigger was securely locked up in the small cavern with the sky-
light, hard at work at the armour. With every additional piece he
could manage to stand upright in, he had an additional glass of
rum; and at last, after many partial suffocations, he contrived to
get on the whole suit, and to stagger up and down the room in it,
like an intoxicated effigy from Westminster Abbey.
Never was man so delighted as Nicholas Tulrumble; never was woman
so charmed as Nicholas Tulrumble's wife. Here was a sight for the
common people of Mudfog! A live man in brass armour! Why, they
would go wild with wonder!
The day--THE Monday--arrived.
If the morning had been made to order, it couldn't have been better
adapted to the purpose. They never showed a better fog in London
on Lord Mayor's day, than enwrapped the town of Mudfog on that
eventful occasion. It had risen slowly and surely from the green
and stagnant water with the first light of morning, until it
reached a little above the lamp-post tops; and there it had
stopped, with a sleepy, sluggish obstinacy, which bade defiance to
the sun, who had got up very blood-shot about the eyes, as if he
had been at a drinking-party over-night, and was doing his day's
work with the worst possible grace. The thick damp mist hung over
the town like a huge gauze curtain. All was dim and dismal. The
church steeples had bidden a temporary adieu to the world below;
and every object of lesser importance--houses, barns, hedges,
trees, and barges--had all taken the veil.
The church-clock struck one. A cracked trumpet from the front
garden of Mudfog Hall produced a feeble flourish, as if some
asthmatic person had coughed into it accidentally; the gate flew
open, and out came a gentleman, on a moist-sugar coloured charger,
intended to represent a herald, but bearing a much stronger
resemblance to a court-card on horseback. This was one of the
Circus people, who always came down to Mudfog at that time of the
year, and who had been engaged by Nicholas Tulrumble expressly for
the occasion. There was the horse, whisking his tail about,
balancing himself on his hind-legs, and flourishing away with his
fore-feet, in a manner which would have gone to the hearts and
souls of any reasonable crowd. But a Mudfog crowd never was a
reasonable one, and in all probability never will be. Instead of
scattering the very fog with their shouts, as they ought most
indubitably to have done, and were fully intended to do, by
Nicholas Tulrumble, they no sooner recognized the herald, than they
began to growl forth the most unqualified disapprobation at the
bare notion of his riding like any other man. If he had come out
on his head indeed, or jumping through a hoop, or flying through a
red-hot drum, or even standing on one leg with his other foot in
his mouth, they might have had something to say to him; but for a
professional gentleman to sit astride in the saddle, with his feet
in the stirrups, was rather too good a joke. So, the herald was a
decided failure, and the crowd hooted with great energy, as he
pranced ingloriously away.
On the procession came. We are afraid to say how many
supernumeraries there were, in striped shirts and black velvet
caps, to imitate the London watermen, or how many base imitations
of running-footmen, or how many banners, which, owing to the
heaviness of the atmosphere, could by no means be prevailed on to
display their inscriptions: still less do we feel disposed to
relate how the men who played the wind instruments, looking up into
the sky (we mean the fog) with musical fervour, walked through
pools of water and hillocks of mud, till they covered the powdered
heads of the running-footmen aforesaid with splashes, that looked
curious, but not ornamental; or how the barrel-organ performer put
on the wrong stop, and played one tune while the band played
another; or how the horses, being used to the arena, and not to the
streets, would stand still and dance, instead of going on and
prancing;--all of which are matters which might be dilated upon to
great advantage, but which we have not the least intention of
dilating upon, notwithstanding.
Oh! it was a grand and beautiful sight to behold a corporation in
glass coaches, provided at the sole cost and charge of Nicholas
Tulrumble, coming rolling along, like a funeral out of mourning,
and to watch the attempts the corporation made to look great and
solemn, when Nicholas Tulrumble himself, in the four-wheel chaise,
with the tall postilion, rolled out after them, with Mr. Jennings
on one side to look like a chaplain, and a supernumerary on the
other, with an old life-guardsman's sabre, to imitate the sword-
bearer; and to see the tears rolling down the faces of the mob as
they screamed with merriment. This was beautiful! and so was the
appearance of Mrs. Tulrumble and son, as they bowed with grave
dignity out of their coach-window to all the dirty faces that were
laughing around them: but it is not even with this that we have to
do, but with the sudden stopping of the procession at another blast
of the trumpet, whereat, and whereupon, a profound silence ensued,
and all eyes were turned towards Mudfog Hall, in the confident
anticipation of some new wonder.
'They won't laugh now, Mr. Jennings,' said Nicholas Tulrumble.
'I think not, sir,' said Mr. Jennings.
'See how eager they look,' said Nicholas Tulrumble. 'Aha! the
laugh will be on our side now; eh, Mr. Jennings?'
'No doubt of that, sir,' replied Mr. Jennings; and Nicholas
Tulrumble, in a state of pleasurable excitement, stood up in the
four-wheel chaise, and telegraphed gratification to the Mayoress
While all this was going forward, Ned Twigger had descended into
the kitchen of Mudfog Hall for the purpose of indulging the
servants with a private view of the curiosity that was to burst
upon the town; and, somehow or other, the footman was so
companionable, and the housemaid so kind, and the cook so friendly,
that he could not resist the offer of the first-mentioned to sit
down and take something--just to drink success to master in.
So, down Ned Twigger sat himself in his brass livery on the top of
the kitchen-table; and in a mug of something strong, paid for by
the unconscious Nicholas Tulrumble, and provided by the
companionable footman, drank success to the Mayor and his
procession; and, as Ned laid by his helmet to imbibe the something
strong, the companionable footman put it on his own head, to the
immeasurable and unrecordable delight of the cook and housemaid.
The companionable footman was very facetious to Ned, and Ned was
very gallant to the cook and housemaid by turns. They were all
very cosy and comfortable; and the something strong went briskly
At last Ned Twigger was loudly called for, by the procession
people: and, having had his helmet fixed on, in a very complicated
manner, by the companionable footman, and the kind housemaid, and
the friendly cook, he walked gravely forth, and appeared before the
The crowd roared--it was not with wonder, it was not with surprise;
it was most decidedly and unquestionably with laughter.
'What!' said Mr. Tulrumble, starting up in the four-wheel chaise.
'Laughing? If they laugh at a man in real brass armour, they'd
laugh when their own fathers were dying. Why doesn't he go into
his place, Mr. Jennings? What's he rolling down towards us for? he
has no business here!'
'I am afraid, sir--' faltered Mr. Jennings.
'Afraid of what, sir?' said Nicholas Tulrumble, looking up into the
'I am afraid he's drunk, sir,' replied Mr. Jennings.
Nicholas Tulrumble took one look at the extraordinary figure that
was bearing down upon them; and then, clasping his secretary by the
arm, uttered an audible groan in anguish of spirit.
It is a melancholy fact that Mr. Twigger having full licence to
demand a single glass of rum on the putting on of every piece of
the armour, got, by some means or other, rather out of his
calculation in the hurry and confusion of preparation, and drank
about four glasses to a piece instead of one, not to mention the
something strong which went on the top of it. Whether the brass
armour checked the natural flow of perspiration, and thus prevented
the spirit from evaporating, we are not scientific enough to know;
but, whatever the cause was, Mr. Twigger no sooner found himself
outside the gate of Mudfog Hall, than he also found himself in a
very considerable state of intoxication; and hence his
extraordinary style of progressing. This was bad enough, but, as
if fate and fortune had conspired against Nicholas Tulrumble, Mr.
Twigger, not having been penitent for a good calendar month, took
it into his head to be most especially and particularly
sentimental, just when his repentance could have been most
conveniently dispensed with. Immense tears were rolling down his
cheeks, and he was vainly endeavouring to conceal his grief by
applying to his eyes a blue cotton pocket-handkerchief with white
spots,--an article not strictly in keeping with a suit of armour
some three hundred years old, or thereabouts.
'Twigger, you villain!' said Nicholas Tulrumble, quite forgetting
his dignity, 'go back.'
'Never,' said Ned. 'I'm a miserable wretch. I'll never leave
The by-standers of course received this declaration with
acclamations of 'That's right, Ned; don't!'
'I don't intend it,' said Ned, with all the obstinacy of a very
tipsy man. 'I'm very unhappy. I'm the wretched father of an
unfortunate family; but I am very faithful, sir. I'll never leave
you.' Having reiterated this obliging promise, Ned proceeded in
broken words to harangue the crowd upon the number of years he had
lived in Mudfog, the excessive respectability of his character, and
other topics of the like nature.
'Here! will anybody lead him away?' said Nicholas: 'if they'll
call on me afterwards, I'll reward them well.'
Two or three men stepped forward, with the view of bearing Ned off,
when the secretary interposed.
'Take care! take care!' said Mr. Jennings. 'I beg your pardon,
sir; but they'd better not go too near him, because, if he falls
over, he'll certainly crush somebody.'
At this hint the crowd retired on all sides to a very respectful
distance, and left Ned, like the Duke of Devonshire, in a little
circle of his own.
'But, Mr. Jennings,' said Nicholas Tulrumble, 'he'll be
'I'm very sorry for it, sir,' replied Mr. Jennings; 'but nobody can
get that armour off, without his own assistance. I'm quite certain
of it from the way he put it on.'
Here Ned wept dolefully, and shook his helmeted head, in a manner
that might have touched a heart of stone; but the crowd had not
hearts of stone, and they laughed heartily.
'Dear me, Mr. Jennings,' said Nicholas, turning pale at the
possibility of Ned's being smothered in his antique costume--'Dear
me, Mr. Jennings, can nothing be done with him?'
'Nothing at all,' replied Ned, 'nothing at all. Gentlemen, I'm an
unhappy wretch. I'm a body, gentlemen, in a brass coffin.' At
this poetical idea of his own conjuring up, Ned cried so much that
the people began to get sympathetic, and to ask what Nicholas
Tulrumble meant by putting a man into such a machine as that; and
one individual in a hairy waistcoat like the top of a trunk, who
had previously expressed his opinion that if Ned hadn't been a poor
man, Nicholas wouldn't have dared do it, hinted at the propriety of
breaking the four-wheel chaise, or Nicholas's head, or both, which
last compound proposition the crowd seemed to consider a very good
It was not acted upon, however, for it had hardly been broached,
when Ned Twigger's wife made her appearance abruptly in the little
circle before noticed, and Ned no sooner caught a glimpse of her
face and form, than from the mere force of habit he set off towards
his home just as fast as his legs could carry him; and that was not
very quick in the present instance either, for, however ready they
might have been to carry HIM, they couldn't get on very well under
the brass armour. So, Mrs. Twigger had plenty of time to denounce
Nicholas Tulrumble to his face: to express her opinion that he was
a decided monster; and to intimate that, if her ill-used husband
sustained any personal damage from the brass armour, she would have
the law of Nicholas Tulrumble for manslaughter. When she had said
all this with due vehemence, she posted after Ned, who was dragging
himself along as best he could, and deploring his unhappiness in
most dismal tones.
What a wailing and screaming Ned's children raised when he got home
at last! Mrs. Twigger tried to undo the armour, first in one
place, and then in another, but she couldn't manage it; so she
tumbled Ned into bed, helmet, armour, gauntlets, and all. Such a
creaking as the bedstead made, under Ned's weight in his new suit!
It didn't break down though; and there Ned lay, like the anonymous
vessel in the Bay of Biscay, till next day, drinking barley-water,
and looking miserable: and every time he groaned, his good lady
said it served him right, which was all the consolation Ned Twigger
Nicholas Tulrumble and the gorgeous procession went on together to
the town-hall, amid the hisses and groans of all the spectators,
who had suddenly taken it into their heads to consider poor Ned a
martyr. Nicholas was formally installed in his new office, in
acknowledgment of which ceremony he delivered himself of a speech,
composed by the secretary, which was very long, and no doubt very
good, only the noise of the people outside prevented anybody from
hearing it, but Nicholas Tulrumble himself. After which, the
procession got back to Mudfog Hall any how it could; and Nicholas
and the corporation sat down to dinner.
But the dinner was flat, and Nicholas was disappointed. They were
such dull sleepy old fellows, that corporation. Nicholas made
quite as long speeches as the Lord Mayor of London had done, nay,
he said the very same things that the Lord Mayor of London had
said, and the deuce a cheer the corporation gave him. There was
only one man in the party who was thoroughly awake; and he was
insolent, and called him Nick. Nick! What would be the
consequence, thought Nicholas, of anybody presuming to call the
Lord Mayor of London 'Nick!' He should like to know what the
sword-bearer would say to that; or the recorder, or the toast-
master, or any other of the great officers of the city. They'd
But these were not the worst of Nicholas Tulrumble's doings. If
they had been, he might have remained a Mayor to this day, and have
talked till he lost his voice. He contracted a relish for
statistics, and got philosophical; and the statistics and the
philosophy together, led him into an act which increased his
unpopularity and hastened his downfall.
At the very end of the Mudfog High-street, and abutting on the
river-side, stands the Jolly Boatmen, an old-fashioned low-roofed,
bay-windowed house, with a bar, kitchen, and tap-room all in one,
and a large fireplace with a kettle to correspond, round which the
working men have congregated time out of mind on a winter's night,
refreshed by draughts of good strong beer, and cheered by the
sounds of a fiddle and tambourine: the Jolly Boatmen having been
duly licensed by the Mayor and corporation, to scrape the fiddle
and thumb the tambourine from time, whereof the memory of the
oldest inhabitants goeth not to the contrary. Now Nicholas
Tulrumble had been reading pamphlets on crime, and parliamentary
reports,--or had made the secretary read them to him, which is the
same thing in effect,--and he at once perceived that this fiddle
and tambourine must have done more to demoralize Mudfog, than any
other operating causes that ingenuity could imagine. So he read up
for the subject, and determined to come out on the corporation with
a burst, the very next time the licence was applied for.
The licensing day came, and the red-faced landlord of the Jolly
Boatmen walked into the town-hall, looking as jolly as need be,
having actually put on an extra fiddle for that night, to
commemorate the anniversary of the Jolly Boatmen's music licence.
It was applied for in due form, and was just about to be granted as
a matter of course, when up rose Nicholas Tulrumble, and drowned
the astonished corporation in a torrent of eloquence. He descanted
in glowing terms upon the increasing depravity of his native town
of Mudfog, and the excesses committed by its population. Then, he
related how shocked he had been, to see barrels of beer sliding
down into the cellar of the Jolly Boatmen week after week; and how
he had sat at a window opposite the Jolly Boatmen for two days
together, to count the people who went in for beer between the
hours of twelve and one o'clock alone--which, by-the-bye, was the
time at which the great majority of the Mudfog people dined. Then,
he went on to state, how the number of people who came out with
beer-jugs, averaged twenty-one in five minutes, which, being
multiplied by twelve, gave two hundred and fifty-two people with
beer-jugs in an hour, and multiplied again by fifteen (the number
of hours during which the house was open daily) yielded three
thousand seven hundred and eighty people with beer-jugs per day, or
twenty-six thousand four hundred and sixty people with beer-jugs,
per week. Then he proceeded to show that a tambourine and moral
degradation were synonymous terms, and a fiddle and vicious
propensities wholly inseparable. All these arguments he
strengthened and demonstrated by frequent references to a large
book with a blue cover, and sundry quotations from the Middlesex
magistrates; and in the end, the corporation, who were posed with
the figures, and sleepy with the speech, and sadly in want of
dinner into the bargain, yielded the palm to Nicholas Tulrumble,
and refused the music licence to the Jolly Boatmen.
But although Nicholas triumphed, his triumph was short. He carried
on the war against beer-jugs and fiddles, forgetting the time when
he was glad to drink out of the one, and to dance to the other,
till the people hated, and his old friends shunned him. He grew
tired of the lonely magnificence of Mudfog Hall, and his heart
yearned towards the Lighterman's Arms. He wished he had never set
up as a public man, and sighed for the good old times of the coal-
shop, and the chimney corner.
At length old Nicholas, being thoroughly miserable, took heart of
grace, paid the secretary a quarter's wages in advance, and packed
him off to London by the next coach. Having taken this step, he
put his hat on his head, and his pride in his pocket, and walked
down to the old room at the Lighterman's Arms. There were only two
of the old fellows there, and they looked coldly on Nicholas as he
proffered his hand.
'Are you going to put down pipes, Mr. Tulrumble?' said one.
'Or trace the progress of crime to 'bacca?' growled another.
'Neither,' replied Nicholas Tulrumble, shaking hands with them
both, whether they would or not. 'I've come down to say that I'm
very sorry for having made a fool of myself, and that I hope you'll
give me up the old chair, again.'
The old fellows opened their eyes, and three or four more old
fellows opened the door, to whom Nicholas, with tears in his eyes,
thrust out his hand too, and told the same story. They raised a
shout of joy, that made the bells in the ancient church-tower
vibrate again, and wheeling the old chair into the warm corner,
thrust old Nicholas down into it, and ordered in the very largest-
sized bowl of hot punch, with an unlimited number of pipes,
The next day, the Jolly Boatmen got the licence, and the next
night, old Nicholas and Ned Twigger's wife led off a dance to the
music of the fiddle and tambourine, the tone of which seemed
mightily improved by a little rest, for they never had played so
merrily before. Ned Twigger was in the very height of his glory,
and he danced hornpipes, and balanced chairs on his chin, and
straws on his nose, till the whole company, including the
corporation, were in raptures of admiration at the brilliancy of
Mr. Tulrumble, junior, couldn't make up his mind to be anything but
magnificent, so he went up to London and drew bills on his father;
and when he had overdrawn, and got into debt, he grew penitent, and
came home again.
As to old Nicholas, he kept his word, and having had six weeks of
public life, never tried it any more. He went to sleep in the
town-hall at the very next meeting; and, in full proof of his
sincerity, has requested us to write this faithful narrative. We
wish it could have the effect of reminding the Tulrumbles of
another sphere, that puffed-up conceit is not dignity, and that
snarling at the little pleasures they were once glad to enjoy,
because they would rather forget the times when they were of lower
station, renders them objects of contempt and ridicule.
This is the first time we have published any of our gleanings from
this particular source. Perhaps, at some future period, we may
venture to open the chronicles of Mudfog.
FULL REPORT OF THE FIRST MEETING OF THE MUDFOG ASSOCIATION FOR THE
ADVANCEMENT OF EVERYTHING
We have made the most unparalleled and extraordinary exertions to
place before our readers a complete and accurate account of the
proceedings at the late grand meeting of the Mudfog Association,
holden in the town of Mudfog; it affords us great happiness to lay
the result before them, in the shape of various communications
received from our able, talented, and graphic correspondent,
expressly sent down for the purpose, who has immortalized us,
himself, Mudfog, and the association, all at one and the same time.
We have been, indeed, for some days unable to determine who will
transmit the greatest name to posterity; ourselves, who sent our
correspondent down; our correspondent, who wrote an account of the
matter; or the association, who gave our correspondent something to
write about. We rather incline to the opinion that we are the
greatest man of the party, inasmuch as the notion of an exclusive
and authentic report originated with us; this may be prejudice: it
may arise from a prepossession on our part in our own favour. Be
it so. We have no doubt that every gentleman concerned in this
mighty assemblage is troubled with the same complaint in a greater
or less degree; and it is a consolation to us to know that we have
at least this feeling in common with the great scientific stars,
the brilliant and extraordinary luminaries, whose speculations we
We give our correspondent's letters in the order in which they
reached us. Any attempt at amalgamating them into one beautiful
whole, would only destroy that glowing tone, that dash of wildness,
and rich vein of picturesque interest, which pervade them
'Mudfog, Monday night, seven o'clock.
'We are in a state of great excitement here. Nothing is spoken of,
but the approaching meeting of the association. The inn-doors are
thronged with waiters anxiously looking for the expected arrivals;
and the numerous bills which are wafered up in the windows of
private houses, intimating that there are beds to let within, give
the streets a very animated and cheerful appearance, the wafers
being of a great variety of colours, and the monotony of printed
inscriptions being relieved by every possible size and style of
hand-writing. It is confidently rumoured that Professors Snore,
Doze, and Wheezy have engaged three beds and a sitting-room at the
Pig and Tinder-box. I give you the rumour as it has reached me;
but I cannot, as yet, vouch for its accuracy. The moment I have
been enabled to obtain any certain information upon this
interesting point, you may depend upon receiving it.'
I have just returned from a personal interview with the landlord of
the Pig and Tinder-box. He speaks confidently of the probability
of Professors Snore, Doze, and Wheezy taking up their residence at
his house during the sitting of the association, but denies that
the beds have been yet engaged; in which representation he is
confirmed by the chambermaid--a girl of artless manners, and
interesting appearance. The boots denies that it is at all likely
that Professors Snore, Doze, and Wheezy will put up here; but I
have reason to believe that this man has been suborned by the
proprietor of the Original Pig, which is the opposition hotel.
Amidst such conflicting testimony it is difficult to arrive at the
real truth; but you may depend upon receiving authentic information
upon this point the moment the fact is ascertained. The excitement
still continues. A boy fell through the window of the pastrycook's
shop at the corner of the High-street about half an hour ago, which
has occasioned much confusion. The general impression is, that it
was an accident. Pray heaven it may prove so!'
'At an early hour this morning the bells of all the churches struck
seven o'clock; the effect of which, in the present lively state of
the town, was extremely singular. While I was at breakfast, a
yellow gig, drawn by a dark grey horse, with a patch of white over
his right eyelid, proceeded at a rapid pace in the direction of the
Original Pig stables; it is currently reported that this gentleman
has arrived here for the purpose of attending the association, and,
from what I have heard, I consider it extremely probable, although
nothing decisive is yet known regarding him. You may conceive the
anxiety with which we are all looking forward to the arrival of the
four o'clock coach this afternoon.
'Notwithstanding the excited state of the populace, no outrage has
yet been committed, owing to the admirable discipline and
discretion of the police, who are nowhere to be seen. A barrel-
organ is playing opposite my window, and groups of people, offering
fish and vegetables for sale, parade the streets. With these
exceptions everything is quiet, and I trust will continue so.'
'It is now ascertained, beyond all doubt, that Professors Snore,
Doze, and Wheezy will NOT repair to the Pig and Tinder-box, but
have actually engaged apartments at the Original Pig. This
intelligence is EXCLUSIVE; and I leave you and your readers to draw
their own inferences from it. Why Professor Wheezy, of all people
in the world, should repair to the Original Pig in preference to
the Pig and Tinder-box, it is not easy to conceive. The professor
is a man who should be above all such petty feelings. Some people
here openly impute treachery, and a distinct breach of faith to
Professors Snore and Doze; while others, again, are disposed to
acquit them of any culpability in the transaction, and to insinuate
that the blame rests solely with Professor Wheezy. I own that I
incline to the latter opinion; and although it gives me great pain
to speak in terms of censure or disapprobation of a man of such
transcendent genius and acquirements, still I am bound to say that,
if my suspicions be well founded, and if all the reports which have
reached my ears be true, I really do not well know what to make of
'Mr. Slug, so celebrated for his statistical researches, arrived
this afternoon by the four o'clock stage. His complexion is a dark
purple, and he has a habit of sighing constantly. He looked
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