« AnteriorContinuar »
weakly; his face was ghastly pale, and perhaps looked the more so from being slightly pitted with the small-pox: a sickly shadow seemed to dwell always in its valleys; he was very near-sighted-sooth to say, purblind : and he wore perpetual spectacles—i. e. day and night-asleep and awake (that is the just collocation of the words to suit the facts,) and he had that lank, greasy, uncontortible fire-proof hair, against which no curling-iron can prevail, and which is generally supposed to be monopolized by Methodist parsons. Yet the drawing of the countenance was good and pleasant to behold, for the kind-heartedness and honesty that stood mirrored in it were undeniably visible to the most dull and cynical. Sir John possessed many of those negative qualities which are praised as adorning philosophy, and conducing to happiness. He was as much addicted to the 'nil admirari principle as any sage it was ever my fortune to meet. And has not wise Horace told us,
“Not to admire is all the art I know,
To make men happy, and to keep them so !" Sir John saw little to admire, for the natural reason that he could not see much of anything; and he knew as little to admire, because his mental field of view was rather less expanded than his physical He was accordingly as little taken with the gew.gaws of the world as Diogenes the Cynic, ard as insensible to all female blandishments as Charles the Twelfth of Sweden. The only strong feelings he had in addition to those he shared with Bob, namely admiration of his pedigree, love of liquor, and love of Offley's and its glorious noises, were the utmost devotion to two “isms' (the learned reader, we trust will understand the term, and the unlearned believe in it,) and with Sir John they were strictly ‘isms,' and not entities, and these
isms,' were Toryism and Protestantism. It is true he did not understand the least in the world about any political question or creed; but this made him only the firmer an adherent of the politics in which he had been born, inasmuch as he had no doubt or qualms to trouble the serenity of his convictions. He was not much better skilled in the easier science of theology; but this, again, made him all the more disinterested and zealous as a religious partizan. When he arrived at a certain degree of potatory elevation, he never failed, no matter in what company, to endeavour to propose, “The glorious, pious, and immortal memory of the great and good King William, who saved us from popery, slavery, brass money, and wooden shoes!' or else another toast in elevation of the Pope, which em. bodied a votive wish that his Holiness might be put in the pillory, and pelted with priests by our arch-enemy in some convenient corner of his own dominions; and as Sir John had great zeal and unction, and one of the most ear-piercing voices in the world, it was very difficult for his friends to prevent him from carrying his pious designs into execution, no matter how adverse might be the majority of the company. Generally we got him off by declaring stoutly he was Sir Harcourt Lees, and thus, as it were, pleading privilege; but on more than one occasion we had to make a stand-up fight for him.
Upon the borders of Windsor Great Park he had one of the most perfect little places I ever saw in any country. The grounds were exquisite; the scenery all around charming; the house fitted up
with the utmost elegance and comfort. His cousin had laboured to make it in all its details and appointments a perfect thing of its kind; and he succeeded. There was nothing that convenience could require, or taste exact, from the library to the cellar, which was not present in variety and abundance. Yet it was not London; and oh! it was not Оffley's! and he could not, accordingly, bear to exist there. Nine-tenths of his time were, as might be expected, spent in London his days in bed at the Old Bell, Holborn-his nights at Offley's. He confessed a short time before he died at the same Bell, that the only satisfactory week he ever passed at his beautiful lodge was one when he had contrived to fill it with a dozen of the fastest-going of his young friends from town. It was one continuous revel; and I am credibly informed that, what with whiskey-and-water, brandy-and-water, and above all, champagne and claret, there was liquor enough drunk to float the yacht of his deceased relative; and that if the songs sung and speeches made had been only, after the ballad-mongering fashion, printed by the yard, they would have stretched over the whole twenty miles to town. I cannot help recording, upon the part of Sir John, an admirable trait of prudence on that occasion, ere I turn to the more important character of the brother. Sir John, on the party's retiring to rest in a blaze of sunshine, used nevertheless to insist upon being carried by his servants into every man's room to see that the candle was safely put out. Nothing would induce the cautious baronet to seek his own repose until he had performed these rounds. I think this is in its way quite as good as the story of the man who went to light his pipe at the pump, and that of him who took out the
ndle to ascertain the hour on the sun-dial: besides it has the advantage of being true.
I remember poor Sir John seduced me to his Tusculan retreat, on the pretence of enabling me to pass a quiet week for the sake of my healih. And such a salubrious week I certainly never did put in before or since, and never perhaps in the world were there such materials for quietude congregated. Were it only the wear and tear of lung-leather in shouting and laughing, it was enough to knock a man up for a twelvemouth; and the voice of Jack Spenser in trolling forth, Fair maid of Wickham,' or 'Neil Gow's farewell to whiskey,' was in itself sufficient to rouse the sheeted dead,' of the largest cemetery in Europe. Then such and so constant was the popping of corks from the champagne bottles during the whole day until the men subsided into claret, that a fanciful ear might lead you to the belief you were listening to a regiment practising to fire by single files. But to make an end, this quiet week, which fell at the commencement of August, crowned my season, and I was obliged to go regularly to grass for the next six months.
Sir John was not a stoic, though such was his horror of locomotion, that he would have at any time preferred a seat in a porch to a perambulation in the open air on the finest summer day. He was of the sedentary order of philosophers. Bob, on the conirary, was a peripatetic. A peripatetic, however, he was of a very different character from that of those ancient Greeks upon whom the title was conferred. Bob every day of his life made a progress, not much, it is true, after the model of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, or the pro
· Fum the Fourth, our royal bird,'
but still a progress, and of a nature quite as interesting as at least the latter of the others. He moved about from place to place until near two o'clock in the morning, when he settled down steadily at Frawley's for
the remainder of the evening.'. One might have fancied he was a marine, and not an infantry-man, for he counted his time by glasses. He remained at each place he visited the whilst he was employed in emptying one glass of whiskey and water. He then proceeded on his 'rounds; and as the ancient mariner was guided in his course by the stars and constellations, 'the signs and wonders of the heavens,' so was Bob by the signs of public houses. The mode in which I heard him direct an acquaintance of mine on his road to a Sunday-dinner at Chelsea will exemplify this. Bob said, 'When you leave Buckingham Gate, you know, you'll move with right shoulders forward, you know, until you get to « The Gun;" and then you'll go on right a-head, you know, until come to “ The Prince of Wales;" then you'll keep on, you know, till the road turns a little to the right, and you 'll see “ The Three Compasses," you know, before you ; then you 'll go straight again, till you come to “The Duke of York,” you know; and you'll go on, you know, through the Hospital, till you come to Don Saltero's, you know, where the Scotch whiskey is excellent, you know; and Waldie, the landlord, you know, is a fine old fellow; then you 'll go on, and turn up by the
Black Horn,” to a street that will bring you to the “ Cadogan Arms," which you 'll leave on your right, you know, and stretch on to · The Man in the Moon," you know; and when you 're there, you 'll see " The World's End," which is in the common nearly opposite; and if you ask anybody there, he 'll tell you where Tomkins lives, for he has his beer from “ The World's End,"
you There is a love-letter of his in memory, which may serve as an additional illustration of his habitudes. He wrote to his lady-love to inform her gentleness where she might find her faithful swain. But to make the note intelligible, I must inform the reader that, both in writing and speaking, Bob had an utter contempt for prepositions, conjunctions, and such other paltry parts of speech, and generally omitted them. With this explanation, I give the amatory effusion.
· DEAREST JANE,
• Until six o'clock I am the Goat in Boots, and after that the Six Bells, Chelsea.
• Robert RAMBLETON.'
Bob's constant occupation and perennial pleasure consisted in sipping whiskey and water, smoking cigars, and telling lies. He was the most unmitigated liar I ever knew; and yet his lying, like Jack Falstaff's, was of such a peculiar order, that it was impossible to despise him for it. He never said an unkind or an ill-natured thing of any human being. Like Uncle Toby, he would not injure a fly, nor would he even go so far as to give it a bad word. Nor did he ever boast of disastrous chances-of moving accidents by flood and field,' nor vex your ears with stories about Smith or Jones of ours.' No; the field in which Bob used to lie was that of natural history. He consorted with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air: and he would allow no man breathing to outdo him in extolling the powers and wisdom of these his chosen
themes of panegyric. He used to swear that of his own knowledge there was a cock at Nevis, who crowed so shrill and loud that he could be heard at Martinique, and so punctually at the instant of sunrise, that Bob's regiment always fired the gun and set their clocks and watches by him.
Come,' said a man one night at Frawley's, here's Bob Rambleton; now let's have a little natural history Sim Fairfield then proceeded to tell, that when he was in Portugal he fell in with a starling at a nunnery that could repeat one of the penitential psalms. Bob spoke in a very slow somniferous voice, and when he once opened, he never cracked cry whether his audience were asleep or awake until he had exhausted his imagination. Yes,' said Bob, “the starling, you know, is a clever bird; but he is nothing to a cockatoo, you know. When I was quartered at Demerara, in the West Indies, you know, I went out one day to walk in the woods, and there upon the top of a tree, you know, I saw a great big cockatoo. He was a very peculiar fellow, you know; he had a sky-blue bill, and a red back, and green wings, and a black belly, you know, and that was the reason I always knew him again when I saw him. And while this chap and I were looking at each other, you know, and taking marks of each other, up came Tom Macdonnell, of the 23d Fusileers, you know; they wore blue facings, you know, because they were a royal regiment; and says Tom to me, holding out his hand, "How d'ye do, Bob Rambleton ?'' and I said, “ Very well.” And we walked away together, and I thought no more about it. But nearly a month after I happened to walk into the place, and there I saw that same old cockatoo, and says he to me, throwing his head on one side, and casting a knowing look at me, "How d'ye do, Bob Rambleton ?" And then I thought he began to laugh, but I'm not sure of it, you know, and I would not take my oath of it; but this I'll swear to, that all the cursed little cockatoos in the wood, and there were three hundred of them,_all cried out together, “How d'ye do, Bob Rambleton ?" and their screaming was so horrible that it hurt the drum of my ear, and I was deaf for a long time after, and I never dared to show myself in that wood afterwards.
He also told a story very much to the honour of a monkey's sagacity, though not creditable to his honesty. The regiment were in log.huts
, and Bob happened to lose the key of his peculiar domicile. He did not change the lock; he contented himself with getting a new key. After this accident, he was constantly annoyed by the disappearance of sundry portions of his property, and particularly of his cigars. At last the circumstance of his losing his kilt and best dress-coat led to the detection of the thief; for he saw a monkey playing with them on the top of a tree forty feet high, and upon searching this, all his effects were recovered, with the exception of his cigars, which the rascal had smoked. It seems he stole the key, and was in the habit of watching until Bob and his servant Elsworth were out of the way, when he let himself in, took what he fancied, and locked the door carefully as he retired,
Bob was never at a loss in his natural history. Passing a fishmonger's shop with him one day, I asked, 'What the deuce fish is that? I never saw such an ugly fish before.' Nor did Bob either ; but he promptly and gravely replied, • That is the cat-fish, you know, because he comes out of the water, and catches the mice, you know. He belongs to the West Indies, you know.'
He told us one night, that at Honduras there was a tree called the iron tree, because it was harder than iron, and that it was used instead of the metal for various purposes.
* But how,' said old Frawley, 'could it be cut? I'm blowed if you 're not a-going it! Steel would be of no use ag'in it.'
"Oh! they cut it down with itself,' says Bob. * Ay,' retorted Frawley, but how did they get down the first • They burnt it at the root, you know,' rejoined the Captain.
So remote from ill-nature were the feelings of poor Bob, that no man was more given than he to exalting his friends and acquaintance. On coming into Frawley's of an evening, I saw him sitting in a box with a man of colour, a sort of dirtily whitewashed nigger, and I declined the invitation to join him. When this fellow had gone, he took his place near me, and I said, something reproachfully,
• Who was that cursed ugly nigger you were talking to ?'
* That,' replied Bob, 'is Buckatoo, you know. He is master of the horse to the Queen of Madagascar.'
Poor Bob, like Sir John, has glided under the earth, and their branch of the family is extinct. Bob trusted one of those enemies of human kind, an attorney, and he robbed him of every farthing he possessed. He died in a garret, in the rules of the Queen's Bench; and would have died without a drop of toast and water to moisten his lips, and been left to be buried by the parish, if it had not been for the generosity of that noble fellow, the Hon. George Talbot, who is now (alas the while !) like him. self numbered with the dead,
BENTLEIAN GLOSSES. We have great pleasure in complying with the request contained in the following elegant epistle ; and thus proceed to give publication to the effusion of one entitled to all sort of admiration as a proverbial personage—the Wise Child' of the ancient adage. Sir,
I have perused an article in Bentley's Miscellany for this month, entitled • Hore OMeanæ.' Being a son of the late Mr. Offley, I may pretend to know something about him. I therefore assert, that the statements respecting my father in the article in question are LIES !!!
As these statements will have a very extended circulation among Bentley's readers, I request that, for fair play's sake, you will afford a space for this brief communication in the next number.
I am, sir, your obedient servant, 24, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden,
GEORGE OFFLET. March 1, 1841.
THE MAN ABOUT TOWN TO R. BENTLEY, ESQ. Sir,
I thank you for sending me the letter signed George Offley, and think this polite Publican, who has converted bimself into a Scribe, should be allowed to complete the Judaic circle, and proclaim himself a Pharisee. Though he uses what Doctor Johnson was pleased to style the strong language' of Bishop Warburton, namely, 'you lie,' and affects all the indignation of a Lally Tollendal, in vindicating the memory of an illustrious and injured papa, it may be questioned whether the motives which actuated his desire to rush into print were other than envy of Frawley's renown (which the Miscellany has now made immortal,) and his own jealousy of the fame of the great defunct. Proud, sir, am I to feel that for mine old host'
* Exegi monumentum ære perennius,'