In the anecdote "DISADVANTAGEOUS CORRECTION", the point of the tale depends on the difference between an i with a macron (long vowel) and an i with a breve (short vowel) These have been represented as ī and ĭ respectively.
Two changes have been made to the text:
In the anecdote "DR. JOHNSON'S CRITICISMS", one instance of the word "by" was deleted from the passage: "just by by chance".
In "THE MERMAID CLUB", Johnson was changed to Jonson in the passage: "Beaumont fondly lets his thoughts wander in his letter to Jonson..."
BOOKS AND AUTHORS:
Curious Facts and Characteristic Sketches
EDINBURGH: WILLIAM P. NIMMO.
EDINBURGH: MURRAY AND GIBB, PRINTERS TO HER MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE.
Ale, Bishop Still's Praise of 83 A Learned Young Lady 149 Alfieri's Hair 153 Authors, Hard Fate of 59 Authorship, Pains and Toils of 125 Bad's the Best—Canning's Criticism 50 "Beggar's Opera," Origin of the 140 Bell, Death of Sir Charles 46 Blue-Stocking Club, the 10 Boar's Head Tavern, East Cheap, Relics of 115 Boileau's, A Carouse at 147 Bolingbroke at Battersea 112 Bolingbroke, his Creed 55 Booksellers in Little Britain 27 Boswell as the "Bear-leader" 118 Boswell's "Life of Johnson" 99 "Boz" (Dickens), Origin of the Word 99 Bottled Ale, Accidental Origin of 49 Bulwer's Pompeian Drawing-room 84 Bunyan's Copy of the "Book of Martyrs" 53 Bunyan's Escapes 57 Bunyan's Preaching 56 Burney, Miss, her "Evelina" 66 Butler and Buckingham 143 Byron, Lord, his Graceful Apology 39 Byron's "Corsair" 26 Byron and "My Grandmother's Review" 95 Byron's Personal Vanity 37 Canning, A Ludicrous Estimate of 50 Chalmers'(Dr.) Industry 103 Chalmers' Preaching in London 44 Chances for the Drama 68 Chatterton's Profit and Loss Reckoning 136 Classical Pun, A 47 "Clean Hands," Lord Brougham's 79 Clever Statesmen, Swift on 116 Cobbett's Boyhood 121 Coleridge in the Dragoons 120 Coleridge as a Unitarian Preacher 123 Coleridge's "Watchman" 32 Collins' Insanity 129 Collins' Poor Opinion of his Poems 13 Colton the Author of "Lacon" 52 Conscience, A Composition with 133 Copyrights, Value of some 65 Cowley at Chertsey 108 Cowper's "John Gilpin" 58 Cowper's Poems, First Publication of 21 Criticism, Sensitiveness to 142 Curran's Imagination 107 Dangerous Fools 84 Day and his Model Wife 109 Death-bed Revelations 49 Dennis, Conceited Alarms of 132 Devotion to Science 74 Disadvantageous Correction, Lord North's 75 Drollery must be Spontaneous 58 Dryden Drubbed 151 "Edinburgh Review," Origin of the 116 Evelyn's Diary Discovered at Wotton 7 "Felon Literature" 48 Fielding's "Tom Jones" 78 Fine Flourishes, Brougham's Rebuke of 39 Flattery, Moderate 80 Fontenelle's Insensibility 124 Foote's Wooden Leg 88 Fox and Gibbon 25 French-English Jeu-de-mot 81 Fuller's Memory 69 Gibbon's House at Lausanne 98 Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer" 43 Haydn and the Ship Captain 138 Haydn's Diploma Piece at Oxford 139 Hearne's Love of Ale 22 Hervey, Lord, his wit 69 Hone's "Every-day Book" 56 Hoole, the Translator of Tasso 36 Hope's "Anastasius" 51 Ireland's Shakspearian Forgeries 33 Jerrold's Jokes, A String of 130 Jerrold's Rebuke to a Rude Intruder 155 Joe Miller at Court 128 Johnson and Hannah More 11 Johnson's Criticisms 97 Johnson's Latest Contemporaries 105 Johnson's Pretty Compliment to Mrs. Siddons 109 Johnson's Pride 26 Johnson's Residences and Resorts in London 77 Johnson's Wigs 76 Johnson and Lord Elibank 118 Johnson, Relics of, at Lichfield 119 "Junius," Rogers and 152 "Junius' Letters," Who Wrote? 89 Killing no Murder 141 Lamb, Cary's Epitaph on 67 Learning French, Brummell 102 Leigh Hunt and Thomas Carlyle 19 Lewis's "Monk" 42 Literary Coffee-houses in last Century 93 Literary Dinners 17 Literary Localities in London 55 Literary Men, the Families of 9 Locke's Rebuke to the Card-Playing Lords 137 Lope de Vega's Popularity 29 Lope de Vega's Voluminous Writings 28 Lovelace, The Last Days of 134 Mackintosh, Sir James, and Dr. Parr 28 Mackintosh's Humour 28 Magazine, the First 117 Magazines, the Sale of 72 Magna Charta recovered 25 Mathematical Sailors 41 Mermaid Club, The 144 Milton, Relics of 113 Mitford, Miss, her Farewell to Three-Mile Cross 12 Moore's Anacreontic Invitation 70 Moore's Epigram on Abbott 130 Morris, Captain, his Songs 14 Negroes at Home 130 O'Connell's Opinion of the Authorship of "Junius" 92 Patronage of Authors 100 Patronage of Literature in France 75 Payment in Kind 135 Physiognomy of the French Revolutionists 45 Poets in a Puzzle 71 Poetry of the Sea, Campbell on the 47 Pope, A Hard Hit at 150 Popularity of the Pickwick Papers 18 Porson's Memory 146 Quid pro Quo, Turner's 51 Reconciling the Fathers 27 Regality of Genius 77 Repartee, A Smart 52 Rival Remembrance—Gilford and Hazlitt 88 Romilly and Brougham 45 Sale, the Translator of the Koran 133 Shenstone, An Odd Present to 156 Sheridans, The Two 141 Sheridan's Careful Study of his Wit 23 Silence no sure Sign of Wisdom 44 Smith, James, one of the Authors of the "Rejected Addresses" 60, 80 Smollett's Hard Fortunes 154 Smollett's History of England 24 Smollett's "Hugh Strap" 13 Snail Dinner, the 106 Southey's Wife 73 Stammering Witticism, Lamb's 49 Sterne's Sermons 85 Swift's Disappointed Life 18 Swift's Three Loves 31 Thomson's Indolence 148 Thomson's Recitation of his Poetry 42 "Times" Newspaper, Writing up the 114 "Tom Cringle's Log," Authorship of 68 Tom Hill 85 Trimmer, Mrs. 117 Tycho Brahe's Nose 87 Voltairean Relics at Ferney, Sale of 79 Waller, the Courtier-Poet 156 Walton, Izaak, Relics of 82 Washington Irving and Wilkie at the Alhambra 111 "Waverley," the Authorship of 51 Way to Win them, Walpole's 96 Wycherley's Wooing 146
This collection of anecdotes, illustrative sketches, and memorabilia generally, relating to the ever fresh and interesting subject of BOOKS AND AUTHORS, is not presented as complete, nor even as containing all the choice material of its kind. The field from which one may gather is so wide and fertile, that any collection warranting such a claim would far exceed the compass of many volumes, much less of this little book. It has been sought to offer, in an acceptable and convenient form, some of the more remarkable or interesting literary facts or incidents with which one individual, in a somewhat extended reading, has been struck; some of the passages which he has admired; some of the anecdotes and jests that have amused him and may amuse others; some of the reminiscences that it has most pleased him to dwell upon. For no very great portion of the contents of this volume, is the claim to originality of subject-matter advanced. The collection, however, is submitted with some confidence that it may be found as interesting, as accurate, and as much guided by good taste, as it has been endeavoured to make it.
BOOKS AND AUTHORS.
CURIOUS FACTS AND CHARACTERISTIC SKETCHES.
THE FINDING OF JOHN EVELYN'S MS. DIARY AT WOTTON.
The MS. Diary, or "Kalendarium," of the celebrated John Evelyn lay among the family papers at Wotton, in Surrey, from the period of his death, in 1706, until their rare interest and value were discovered in the following singular manner.
The library at Wotton is rich in curious books, with notes in John Evelyn's handwriting, as well as papers on various subjects, and transcripts of letters by the philosopher, who appears never to have employed an amanuensis. The arrangement of these treasures was, many years since, entrusted to the late Mr. Upcott, of the London Institution, who made a complete catalogue of the collection.
One afternoon, as Lady Evelyn and a female companion were seated in one of the fine old apartments of Wotton, making feather tippets, her ladyship pleasantly observed to Mr. Upcott, "You may think this feather-work a strange way of passing time: it is, however, my hobby; and I dare say you, too, Mr. Upcott, have your hobby." The librarian replied that his favourite pursuit was the collection of the autographs of eminent persons. Lady Evelyn remarked, that in all probability the MSS. of "Sylva" Evelyn would afford Mr. Upcott some amusement. His reply may be well imagined. The bell was rung, and a servant desired to bring the papers from a lumber-room of the old mansion; and from one of the baskets so produced was brought to light the manuscript Diary of John Evelyn—one of the most finished specimens of autobiography in the whole compass of English literature.
The publication of the Diary, with a selection of familiar letters, and private correspondence, was entrusted to Mr. William Bray, F.S.A.; and the last sheets of the MS., with a dedication to Lady Evelyn, were actually in the hands of the printer at the hour of her death. The work appeared in 1818; and a volume of Miscellaneous Papers, by Evelyn, was subsequently published, under Mr. Upcott's editorial superintendence.
Wotton House, though situate in the angle of two valleys, is actually on part of Leith Hill, the rise from thence being very gradual. Evelyn's "Diary" contains a pen-and-ink sketch of the mansion as it appeared in 1653.
 See the Frontispiece.
* * * * *
FAMILIES OF LITERARY MEN.
A Quarterly Reviewer, in discussing an objection to the Copyright Bill of Mr. Sergeant Talfourd, which was taken by Sir Edward Sugden, gives some curious particulars of the progeny of literary men. "We are not," says the writer, "going to speculate about the causes of the fact; but a fact it is, that men distinguished for extraordinary intellectual power of any sort rarely leave more than a very brief line of progeny behind them. Men of genius have scarcely ever done so; men of imaginative genius, we might say, almost never. With the one exception of the noble Surrey, we cannot, at this moment, point out a representative in the male line, even so far down as the third generation, of any English poet; and we believe the case is the same in France. The blood of beings of that order can seldom be traced far down, even in the female line. With the exception of Surrey and Spenser, we are not aware of any great English author of at all remote date, from whose body any living person claims to be descended. There is no real English poet prior to the middle of the eighteenth century; and we believe no great author of any sort, except Clarendon and Shaftesbury, of whose blood we have any inheritance amongst us. Chaucer's only son died childless; Shakspeare's line expired in his daughter's only daughter. None of the other dramatists of that age left any progeny; nor Raleigh, nor Bacon, nor Cowley, nor Butler. The grand-daughter of Milton was the last of his blood. Newton, Locke, Pope, Swift, Arbuthnot, Hume, Gibbon, Cowper, Gray, Walpole, Cavendish (and we might greatly extend the list), never married. Neither Bolingbroke, nor Addison, nor Warburton, nor Johnson, nor Burke, transmitted their blood. One of the arguments against a perpetuity in literary property is, that it would be founding another noblesse. Neither jealous aristocracy nor envious Jacobinism need be under such alarm. When a human race has produced its 'bright, consummate flower' in this kind, it seems commonly to be near its end."
* * * * *
THE BLUE-STOCKING CLUB.
Towards the close of the last century, there met at Mrs. Montague's a literary assembly, called "The Blue-Stocking Club," in consequence of one of the most admired of the members, Mr. Benjamin Stillingfleet, always wearing blue stockings. The appellation soon became general as a name for pedantic or ridiculous literary ladies. Hannah More wrote a volume in verse, entitled The Bas Bleu: or Conversation. It proceeds on the mistake of a foreigner, who, hearing of the Blue-Stocking Club, translated it literally Bas Bleu. Johnson styled this poem "a great performance." The following couplets have been quoted, and remembered, as terse and pointed:—
"In men this blunder still you find, All think their little set mankind."
"Small habits well pursued betimes, May reach the dignity of crimes."
* * * * *
DR. JOHNSON AND HANNAH MORE
When Hannah More came to London in 1773, or 1774, she was domesticated with Garrick, and was received with favour by Johnson, Reynolds, and Burke. Her sister has thus described her first interview with Johnson:—
"We have paid another visit to Miss Reynolds; she had sent to engage Dr. Percy, ('Percy's Collection,' now you know him), quite a sprightly modern, instead of a rusty antique, as I expected: he was no sooner gone than the most amiable and obliging of women, Miss Reynolds, ordered the coach to take us to Dr. Johnson's very own house: yes, Abyssinian Johnson! Dictionary Johnson! Ramblers, Idlers, and Irene Johnson! Can you picture to yourselves the palpitation of our hearts as we approached his mansion? The conversation turned upon a new work of his just going to the press (the 'Tour to the Hebrides'), and his old friend Richardson. Mrs. Williams, the blind poet, who lives with him, was introduced to us. She is engaging in her manners, her conversation lively and entertaining. Miss Reynolds told the Doctor of all our rapturous exclamations on the road. He shook his scientific head at Hannah, and said she was 'a silly thing.' When our visit was ended, he called for his hat, as it rained, to attend us down a very long entry to our coach, and not Rasselas could have acquitted himself more en cavalier. I forgot to mention, that not finding Johnson in his little parlour when we came in, Hannah seated herself in his great chair hoping to catch a little ray of his genius: when he heard it, he laughed heartily, and told her it was a chair on which he never sat. He said it reminded him of Boswell and himself when they stopped a night, as they imagined, where the weird sisters appeared to Macbeth. The idea so worked on their enthusiasm, that it quite deprived them of rest. However, they learned the next morning, to their mortification, that they had been deceived, and were quite in another part of the country."
* * * * *
MISS MITFORD'S FAREWELL TO THREE MILE CROSS.
When Miss Mitford left her rustic cottage at Three Mile Cross, and removed to Reading, (the Belford Regis of her novel), she penned the following beautiful picture of its homely joys—
"Farewell, then, my beloved village! the long, straggling street, gay and bright on this sunny, windy April morning, full of all implements of dirt and mire, men, women, children, cows, horses, wagons, carts, pigs, dogs, geese, and chickens—busy, merry, stirring little world, farewell! Farewell to the winding, up-hill road, with its clouds of dust, as horsemen and carriages ascend the gentle eminence, its borders of turf, and its primrosy hedges! Farewell to the breezy common, with its islands of cottages and cottage-gardens; its oaken avenues, populous with rooks; its clear waters fringed with gorse, where lambs are straying; its cricket-ground where children already linger, anticipating their summer revelry; its pretty boundary of field and woodland, and distant farms; and latest and best of its ornaments, the dear and pleasant mansion where dwelt the neighbours, the friends of friends; farewell to ye all! Ye will easily dispense with me, but what I shall do without you, I cannot imagine. Mine own dear village, farewell!"
* * * * *
SMOLLETT'S "HUGH STRAP."
In the year 1809 was interred, in the churchyard of St. Martin's in the Fields, the body of one Hew Hewson, who died at the age of 85. He was the original of Hugh Strap, in Smollett's Roderick Random. Upwards of forty years he kept a hair-dresser's shop in St. Martin's parish; the walls were hung round with Latin quotations, and he would frequently point out to his customers and acquaintances the several scenes in Roderick Random pertaining to himself, which had their origin, not in Smollett's inventive fancy, but in truth and reality. The meeting in a barber's shop at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the subsequent mistake at the inn, their arrival together in London, and the assistance they experienced from Strap's friend, are all facts. The barber left behind an annotated copy of Roderick Random, showing how far we are indebted to the genius of the author, and to what extent the incidents are founded in reality.
* * * * *
Mr. John Ragsdale, of Richmond, in Surrey, who was the intimate friend of Collins, states that some of his Odes were written while on a visit at his, Mr. Ragsdale's house. The poet, however, had such a poor opinion of his own productions, that after showing them to Mr. Ragsdale, he would snatch them from him, and throw them into the fire; and in this way, it is believed, many of Collins's finest pieces were destroyed. Such of his Odes as were published, on his own account in 1746, were not popular; and, disappointed at the slowness of the sale, the poet burnt the remaining copies with his own hands.
* * * * *
CAPTAIN MORRIS'S SONGS.
Alas! poor Morris—writes one—we knew him well. Who that has once read or heard his songs, can forget their rich and graceful imagery; the fertile fancy, the touching sentiment, and the "soul reviving" melody, which characterize every line of these delightful lyrics? Well do we remember, too, his "old buff waistcoat," his courteous manner, and his gentlemanly pleasantry, long after this Nestor of song had retired to enjoy the delights of rural life, despite the prayer of his racy verse:
"In town let me live, then, in town let me die; For in truth I can't relish the country, not I. If one must have a villa in summer to dwell; Oh! give me the sweet, shady side of Pall Mall."
Captain Morris was born about the middle of the last century, and outlived the majority of the bon vivant society which he gladdened with his genius, and lit up with his brilliant humour.
Yet, many readers of the present generation may ask, "Who was Captain Morris?" He was born of good family, in the celebrated year 1745, and appears to have inherited a taste for literary composition; for his father composed the popular song of Kitty Crowder.
For more than half a century, Captain Morris moved in the first circles. He was the "sun of the table" at Carlton House, as well as at Norfolk House; and attaching himself politically, as well as convivially, to his dinner companions, he composed the celebrated ballads of "Billy's too young to drive us," and "Billy Pitt and the Farmer," which continued long in fashion, as brilliant satires upon the ascendant politics of their day. His humorous ridicule of the Tories was, however, but ill repaid by the Whigs upon their accession to office; at least, if we may trust the beautiful ode of "The Old Whig Poet to his Old Buff Waistcoat." We are not aware of this piece being included in any edition of the "Songs." It bears date "G. R., August 1, 1815;" six years subsequent to which we saw it among the papers of the late Alexander Stephens.
Captain Morris's "Songs" were very popular. In 1830, we possessed a copy of the 24th edition; we remember one of the ditties to have been "sung by the Prince of Wales to a certain lady," to the air of "There's a difference between a beggar and a queen." Morris's finest Anacreontic, is the song Ad Poculum, for which he received the gold cup of the Harmonic Society:
"Come thou soul-reviving cup! Try thy healing art; Stir the fancy's visions up, And warm my wasted heart.
Touch with freshening tints of bliss Memory's fading dream; Give me, while thy lip I kiss, The heaven that's in thy stream."
Of the famous Beefsteak Club, (at first limited to twenty-four members, but increased to twenty-five, to admit the Prince of Wales,) Captain Morris was the laureat; of this "Jovial System" he was the intellectual centre. In the year 1831, he bade adieu to the club, in some spirited stanzas, though penned at "an age far beyond mortal lot." In 1835, he was permitted to revisit the club, when they presented him with a large silver bowl, appropriately inscribed.
It would not be difficult to string together gems from the Captain's Lyrics. In "The Toper's Apology," one of his most sparkling songs, occurs this brilliant version of Addison's comparison of wits with flying fish:—
"My Muse, too, when her wings are dry, No frolic flight will take; But round a bowl she'll dip and fly, Like swallows round a lake. Then, if the nymph will have her share Before she'll bless her swain, Why that I think's a reason fair To fill my glass again."
Many years since, Captain Morris retired to a villa at Brockham, near the foot of Box Hill, in Surrey. This property, it is said, was presented to him by his old friend, the Duke of Norfolk. Here the Captain "drank the pure pleasures of the rural life" long after many a bright light of his own time had flickered out, and become almost forgotten; even "the sweet, shady side of Pall Mall" had almost disappeared, and with it the princely house whereat he was wont to shine. He died July 11, 1835, in his ninety-third year, of internal inflammation of only four days.
Morris presented a rare combination of mirth and prudence, such as human conduct seldom offers for our imitation. He retained his gaiete de coeur to the last; so that, with equal truth and spirit, he remonstrated:
"When life charms my heart, must I kindly be told, I'm too gay and too happy for one that's so old."
Captain Morris left his autobiography to his family; but it has not been published.
* * * * *
Incredible as it may appear, it is sometimes stated very confidently, that English authors and actors who give dinners, are treated with greater indulgence by certain critics than those who do not. But, it has never been said that any critical journal in England, with the slightest pretensions to respectability, was in the habit of levying black mail in this Rob Roy fashion, upon writers or articles of any kind. Yet it is alleged, on high authority, that many of the French critical journals are or were principally supported from such a source. For example, there is a current anecdote to the effect that when the celebrated singer Nourrit died, the editor of one of the musical reviews waited on his successor, Duprez, and, with a profusion of compliments and apologies, intimated to him that Nourrit had invariably allowed 2000 francs a year to the review. Duprez, taken rather aback, expressed his readiness to allow half that sum. "Bien, monsieur," said the editor, with a shrug, "mais, parole d'honneur, j'y perds mille francs."
* * * * *
POPULARITY OF THE PICKWICK PAPERS.
Mr. Davy, who accompanied Colonel Cheney up the Euphrates, was for a time in the service of Mehemet Ali Pacha. "Pickwick" happening to reach Davy while he was at Damascus, he read a part of it to the Pacha, who was so delighted with it, that Davy was, on one occasion, called up in the middle of the night to finish the reading of the chapter in which he and the Pacha had been interrupted. Mr. Davy read, in Egypt, upon another occasion, some passages from these unrivalled "Papers" to a blind Englishman, who was in such ecstasy with what he heard, that he exclaimed he was almost thankful he could not see he was in a foreign country; for that while he listened, he felt completely as though he were again in England.—Lady Chatterton.
* * * * *
"I remember when I was a little boy, (writes Swift in a letter to Bolingbroke,) I felt a great fish at the end of my line, which I drew up almost on the ground, but it dropt in, and the disappointment vexes me to this day; and I believe it was the type of all my future disappointments."
"This little incident," writes Percival, "perhaps gave the first wrong bias to a mind predisposed to such impressions; and by operating with so much strength and permanency, it might possibly lay the foundation of the Dean's subsequent peevishness, passion, misanthropy, and final insanity."
* * * * *
LEIGH HUNT AND THOMAS CARLYLE.
The following characteristic story of these two "intellectual gladiators" is related in "A New Spirit of the Age."
Leigh Hunt and Carlyle were once present among a small party of equally well known men. It chanced that the conversation rested with these two, both first-rate talkers, and the others sat well pleased to listen. Leigh Hunt had said something about the islands of the Blest, or El Dorado, or the Millennium, and was flowing on in his bright and hopeful way, when Carlyle dropt some heavy tree-trunk across Hunt's pleasant stream, and banked it up with philosophical doubts and objections at every interval of the speaker's joyous progress. But the unmitigated Hunt never ceased his overflowing anticipations, nor the saturnine Carlyle his infinite demurs to those finite flourishings. The listeners laughed and applauded by turns; and had now fairly pitted them against each other, as the philosopher of Hopefulness and of the Unhopeful. The contest continued with all that ready wit and philosophy, that mixture of pleasantry and profundity, that extensive knowledge of books and character, with their ready application in argument or illustration, and that perfect ease and good-nature, which distinguish each of these men. The opponents were so well matched, that it was quite clear the contest would never come to an end. But the night was far advanced, and the party broke up. They all sallied forth; and leaving the close room, the candles and the arguments behind them, suddenly found themselves in presence of a most brilliant star-light night. They all looked up. "Now," thought Hunt, "Carlyle's done for!—he can have no answer to that!" "There!" shouted Hunt, "look up there! look at that glorious harmony, that sings with infinite voices an eternal song of hope in the soul of man." Carlyle looked up. They all remained silent to hear what he would say. They began to think he was silenced at last—he was a mortal man. But out of that silence came a few low-toned words, in a broad Scotch accent. And who, on earth, could have anticipated what the voice said? "Eh! it's a sad sight!"——Hunt sat down on a stone step. They all laughed—then looked very thoughtful. Had the finite measured itself with infinity, instead of surrendering itself up to the influence? Again they laughed—then bade each other good night, and betook themselves homeward with slow and serious pace. There might be some reason for sadness, too. That brilliant firmament probably contained infinite worlds, each full of struggling and suffering beings—of beings who had to die—for life in the stars implies that those bright worlds should also be full of graves; but all that life, like ours, knowing not whence it came, nor whither it goeth, and the brilliant Universe in its great Movement having, perhaps, no more certain knowledge of itself, nor of its ultimate destination, than hath one of the suffering specks that compose this small spot we inherit.
* * * * *
Johnson, the publisher in St. Paul's Churchyard, obtained the copyright of Cowper's Poems, which proved a great source of profit to him, in the following manner:—One evening, a relation of Cowper's called upon Johnson with a portion of the MS. poems, which he offered for publication, provided Johnson would publish them at his own risk, and allow the author to have a few copies to give to his friends. Johnson read the poems, approved of them, and accordingly published them. Soon after they had appeared, there was scarcely a reviewer who did not load them with the most scurrilous abuse, and condemn them to the butter shops; and the public taste being thus terrified or misled, these charming effusions stood in the corner of the publisher's shop as an unsaleable pile for a long time.
At length, Cowper's relation called upon Johnson with another bundle of the poet's MS, which was offered and accepted upon the same terms as before. In this fresh collection was the poem of the "Task." Not alarmed at the fate of the former publication, but thoroughly assured of the great merit of the poems, they were published. The tone of the reviewers became changed, and Cowper was hailed as the first poet of the age. The success of this second publication set the first in motion. Johnson immediately reaped the fruits of his undaunted judgment; and Cowper's poems enriched the publisher, when the poet was in languishing circumstances. In October, 1812, the copyright of Cowper's poems was put up to sale among the London booksellers, in thirty-two shares. Twenty of the shares were sold at 212l. each. The work, consisting of two octavo volumes, was satisfactorily proved at the sale to net 834l. per annum. It had only two years of copyright; yet this same copyright produced the sum of 6764l.
* * * * *
HEARNE'S LOVE OF ALE.
Thomas Warton, in his Account of Oxford, relates that at the sign of Whittington and his Cat, the laborious antiquary, Thomas Hearne, "one evening suffered himself to be overtaken in liquor. But, it should be remembered, that this accident was more owing to his love of antiquity than of ale. It happened that the kitchen where he and his companion were sitting was neatly paved with sheep's trotters disposed in various compartments. After one pipe, Mr. Hearne, consistently with his usual gravity and sobriety, rose to depart; but his friend, who was inclined to enjoy more of his company, artfully observed, that the floor on which they were then sitting was no less than an original tesselated Roman pavement. Out of respect to classic ground, and on recollection that the Stunsfield Roman pavement, on which he had just published a dissertation, was dedicated to Bacchus, our antiquary cheerfully complied; an enthusiastic transport seized his imagination; he fell on his knees and kissed the sacred earth, on which, in a few hours, and after a few tankards, by a sort of sympathetic attraction, he was obliged to repose for some part of the evening. His friend was, probably, in the same condition; but two printers accidentally coming in, conducted Mr. Hearne, between them, to Edmund's Hall, with much state and solemnity."
* * * * *
Sheridan's wit was eminently brilliant, and almost always successful; it was, like all his speaking, exceedingly prepared, but it was skilfully introduced and happily applied; and it was well mingled, also, with humour, occasionally descending to farce. How little it was the inspiration of the moment all men were aware who knew his habits; but a singular proof of this was presented to Mr. Moore, when he came to write his life; for we there find given to the world, with a frankness which must have almost made their author shake in his grave, the secret note-books of this famous wit; and are thus enabled to trace the jokes, in embryo, with which he had so often made the walls of St. Stephen's shake, in a merriment excited by the happy appearance of sudden unpremeditated effusion.—Lord Brougham.
Take an instance from this author, giving extracts from the common-place book of the wit:—"He employs his fancy in his narrative, and keeps his recollections for his wit." Again, the same idea is expanded into "When he makes his jokes, you applaud the accuracy of his memory, and 'tis only when he states his facts that you admire the flights of his imagination." But the thought was too good to be thus wasted on the desert air of a common-place book. So, forth it came, at the expense of Kelly, who, having been a composer of music, became a wine-merchant. "You will," said the ready wit, "import your music and compose your wine." Nor was this service exacted from the old idea thought sufficient; so, in the House of Commons, an easy and, apparently, off-hand parenthesis was thus filled with it, at Mr. Dundas's cost and charge, "who generally resorts to his memory for his jokes, and to his imagination for his facts."
* * * * *
SMOLLETT'S HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
This man of genius among trading authors, before he began his History of England, wrote to the Earl of Shelburne, then in the Whig Administration, offering, if the Earl would procure for his work the patronage of the Government, he would accommodate his politics to the Ministry; but if not, that he had high promises of support from the other party. Lord Shelburne, of course, treated the proffered support of a writer of such accommodating principles with contempt; and the work of Smollett, accordingly, became distinguished for its high Toryism. The history was published in sixpenny weekly numbers, of which 20,000 copies were sold immediately. This extraordinary popularity was created by the artifice of the publisher. He is stated to have addressed a packet of the specimens of the publication to every parish-clerk in England, carriage-free, with half-a-crown enclosed as a compliment, to have them distributed through the pews of the church: this being generally done, many people read the specimens instead of listening to the sermon, and the result was an universal demand for the work.
* * * * *
MAGNA CHARTA RECOVERED.
The transcript of Magna Charta, now in the British Museum, was discovered by Sir Robert Cotton in the possession of his tailor, who was just about to cut the precious document out into "measures" for his customers. Sir Robert redeemed the valuable curiosity at the price of old parchment, and thus recovered what had long been supposed to be irretrievably lost.
* * * * *
FOX AND GIBBON.
When Mr. Fox's furniture was sold by auction, after his decease in 1806, amongst his books there was the first volume of his friend Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: by the title-page, it appeared to have been presented by the author to Fox, who, on the blank leaf, had written this anecdote of the historian:—"The author, at Brookes's, said there was no salvation for this country until six heads of the principal persons in administration were laid upon the table. Eleven days after, this same gentleman accepted a place of lord of trade under those very ministers, and has acted with them ever since!" Such was the avidity of bidders for the most trifling production of Fox's genius, that, by the addition of this little record, the book sold for three guineas.
* * * * *
DR. JOHNSON'S PRIDE.
Sir Joshua Reynolds used to relate the following characteristic anecdote of Johnson:—About the time of their early acquaintance, they met one evening at the Misses Cotterell's, when the Duchess of Argyll and another lady of rank came in. Johnson, thinking that the Misses Cotterell were too much engrossed by them, and that he and his friend were neglected as low company, of whom they were somewhat ashamed, grew angry, and, resolving to shock their suspected pride, by making the great visitors imagine they were low indeed, Johnson addressed himself in a loud tone to Reynolds, saying, "How much do you think you and I could get in a week if we were to work as hard as we could?" just as though they were ordinary mechanics.
* * * * *
LORD BYRON'S "CORSAIR."
The Earl of Dudley, in his Letters, (1814) says:—"To me Byron's Corsair appears the best of all his works. Rapidity of execution is no sort of apology for doing a thing ill, but when it is done well, the wonder is so much the greater. I am told he wrote this poem at ten sittings—certainly it did not take him more than three weeks. He is a most extraordinary person, and yet there is G. Ellis, who don't feel his merit. His creed in modern poetry (I should have said contemporary) is Walter Scott, all Walter Scott, and nothing but Walter Scott. I cannot say how I hate this petty, factious spirit in literature—it is so unworthy of a man so clever and so accomplished as Ellis undoubtedly is."
* * * * *
BOOKSELLERS IN LITTLE BRITAIN.
Little Britain, anciently Breton-street, from the mansion of the Duke of Bretagne on that spot, in more modern times became the "Paternoster-row" of the booksellers; and a newspaper of 1664 states them to have published here within four years, 464 pamphlets. One Chiswell, resident here in 1711, was the metropolitan bookseller, "the Longman" of his time: and here lived Rawlinson ("Tom Folio" of The Tatler, No. 158), who stuffed four chambers in Gray's Inn so full, that his bed was removed into the passage. John Day, the famous early printer, lived "over Aldersgate."
* * * * *
RECONCILING THE FATHERS.
A Dean of Gloucester having some merry divines at dinner with him one day, amongst other discourses they were talking of reconciling the Fathers on some points; he told them he could show them the best way in the world to reconcile them on all points of difference; so, after dinner, he carried them into his study, and showed them all the Fathers, classically ordered, with a quart of sack betwixt each of them.
* * * * *
DR. PARR AND SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH.
Sir James once asked Dr. Parr to join him in a drive in his gig. The horse growing restive—"Gently, Jemmy," the Doctor said; "don't irritate him; always soothe your horse, Jemmy. You'll do better without me. Let me down, Jemmy!" But once safe on the ground—"Now, Jemmy," said the Doctor, "touch him up. Never let a horse get the better of you. Touch him up, conquer him, do not spare him. And now I'll leave you to manage him; I'll walk back."
* * * * *
SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH'S HUMOUR.
Sir James Mackintosh had a great deal of humour; and, among many other examples of it, he kept a dinner-party at his own house for two or three hours in a roar of laughter, playing upon the simplicity of a Scotch cousin, who had mistaken the Rev. Sydney Smith for his gallant synonym, the hero of Acre.
* * * * *
WRITINGS OF LOPE DE VEGA.
The number of Lope de Vega's works has been strangely exaggerated by some, but by others reduced to about one-sixth of the usual statement. Upon this computation it will be found that some of his contemporaries were as prolific as himself. Vincent Mariner, a friend of Lope, left behind him 360 quires of paper full of his own compositions, in a writing so exceedingly small, and so exceedingly bad, that no person but himself could read it. Lord Holland has given a facsimile of Lope's handwriting, and though it cannot be compared to that of a dramatist of late times, one of whose plays, in the original manuscript, is said to be a sufficient load for a porter, it is evident that one of Mariner's pages would contain as much as a sheet of his friend's, which would, as nearly as possible, balance the sum total. But, upon this subject, an epigram by Quarles may be applied, written upon a more serious theme:
"In all our prayers the Almighty does regard The judgment of the balance, not the yard; He loves not words, but matter; 'tis his pleasure To buy his wares by weight, not by measure."
With regard to the quantity of Lope's writings, a complete edition of them would not much, if at all, exceed those of Voltaire, who, in labour of composition, for he sent nothing into the world carelessly, must have greatly exceeded Lope. And the labours of these men shrink into insignificance when compared to those of some of the schoolmen and of the Fathers.
* * * * *
POPULARITY OF LOPE DE VEGA.
Other writers, of the same age with Lope de Vega, obtained a wider celebrity. Don Quixote, during the life of its ill-requited author, was naturalized in countries where the name of Lope de Vega was not known, and Du Bartas was translated into the language of every reading people. But no writer ever has enjoyed such a share of popularity.
"Cardinal Barberini," says Lord Holland, "followed Lope with veneration in the streets; the king would stop to gaze at such a prodigy; the people crowded round him wherever he appeared; the learned and studious thronged to Madrid from every part of Spain to see this phoenix of their country, this monster of literature; and even Italians, no extravagant admirers, in general, of poetry that is not their own, made pilgrimages from their country for the sole purpose of conversing with Lope. So associated was the idea of excellence with his name, that it grew, in common conversation, to signify anything perfect in its kind; and a Lope diamond, a Lope day, or a Lope woman, became fashionable and familiar modes of expressing their good qualities."
Lope's death produced an universal commotion in the court and in the whole kingdom. Many ministers, knights, and prelates were present when he expired; among others, the Duke of Sesa, who had been the most munificent of his patrons, whom he appointed his executor, and who was at the expense of his funeral, a mode by which the great men in that country were fond of displaying their regard for men of letters. It was a public funeral, and it was not performed till the third day after his death, that there might be time for rendering it more splendid, and securing a more honourable attendance. The grandees and nobles who were about the court were all invited as mourners; a novenary or service of nine days was performed for him, at which the musicians of the royal chapel assisted; after which there were exequies on three successive days, at which three bishops officiated in full pontificals; and on each day a funeral sermon was preached by one of the most famous preachers of the age. Such honours were paid to the memory of Lope de Vega, one of the most prolific, and, during his life, the most popular, of all poets, ancient or modern.
* * * * *
The first of these ladies, whom Swift romantically christened Varina, was a Miss Jane Waryng, to whom he wrote passionate letters, and whom, when he had succeeded in gaining her affections, he deserted, after a sort of seven years' courtship. The next flame of the Dean's was the well-known Miss Esther Johnson, whom he fancifully called Stella. Somehow, he had the address to gain her decided attachment to him, though considerably younger, beautiful in person, accomplished, and estimable. He dangled upon her, fed her hopes of an union, and at length persuaded her to leave London and reside near him in Ireland. His conduct then was of a piece with the rest of his life: he never saw her alone, never slept under the same roof with her, but allowed her character and reputation to be suspected, in consequence of their intimacy; nor did he attempt to remove such by marriage until a late period of his life, when, to save her from dissolution, he consented to the ceremony, upon condition that it should never be divulged; that she should live as before; retain her own name, &c.; and this wedding, upon the above being assented to, was performed in a garden! But Swift never acknowledged her till the day of his death. During all this treatment of his Stella, Swift had ingratiated himself with a young lady of fortune and fashion in London, whose name was Vanhomrig, and whom he called Vanessa. It is much to be regretted that the heartless tormentor should have been so ardently and passionately beloved, as was the case with the latter lady. Selfish, hardhearted as was Swift, he seemed but to live in disappointing others. Such was his coldness and brutality to Vanessa, that he may be said to have caused her death.
* * * * *
Coleridge, among his many speculations, started a periodical, in prose and verse, entitled The Watchman, with the motto, "that all might know the truth, and that the truth might make us free." He watched in vain! Coleridge's incurable want of order and punctuality, and his philosophical theories, tired out and disgusted his readers, and the work was discontinued after the ninth number. Of the unsaleable nature of this publication, he relates an amusing illustration. Happening one morning to rise at an earlier hour than usual, he observed his servant-girl putting an extravagant quantity of paper into the grate, in order to light the fire, and he mildly checked her for her wastefulness: "La! sir," replied Nanny; "why, it's only Watchmen."
* * * * *
IRELAND'S SHAKSPEARE FORGERIES.
Mr. Samuel Ireland, originally a silk merchant in Spitalfields, was led by his taste for literary antiquities to abandon trade for those pursuits, and published several tours. One of them consisted of an excursion upon the river Avon, during which he explored, with ardent curiosity, every locality associated with Shakspeare. He was accompanied by his son, a youth of sixteen, who imbibed a portion of his father's Shakspearean mania. The youth, perceiving the great importance which his parent attached to every relic of the poet, and the eagerness with which he sought for any of his MS. remains, conceived that it would not be difficult to gratify his father by some productions of his own, in the language and manner of Shakspeare's time. The idea possessed his mind for a certain period; and, in 1793, being then in his eighteenth year, he produced some MSS. said to be in the handwriting of Shakspeare, which he said had been given him by a gentleman possessed of many other old papers. The young man, being articled to a solicitor in Chancery, easily fabricated, in the first instance, the deed of mortgage from Shakspeare to Michael Fraser. The ecstasy expressed by his father urged him to the fabrication of other documents, described to come from the same quarter. Emboldened by success, he ventured upon higher compositions in prose and verse; and at length announced the discovery of an original drama, under the title of Vortigern, which he exhibited, act by act, written in the period of two months. Having provided himself with the paper of the period, (being the fly-leaves of old books,) and with ink prepared by a bookbinder, no suspicion was entertained of the deception. The father, who was a maniac upon such subjects, gave such eclat to the supposed discovery, that the attention of the literary world, and all England, was drawn to it; insomuch that the son, who had announced other papers, found it impossible to retreat, and was goaded into the production of the series which he had promised.
The house of Mr. Ireland, in Norfolk-street, Strand, was daily crowded to excess by persons of the highest rank, as well as by the most celebrated men of letters. The MSS. being mostly decreed genuine, were considered to be of inestimable worth; and at one time it was expected that Parliament would give any required sum for them. Some conceited amateurs in literature at length sounded an alarm, which was echoed by certain of the newspapers and public journals; notwithstanding which, Mr. Sheridan agreed to give 600l. for permission to play Vortigern at Drury-lane Theatre. So crowded a house was scarcely ever seen as on the night of the performance, and a vast number of persons could not obtain admission. The predetermined malcontents began an opposition from the outset: some ill-cast characters converted grave scenes into ridicule, and there ensued between the believers and sceptics a contest which endangered the property. The piece was, accordingly, withdrawn.
The juvenile author was now so beset for information, that he found it necessary to abscond from his father's house; and then, to put an end to the wonderful ferment which his ingenuity had created, he published a pamphlet, wherein he confessed the entire fabrication. Besides Vortigern, young Ireland also produced a play of Henry II.; and, although there were in both such incongruities as were not consistent with Shakspeare's age, both dramas contain passages of considerable beauty and originality.
The admissions of the son did not, however, screen the father from obloquy, and the reaction of public opinion affected his fortunes and his health. Mr. Ireland was the dupe of his zeal upon such subjects; and the son never contemplated at the outset the unfortunate effect. Such was the enthusiasm of certain admirers of Shakspeare, (among them Drs. Parr and Warton,) that they fell upon their knees before the MSS.; and, by their idolatry, inspired hundreds of others with similar enthusiasm. The young author was filled with astonishment and alarm, which at that stage it was not in his power to check. Sir Richard Phillips, who knew the parties, has thus related the affair in the Anecdote Library.
In the Catalogue of Dr. Parr's Library at Hatton, (Bibliotheca Parriana,) we find the following attempted explanation by the Doctor:—
"Ireland's (Samuel) 'Great and impudent forgery, called,' Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments, under the hand and seal of William Shakspeare, folio 1796.
"I am almost ashamed to insert this worthless and infamously trickish book. It is said to include the tragedy of King Lear, and a fragment of Hamlet. Ireland told a lie when he imputed to me the words which Joseph Warton used, the very morning I called on Ireland, and was inclined to admit the possibility of genuineness in his papers. In my subsequent conversation, I told him my change of opinion. But I thought it not worth while to dispute in print with a detected impostor.—S. P."
Mr. Ireland died about 1802. His son, William Henry, long survived him; but the forgeries blighted his literary reputation for ever, and he died in straitened circumstances, about the year 1840. The reputed Shakspearean MSS. are stated to have been seen for sale in a pawnbroker's window in Wardour-street, Soho.
* * * * *
HOOLE, THE TRANSLATOR OF TASSO. THE GHOST PUZZLED.
Hoole was born in a hackney-coach, which was conveying his mother to Drury-lane Theatre, to witness the performance of the tragedy of Timanthes, which had been written by her husband. Hoole died in 1839, at a very advanced age. In early life, he ranked amongst the literary characters that adorned the last century; and, for some years before his death, had outlived most of the persons who frequented the conversazioni of Dr. Johnson. By the will of the Doctor, Mr. Hoole was enabled to take from his library and effects such books and furniture as he might think proper to select, by way of memorial of that great personage. He accordingly chose a chair in which Dr. Johnson usually sat, and the desk upon which he had written the greater number of the papers of the Rambler; both these articles Mr. Hoole used constantly until nearly the day of his death.
Hoole was near-sighted. He was partial to the drama; and, when young, often strutted his hour at an amateur theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Upon one occasion, whilst performing the ghost in Hamlet, Mr. Hoole wandered incautiously from off the trap-door through which he had emerged from the nether world, and by which it was his duty to descend. In this dilemma he groped about, hoping to distinguish the aperture, keeping the audience in wonder why he remained so long on the stage after the crowing of the cock. It was apparent from the lips of the ghost that he was holding converse with some one at the wings. He at length became irritated, and "alas! poor ghost!" ejaculated, in tones sufficiently audible, "I tell you I can't find it." The laughter that ensued may be imagined. The ghost, had he been a sensible one, would have walked off; but no—he became more and more irritated, until the perturbed spirit was placed, by some of the bystanders, on the trap-door, after which it descended, with due solemnity, amid roars of laughter.
* * * * *
LORD BYRON'S VANITY
During the residence of Lord Byron at Venice, a clerk was sent from the office of Messrs. Vizard and Co., of Lincoln's Inn, to procure his lordship's signature to a legal instrument. On his arrival, the clerk sent a message to the noble poet, who appointed to receive him on the following morning. Each party was punctual to the minute. His lordship had dressed himself with the most studious care; and, on the opening of the door of his apartment, it was evident that he had placed himself in what he thought a becoming pose. His right arm was displayed over the back of a splendid couch, and his head was gently supported by the fingers of his left hand. He bowed slightly as his visitor approached him, and appeared anxious that his recumbent attitude should remain for a time undisturbed. After the signing of the deed, the noble bard made a few inquiries upon the politics of England, in the tone of a finished exquisite. Some refreshment which was brought in afforded the messenger an opportunity for more minute observation. His lordship's hair had been curled and parted on the forehead; the collar of his shirt was thrown back, so that not only the throat but a considerable portion of his bosom was exposed to view, though partially concealed by some fanciful ornament suspended round the neck. His waistcoat was of costly velvet, and his legs were enveloped in a superb wrapper. It is to be regretted that so great a mind as that of Byron could derive satisfaction from things so trivial and unimportant, but much more that it was liable to be disturbed by a recollection of personal imperfections. In the above interview, the clerk directed an accidental glance at his lordship's lame foot, when the smile that had played upon the visage of the poet became suddenly converted into a frown. His whole frame appeared discomposed; his tone of affected suavity became hard and imperious; and he called to an attendant to open the door, with a peevishness seldom exhibited even by the most irritable.
* * * * *
LORD BYRON'S APOLOGY.
No one knew how to apologize for an affront with better grace, or with more delicacy, than Lord Byron. In the first edition of the first canto of Childe Harold, the poet adverted in a note to two political tracts—one by Major Pasley, and the other by Gould Francis Leckie, Esq.; and concluded his remarks by attributing "ignorance on the one hand, and prejudice on the other." Mr. Leckie, who felt offended at the severity and, as he thought, injustice of the observations, wrote to Lord Byron, complaining of the affront. His lordship did not reply immediately to the letter; but, in about three weeks, he called upon Mr. Leckie, and begged him to accept an elegantly-bound copy of a new edition of the poem, in which the offensive passage was omitted.
* * * * *
Lord Brougham, in an essay published long ago in the Edinburgh Review, read a smart lesson to Parliamentary wits. "A wit," says his lordship, "though he amuses for the moment, unavoidably gives frequent offence to grave and serious men, who don't think public affairs should be lightly handled, and are constantly falling into the error that when a person is arguing the most conclusively, by showing the gross and ludicrous absurdity of his adversary's reasoning, he is jesting, and not arguing; while the argument is, in reality, more close and stringent, the more he shows the opposite picture to be grossly ludicrous—that is, the more effective the wit becomes. But, though all this is perfectly true, it is equally certain that danger attends such courses with the common run of plain men.
"Nor is it only by wit that genius offends: flowers of imagination, flights of oratory, great passages, are more admired by the critic than relished by the worthy baronets who darken the porch of Boodle's—chiefly answering to the names of Sir Robert and Sir John—and the solid traders, the very good men who stream along the Strand from 'Change towards St. Stephen's Chapel, at five o'clock, to see the business of the country done by the Sovereign's servants. A pretty long course of observation on these component parts of a Parliamentary audience begets some doubt if noble passages, (termed 'fine flourishes,') be not taken by them as personally offensive."
Take, for example, "such fine passages as Mr. Canning often indulged himself and a few of his hearers with; and which certainly seemed to be received as an insult by whole benches of men accustomed to distribute justice at sessions. These worthies, the dignitaries of the empire, resent such flights as liberties taken with them; and always say, when others force them to praise—'Well, well, but it was out of place; we have nothing to do with king Priam here, or with a heathen god, such as AEolus; those kind of folk are all very well in Pope's Homer and Dryden's Virgil; but, as I said to Sir Robert, who sat next me, what have you or I to do with them matters? I like a good plain man of business, like young Mr. Jenkinson—a man of the pen and desk, like his father was before him—and who never speaks when he is not wanted: let me tell you, Mr. Canning speaks too much by half. Time is short—there are only twenty four hours in the day, you know.'"
* * * * *
Nathaniel Bowditch, the translator of Laplace's Mecanique Celeste, displayed in very early life a taste for mathematical studies. In the year 1788, when he was only fifteen years old, he actually made an almanack for the year 1790, containing all the usual tables, calculations of the eclipses, and other phenomena, and even the customary predictions of the weather.
Bowditch was bred to the sea, and in his early voyages taught navigation to the common sailors about him. Captain Prince, with whom he often sailed, relates, that one day the supercargo of the vessel said to him, "Come, Captain, let us go forward and hear what the sailors are talking about under the lee of the long-boat." They went forward accordingly, and the captain was surprised to find the sailors, instead of spinning their long yarns, earnestly engaged with book, slate, and pencil, discussing the high matters of tangents and secants, altitudes, dip, and refraction. Two of them, in particular, were very zealously disputing,—one of them calling out to the other, "Well, Jack, what have you got?" "I've got the sine," was the answer. "But that ain't right," said the other; "I say it is the cosine."
* * * * *
This romance, on its first appearance, roused the attention of all the literary world of England, and even spread its writer's name to the continent. The author—"wonder-working Lewis," was a stripling under twenty when he wrote The Monk in the short space of ten weeks! Sir Walter Scott, probably the most rapid composer of fiction upon record, hardly exceeded this, even in his latter days, when his facility of writing was the greatest.
* * * * *
Thomson, the author of the "Seasons," was a very awkward reader of his own productions. His patron, Doddington, once snatched a MS. from his hand, provoked by his odd utterance, telling him that he did not understand his own verses! A gentleman of Brentford, however, told the late Dr. Evans, in 1824, that there was a tradition in that town of Thomson frequenting one of the inns there, and reciting his poems to the company.
* * * * *
GOLDSMITH'S "SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER."
Goldsmith, during the first performance of this comedy, walked all the time in St. James' Park in great uneasiness. Finally, when he thought that it must be over, hastening to the theatre, hisses assailed his ears as he entered the green-room. Asking in eager alarm of Colman the cause—"Pshaw, pshaw!" said Colman, "don't be afraid of squibs, when we have been sitting on a barrel of gunpowder for two hours." The comedy had completely triumphed—the audience were only hissing the after farce. Goldsmith had some difficulty in getting the piece on the stage, as appears from the following letter to Colman:—"I entreat you'll relieve me from that state of suspense in which I have been kept for a long time. Whatever objections you have made, or shall make, to my play, I will endeavour to remove, and not argue about them. To bring in any new judges either of its merits or faults, I can never submit to. Upon a former occasion, when my other play was before Mr. Garrick, he offered to bring me before Mr. Whitehead's tribunal, but I refused the proposal with indignation. I hope I shall not experience as hard treatment from you, as from him. I have, as you know, a large sum of money to make up shortly; by accepting my play, I can readily satisfy my creditor that way; at any rate, I must look about to some certainty to be prepared. For God's sake take the play, and let us make the best of it; and let me have the same measure at least which you have given as bad plays as mine."
* * * * *
SILENCE NOT ALWAYS WISDOM.
Coleridge once dined in company with a person who listened to him, and said nothing for a long time; but he nodded his head, and Coleridge thought him intelligent. At length, towards the end of the dinner, some apple dumplings were placed on the table, and the listener had no sooner seen them than he burst forth, "Them's the jockeys for me!" Coleridge adds: "I wish Spurzheim could have examined the fellow's head."
Coleridge was very luminous in conversation, and invariably commanded listeners; yet the old lady rated his talent very lowly, when she declared she had no patience with a man who would have all the talk to himself.
* * * * *
DR. CHALMERS IN LONDON.
When Dr. Chalmers first visited London, the hold that he took on the minds of men was unprecedented. It was a time of strong political feeling; but even that was unheeded, and all parties thronged to hear the Scottish preacher. The very best judges were not prepared for the display that they heard. Canning and Wilberforce went together, and got into a pew near the door. The elder in attendance stood alone by the pew. Chalmers began in his usual unpromising way, by stating a few nearly self-evident propositions, neither in the choicest language, nor in the most impressive voice. "If this be all," said Canning to his companion, "it will never do." Chalmers went on—the shuffling of the conversation gradually subsided. He got into the mass of his subject; his weakness became strength, his hesitation was turned into energy; and, bringing the whole volume of his mind to bear upon it, he poured forth a torrent of the most close and conclusive argument, brilliant with all the exuberance of an imagination which ranged over all nature for illustrations, and yet managed and applied each of them with the same unerring dexterity, as if that single one had been the study of a whole life. "The tartan beats us," said Mr. Canning; "we have no preaching like that in England."
* * * * *
ROMILLY AND BROUGHAM.
Hallam's History of the Middle Ages was the last book of any importance read by Sir Samuel Romilly. Of this excellent work he formed the highest opinion, and recommended its immediate perusal to Lord Brougham, as a contrast to his dry Letter on the Abuses of Charities, in respect of the universal interest of the subject. Yet, Sir Samuel undervalued the Letter, for it ran through eight editions in one month.
* * * * *
PHYSIOGNOMY OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTIONISTS.
It is remarkable, (says Bulwer, in his Zanoni,) that most of the principal actors of the French Revolution were singularly hideous in appearance—from the colossal ugliness of Mirabeau and Danton, or the villanous ferocity in the countenances of David and Simon, to the filthy squalor of Marat, and the sinister and bilious meanness of the Dictator's features. But Robespierre, who was said to resemble a cat, and had also a cat's cleanliness, was prim and dainty in dress, shaven smoothness, and the womanly whiteness of his hands. Rene Dumas, born of reputable parents, and well educated, despite his ferocity, was not without a certain refinement, which perhaps rendered him the more acceptable to the precise Robespierre. Dumas was a beau in his way: his gala-dress was a blood-red coat, with the finest ruffles. But Henriot had been a lacquey, a thief, a spy of the police; he had drank the blood of Madame de Lamballe, and had risen for no quality but his ruffianism; and Fouquier Tinville, the son of a provincial agriculturist, and afterwards a clerk at the bureau of the police, was little less base in his manners, and yet more, from a certain loathsome buffoonery, revolting in his speech; bull-headed, with black, sleek hair, with a narrow and livid forehead, and small eyes that twinkled with sinister malice; strongly and coarsely built, he looked what he was, the audacious bully of a lawless and relentless bar.
* * * * *
DEATH OF SIR CHARLES BELL.
This distinguished surgeon died suddenly on April 29, 1842, at Hallow Park, near Worcester, while on his way to Malvern. He was out sketching on the 28th, being particularly pleased with the village church, and some fine trees which are beside it; observing that he should like to repose there when he was gone. Just four days after this sentiment had been expressed, his mortal remains were accordingly deposited beside the rustic graves which had attracted his notice, and so recently occupied his pencil. There is a painful admonition in this fulfilment.
* * * * *
It was suggested to a distinguished gourmet, what a capital thing a dish all fins (turbot's fins) might be made. "Capital," said he; "dine with me on it to-morrow." "Accepted." Would you believe it? when the cover was removed, the sacrilegious dog of an Amphytrion had put into the dish "Cicero De finibus" "There is a work all fins," said he.
* * * * *
POETRY OF THE SEA.
Campbell was a great lover of submarine prospects. "Often in my boyhood," says the poet, "when the day has been bright and the sea transparent, I have sat by the hour on a Highland rock admiring the golden sands, the emerald weeds, and the silver shells at the bottom of the bay beneath, till, dreaming about the grottoes of the Nereids, I would not have exchanged my pleasure for that of a connoisseur poring over a landscape by Claude or Poussin. Enchanting nature! thy beauty is not only in heaven and earth, but in the waters under our feet. How magnificent a medium of vision is the pellucid sea! Is it not like poetry, that embellishes every object that we contemplate?"
* * * * *
One of the most stinging reproofs of perverted literary taste, evidently aimed at Newgate Calendar literature, appeared in the form of a valentine, in No. 31 of Punch, in 1842.
The valentine itself reminds one of Churchill's muse; and it needs no finger to tell where its withering satire is pointed:—
"THE LITERARY GENTLEMAN.
"Illustrious scribe! whose vivid genius strays 'Mid Drury's stews to incubate her lays, And in St. Giles's slang conveys her tropes, Wreathing the poet's lines with hangmen's ropes; You who conceive 'tis poetry to teach The sad bravado of a dying speech; Or, when possessed with a sublimer mood, Show "Jack o'Dandies" dancing upon blood! Crush bones—bruise flesh, recount each festering sore— Rake up the plague-pit, write—and write in gore! Or, when inspired to humanize mankind, Where doth your soaring soul its subjects find? Not 'mid the scenes that simple Goldsmith sought, And found a theme to elevate his thought; But you, great scribe, more greedy of renown, From Hounslow's gibbet drag a hero down. Imbue his mind with virtue; make him quote Some moral truth before he cuts a throat. Then wash his hands, and soaring o'er your craft—Refresh the hero with a bloody draught: And, fearing lest the world should miss the act, With noble zeal italicize the fact. Or would you picture woman meek and pure, By love and virtue tutor'd to endure, With cunning skill you take a felon's trull, Stuff her with sentiment, and scrunch her skull! Oh! would your crashing, smashing, mashing pen were mine, That I could "scorch your eyeballs" with my words,
* * * * *
DEATH BED REVELATIONS.
Men before they die see and comprehend enigmas hidden from them before. The greatest poet, and one of the noblest thinkers of the last age, said on his death-bed:—"Many things obscure to me before, now clear up and become visible."
* * * * *
Stammering, (says Coleridge,) is sometimes the cause of a pun. Some one was mentioning in Lamb's presence the cold-heartedness of the Duke of Cumberland, in restraining the duchess from rushing up to the embrace of her son, whom she had not seen for a considerable time, and insisting on her receiving him in state. "How horribly cold it was," said the narrator. "Yes," said Lamb, in his stuttering way; "but you know he is the Duke of Cu-cum-ber-land."
* * * * *
ORIGIN OF BOTTLED ALE.
Alexander Newell, Dean of St. Paul's, and Master of Westminster School, in the reign of Queen Mary, was an excellent angler. But Fuller says, while Newell was catching of fishes, Bishop Bonner was catching of Newell, and would certainly have sent him to the shambles, had not a good London merchant conveyed him away upon the seas. Newell was fishing upon the banks of the Thames when he received the first intimation of his danger, which was so pressing, that he dared not go back to his own house to make any preparation for his flight. Like an honest angler, he had taken with him provisions for the day; and when, in the first year of England's deliverance, he returned to his country, and to his own haunts, he remembered that on the day of his flight he had left a bottle of beer in a safe place on the bank: there he looked for it, and "found it no bottle, but a gun—such the sound at the opening thereof; and this (says Fuller) is believed (casualty is mother of more invention than industry) to be the original of bottled ale in England."
* * * * *
BAD'S THE BEST.
Canning was once asked by an English clergyman, at whose parsonage he was visiting, how he liked the sermon he had preached that morning. "Why, it was a short sermon," quoth Canning. "O yes," said the preacher, "you know I avoid being tedious." "Ah, but," replied Canning, "you were tedious."
* * * * *
LUDICROUS ESTIMATE OF MR. CANNING.
The Rev. Sydney Smith compares Mr. Canning in office to a fly in amber: "nobody cares about the fly: the only question is, how the devil did it get there?" "Nor do I," continues Smith, "attack him for the love of glory, but from the love of utility, as a burgomaster hunts a rat in a Dutch dyke, for fear it should flood a province. When he is jocular, he is strong; when he is serious, he is like Samson in a wig. Call him a legislator, a reasoner, and the conductor of the affairs of a great nation, and it seems to me as absurd as if a butterfly were to teach bees to make honey. That he was an extraordinary writer of small poetry, and a diner-out of the highest lustre, I do most readily admit. After George Selwyn, and perhaps Tickell, there has been no such man for the last half-century."
* * * * *
THE AUTHORSHIP OF "WAVERLEY."
Mrs. Murray Keith, a venerable Scotch lady, from whom Sir Walter Scott derived many of the traditionary stories and anecdotes wrought up in his novels, taxed him one day with the authorship, which he, as usual, stoutly denied. "What!" exclaimed the old lady, "d'ye think I dinna ken my ain groats among other folk's kail?"
* * * * *
QUID PRO QUO.
Campbell relates:—"Turner, the painter, is a ready wit. Once at a dinner where several artists, amateurs, and literary men were convened, a poet, by way of being facetious, proposed as a toast the health of the painters and glaziers of Great Britain. The toast was drunk; and Turner, after returning thanks for it, proposed the health of the British paper-stainers."
* * * * *
Lord Byron, in a conversation with the Countess of Blessington, said that he wept bitterly over many pages of Anastasius, and for two reasons: first, that he had not written it; and secondly, that Hope had; for it was necessary to like a man excessively to pardon his writing such a book; as, he said, excelling all recent productions, as much in wit and talent as in true pathos. Lord Byron added, that he would have given his two most approved poems to have been the author of Anastasius.
* * * * *
Walpole relates, after an execution of eighteen malefactors, a woman was hawking an account of them, but called them nineteen. A gentleman said to her, "Why do you say nineteen? there were but eighteen hanged." She replied, "Sir, I did not know you had been reprieved."
* * * * *
This remarkable book was written upon covers of letters and scraps of paper of such description as was nearest at hand; the greater part at a house in Princes-street, Soho. Colton's lodging was a penuriously-furnished second-floor, and upon a rough deal table, with a stumpy pen, our author wrote.
Though a beneficed clergyman, holding the vicarage of Kew, with Petersham, in Surrey, Colton was a well-known frequenter of the gaming-table; and, suddenly disappearing from his usual haunts in London about the time of the murder of Weare, in 1823, it was strongly suspected he had been assassinated. It was, however, afterwards ascertained that he had absconded to avoid his creditors; and in 1828 a successor was appointed to his living. He then went to reside in America, but subsequently lived in Paris, a professed gamester; and it is said that he thus gained, in two years only, the sum of 25,000l. He blew out his brains while on a visit to a friend at Fontainebleau, in 1832; bankrupt in health, spirits, and fortune.
* * * * *
BUNYAN'S COPY OF "THE BOOK OF MARTYRS."
There is no book, except the Bible, which Bunyan is known to have perused so intently as the Acts and Monuments of John Fox, the martyrologist, one of the best of men; a work more hastily than judiciously compiled, but invaluable for that greater and far more important portion which has obtained for it its popular name of The Book of Martyrs. Bunyan's own copy of this work is in existence, and valued of course as such a relic of such a man ought to be. It was purchased in the year 1780, by Mr. Wantner, of the Minories; from him it descended to his daughter, Mrs. Parnell, of Botolph-lane; and it was afterwards purchased, by subscription, for the Bedfordshire General Library.
This edition of The Acts and Monuments is of the date 1641, 3 vols, folio, the last of those in the black-letter, and probably the latest when it came into Bunyan's hands. In each volume he has written his name beneath the title-page, in a large and stout print-hand. Under some of the woodcuts he has inserted a few rhymes, which are undoubtedly his own composition; and which, though much in the manner of the verses that were printed under the illustrations of his own Pilgrim's Progress, when that work was first adorned with cuts, (verses worthy of such embellishments,) are very much worse than even the worst of those. Indeed, it would not be possible to find specimens of more miserable doggerel.
Here is one of the Tinker's tetrasticks, penned in the margin, beside the account of Gardiner's death:—
"The blood, the blood that he did shed Is falling one his one head; And dredfull it is for to see The beginers of his misere."
One of the signatures bears the date of 1662; but the verses must undoubtedly have been some years earlier, before the publication of his first tract. These curious inscriptions must have been Bunyan's first attempts in verse: he had, no doubt, found difficulty enough in tinkering them to make him proud of his work when it was done; otherwise, he would not have written them in a book which was the most valuable of all his goods and chattels. In later days, he seems to have taken this book for his art of poetry. His verses are something below the pitch of Sternhold and Hopkins. But if he learnt there to make bad verses, he entered fully into the spirit of its better parts, and received that spirit into as resolute a heart as ever beat in a martyr's bosom.
 Southey's Life of John Bunyan.
* * * * *
Leigh Hunt pleasantly says:—"I can no more pass through Westminster, without thinking of Milton; or the Borough, without thinking of Chaucer and Shakspeare; or Gray's Inn, without calling Bacon to mind; or Bloomsbury-square, without Steele and Akenside; than I can prefer brick and mortar to wit and poetry, or not see a beauty upon it beyond architecture in the splendour of the recollection. I once had duties to perform which kept me out late at night, and severely taxed my health and spirits. My path lay through a neighbourhood in which Dryden lived, and though nothing could be more common-place, and I used to be tired to the heart and soul of me, I never hesitated to go a little out of the way, purely that I might pass through Gerard-street, and so give myself the shadow of a pleasant thought."
* * * * *
CREED OF LORD BOLINGBROKE.
Lord Brougham says:—"The dreadful malady under which Bolingbroke long lingered, and at length sunk—a cancer in the face—he bore with exemplary fortitude, a fortitude drawn from the natural resources of his vigorous mind, and unhappily not aided by the consolations of any religion; for, having early cast off the belief in revelation, he had substituted in its stead a dark and gloomy naturalism, which even rejected those glimmerings of hope as to futurity not untasted by the wiser of the heathens."
Lord Chesterfield, in one of his letters, which has been published by Earl Stanhope, says that Bolingbroke only doubted, and by no means rejected, a future state.
* * * * *
It is said that Owen, the divine, greatly admired Bunyan's preaching; and that, being asked by Charles II. "how a learned man such as he could sit and listen to an itinerant tinker?" he replied: "May it please your Majesty, could I possess that tinker's abilities for preaching, I would most gladly relinquish all my learning."
* * * * *
HONE'S "EVERY-DAY BOOK."
This popular work was commenced by its author after he had renounced political satire for the more peaceful study of the antiquities of our country. The publication was issued in weekly sheets, and extended through two years, 1824 and 1825. It was very successful, the weekly sale being from 20,000 to 30,000 copies.
In 1830, Mr. Southey gave the following tribute to the merits of the work, which it is pleasurable to record; as these two writers, from their antipodean politics, had not been accustomed to regard each other's productions with any favour. In closing his Life of John Bunyan, Mr. Southey says:—
"In one of the volumes, collected from various quarters, which were sent to me for this purpose, I observe the name of William Hone, and notice it that I may take the opportunity of recommending his Every-day Book and Table Book to those who are interested in the preservation of our national and local customs. By these curious publications, their compiler has rendered good service in an important department of literature; and he may render yet more, if he obtain the encouragement which he well deserves."
* * * * *
Bunyan had some providential escapes during his early life. Once, he fell into a creek of the sea, once out of a boat into the river Ouse, near Bedford, and each time he was narrowly saved from drowning. One day, an adder crossed his path. He stunned it with a stick, then forced open its mouth with a stick and plucked out the tongue, which he supposed to be the sting, with his fingers; "by which act," he says, "had not God been merciful unto me, I might, by my desperateness, have brought myself to an end." If this, indeed, were an adder, and not a harmless snake, his escape from the fangs was more remarkable than he himself was aware of. A circumstance, which was likely to impress him more deeply, occurred in the eighteenth year of his age, when, being a soldier in the Parliament's army, he was drawn out to go to the siege of Leicester, in 1645. One of the same company wished to go in his stead; Bunyan consented to exchange with him, and this volunteer substitute, standing sentinel one day at the siege, was shot through the head with a musket-ball. "This risk," Sir Walter Scott observes, "was one somewhat resembling the escape of Sir Roger de Coverley, in an action at Worcester, who was saved from the slaughter of that action, by having been absent from the field."—Southey.
* * * * *
More drolleries are uttered unintentionally than by premeditation. There is no such thing as being "droll to order." One evening a lady said to a small wit, "Come, Mr. ——, tell us a lively anecdote;" and the poor fellow was mute the rest of the evening.
"Favour me with your company on Wednesday evening—you are such a lion," said a weak party-giver to a young litterateur. "I thank you," replied the wit, "but, on that evening I am engaged to eat fire at the Countess of ——, and stand upon my head at Mrs. ——."
* * * * *
ORIGIN OF COWPER'S "JOHN GILPIN."
It happened one afternoon, in those years when Cowper's accomplished friend, Lady Austen, made a part of his little evening circle, that she observed him sinking into increased dejection; it was her custom, on these occasions, to try all the resources of her sprightly powers for his immediate relief. She told him the story of John Gilpin, (which had been treasured in her memory from her childhood), to dissipate the gloom of the passing hour. Its effects on the fancy of Cowper had the air of enchantment. He informed her the next morning that convulsions of laughter, brought on by his recollection of her story, had kept him waking during the greatest part of the night! and that he had turned it into a ballad. So arose the pleasant poem of John Gilpin. To Lady Austen's suggestion, also, we are indebted for the poem of "the Task."
* * * * *
HARD FATE OF AUTHORS.
Sir E. B. (now Lord) Lytton, in the memoir which he prefixed to the collected works of Laman Blanchard, draws the following affecting picture of that author's position, after he had parted from an engagement upon a popular newspaper:—
"For the author there is nothing but his pen, till that and life are worn to the stump: and then, with good fortune, perhaps on his death-bed he receives a pension—and equals, it may be, for a few months, the income of a retired butler! And, so on the sudden loss of the situation in which he had frittered away his higher and more delicate genius, in all the drudgery that a party exacts from its defender of the press, Laman Blanchard was thrown again upon the world, to shift as he might and subsist as he could. His practice in periodical writing was now considerable; his versatility was extreme. He was marked by publishers and editors as a useful contributor, and so his livelihood was secure. From a variety of sources thus he contrived, by constant waste of intellect and strength, to eke out his income, and insinuate rather than force his place among his contemporary penmen. And uncomplainingly, and with patient industry, he toiled on, seeming farther and farther off from the happy leisure, in which 'the something to verify promise was to be completed.' No time had he for profound reading, for lengthened works, for the mature development of the conceptions of a charming fancy. He had given hostages to fortune. He had a wife and four children, and no income but that which he made from week to week. The grist must be ground, and the wheel revolve. All the struggle, all the toils, all the weariness of brain, nerve, and head, which a man undergoes in his career, are imperceptible even to his friends—almost to himself; he has no time to be ill, to be fatigued; his spirit has no holiday; it is all school-work. And thus, generally, we find in such men that the break up of the constitution seems sudden and unlooked-for. The causes of disease and decay have been long laid; but they are smothered beneath the lively appearances of constrained industry and forced excitement."
* * * * *
JAMES SMITH, ONE OF THE AUTHORS OF "REJECTED ADDRESSES."
A writer in the Law Quarterly Magazine says:—To the best of our information, James's coup d'essai in literature was a hoax in the shape of a series of letters to the editor of the Gentleman's Magazine, detailing some extraordinary antiquarian discoveries and facts in natural history, which the worthy Sylvanus Urban inserted without the least suspicion. In 1803, he became a constant contributor to the Pic-Nic and Cabinet weekly journals, in conjunction with Mr. Cumberland, Sir James Bland Burgess, Mr. Horatio Smith, and others. The principal caterer for these publications was Colonel Greville, on whom Lord Byron has conferred a not very enviable immortality—
"Or hail at once the patron and the pile Of vice and folly, Greville and Argyle."
One of James Smith's favourite anecdotes related to him. The Colonel requested his young ally to call at his lodgings, and in the course of their first interview related the particulars of the most curious circumstance in his life. He was taken prisoner during the American war, along with three other officers of the same rank; one evening they were summoned into the presence of Washington, who announced to them that the conduct of their Government, in condemning one of his officers to death as a rebel, compelled him to make reprisals; and that, much to his regret, he was under the necessity of requiring them to cast lots, without delay, to decide which of them should be hanged. They were then bowed out, and returned to their quarters. Four slips of paper were put into a hat, and the shortest was drawn by Captain Asgill, who exclaimed, "I knew how it would be; I never won so much as a hit of backgammon in my life." As Greville told the story, he was selected to sit up with Captain Asgill, under the pretext of companionship, but, in reality, to prevent him from escaping, and leaving the honour amongst the remaining three. "And what," inquired Smith, "did you say to comfort him?" "Why, I remember saying to him, when they left us, D—— it, old fellow, never mind;" but it may be doubted (added Smith) whether he drew much comfort from the exhortation. Lady Asgill persuaded the French minister to interpose, and the captain was permitted to escape.
Both James and Horatio Smith were also contributors to the Monthly Mirror, then the property of Mr. Thomas Hill, a gentleman who had the good fortune to live familiarly with three or four generations of authors; the same, in short, with whom the subject of this memoir thus playfully remonstrated: "Hill, you take an unfair advantage of an accident; the register of your birth was burnt in the great fire of London, and you now give yourself out for younger than you are."
The fame of the Smiths, however, was confined to a limited circle until the publication of the Rejected Addresses, which rose at once into almost unprecedented celebrity.
James Smith used to dwell with much pleasure on the criticism of a Leicestershire clergyman: "I do not see why they (the Addresses) should have been rejected: I think some of them very good." This, he would add, is almost as good as the avowal of the Irish bishop, that there were some things in Gulliver's Travels which he could not believe.
Though never guilty of intemperance, James was a martyr to the gout; and, independently of the difficulty he experienced in locomotion, he partook largely of the feeling avowed by his old friend Jekyll, who used to say that, if compelled to live in the country, he would have the drive before his house paved like the streets of London, and hire a hackney-coach to drive up and down all day long.
He used to tell, with great glee, a story showing the general conviction of his dislike to ruralities. He was sitting in the library at a country-house, when a gentleman proposed a quiet stroll into the pleasure-grounds:—
"'Stroll! why, don't you see my gouty shoe?'
"'Yes, I see that plain enough, and I wish I'd brought one too, but they're all out now.'
"'Well, and what then?'
"'What then? Why, my dear fellow, you don't mean to say that you have really got the gout? I thought you had only put on that shoe to get off being shown over the improvements.'"
His bachelorship is thus attested in his niece's album:
"Should I seek Hymen's tie, As a poet I die, Ye Benedicts mourn my distresses: For what little fame Is annexed to my name, Is derived from Rejected Addresses."
The two following are amongst the best of his good things. A gentleman with the same Christian and surname took lodgings in the same house. The consequence was, eternal confusion of calls and letters. Indeed, the postman had no alternative but to share the letters equally between the two. "This is intolerable, sir," said our friend, "and you must quit." "Why am I to quit more than you?" "Because you are James the Second—and must abdicate."
Mr. Bentley proposed to establish a periodical publication, to be called The Wit's Miscellany. Smith objected that the title promised too much. Shortly afterwards, the publisher came to tell him that he had profited by the hint, and resolved on calling it Bentley's Miscellany. "Isn't that going a little too far the other way?" was the remark.
A capital pun has been very generally attributed to him. An actor, named Priest, was playing at one of the principal theatres. Some one remarked at the Garrick Club, that there were a great many men in the pit. "Probably, clerks who have taken Priest's orders." The pun is perfect, but the real proprietor is Mr. Poole, one of the best punsters as well as one of the cleverest comic writers and finest satirists of the day. It has also been attributed to Charles Lamb.
Formerly, it was customary, on emergencies, for the judges to swear affidavits at their dwelling-houses. Smith was desired by his father to attend a judge's chambers for that purpose, but being engaged to dine in Russell-square, at the next house to Mr. Justice Holroyd's, he thought he might as well save himself the disagreeable necessity of leaving the party at eight by dispatching his business at once: so, a few minutes before six, he boldly knocked at the judge's, and requested to speak to him on particular business. The judge was at dinner, but came down without delay, swore the affidavit, and then gravely asked what was the pressing necessity that induced our friend to disturb him at that hour. As Smith told the story, he raked his invention for a lie, but finding none fit for the purpose, he blurted out the truth:—
"'The fact is, my lord, I am engaged to dine at the next house—and—and——'
"'And, sir, you thought you might as well save your own dinner by spoiling mine?'
"'Exactly so, my lord, but——'
"'Sir, I wish you a good evening.'"
Smith was rather fond of a joke on his own branch of the profession; he always gave a peculiar emphasis to the line in his song on the contradiction of names:
"Mr. Makepeace was bred an attorney;"
and would frequently quote Goldsmith's lines on Hickey, the associate of Burke and other distinguished cotemporaries:
"He cherished his friend, and he relished a bumper; Yet one fault he had, and that was a thumper, Then, what was his failing? come, tell it, and burn ye: He was, could he help it? a special attorney."
The following playful colloquy in verse took place at a dinner-table between Sir George Rose and himself, in allusion to Craven-street, Strand, where he resided:—
"J. S.—'At the top of my street the attorneys abound. And down at the bottom the barges are found: Fly, Honesty, fly to some safer retreat, For there's craft in the river, and craft in the street.'"
"Sir G. R.—'Why should Honesty fly to some safer retreat, From attorneys and barges, od rot 'em? For the lawyers are just at the top of the street, And the barges are just at the bottom.'"