OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.
December 12, 1891.
LETTERS TO ABSTRACTIONS.
NO. VIII.—TO LAZINESS.
BEST (AND BEST-ABUSED) OF ABSTRACTIONS,
My heart positively warms to you as I write. At this precise moment I can think of a hundred different things that I ought to be doing. For instance, I have not written to TOM, who is in the wilds of Canada, for months. His last letter ended with a pathetic appeal for an answer.
"Never mind, old chap," he said, "about not having any news. Little details that you may think too insignificant to relate are bound to interest me in this deserted spot. I am sure you occasionally meet I some of our friends of the old days. Tell them I often think of them and all the fun we used to have together. It all seems like a dream to me now. Let me know what any of them are doing. I heard six months ago from a fellow who was touring out here that JACK BUMPUS was married. If it is really our old JACK, congratulate him, and give him my love. I don't know his present address. But, whatever you do, write. A letter from you is like water in the desert."
When I read that letter I became full of the noblest resolutions. Not another day should pass, I vowed, before I answered it. So I prepared a great many sheets of thin note-paper, carefully selected a clean nib and sat down at my writing-table to begin. As I did so my eyes fell upon Martin Chuzzlewit, which was lying within easy reach. The book seemed positively to command me to read it for the tenth time. I took it up, and in another moment Mrs. Gamp had taken possession of me. My writing-chair was uncomfortable. I transferred myself into an arm-chair. Is it necessary to add that I did not write to TOM? His letter is getting frayed and soiled from being constantly in my pocket. Day after day it accompanies me on my daily round, unanswered and seemingly unanswerable. For I feel it to be a duty to write, and my mind abhors a duty. The letter weighs upon my conscience like lead. A few strokes of the pen would remove the burden, but I simply cannot screw myself up to the task. That is one of the things I ought to do.
Again, ought I not to call on the WHITTLESEAS? Mr. and Mrs. WHITTLESEA have simply overflowed with kindness towards me. I never enjoyed anything more than the week I spent at their house in Kent a short time ago. They are now in town, and, what is more, they know that I am in town too. Of course I ought to call. It's my plain duty, and that is, as far as I can tell, the only reason which absolutely prevents me from calling upon that hospitable family. Why need I go through the long list of my pressing duties? I ought to write my article on "Modern Theosophy: A Psychological Parallel," for the next number of The Brain. I ought to visit my dentist; I ought to have my hair cut. But I shall do none of these things. On the other hand, it is absolutely unnecessary that I should write to you. No evil would befall me if I waited another year, or even omitted altogether to write to you. And that is the precise reason why I am now addressing you. As a matter of fact, I like you. As I have already said, the performance of strict duties is irksome to me. It is you, my dear LAZINESS, who forbid me to perform them, and thus save me from many an uncongenial task. That is why I like you.
And, after all, the common abuse of you is absurd. I have heard grave and industrious persons declare emphatically that any one who allows himself to fall under your sway debars himself utterly from every chance of success. Fiddlesticks! I snap my fingers at such folly. What do these gentlemen say to the case of FIGTREE, the great Q.C.? Everybody knows that FIGTREE is, without exception, the most indolent man in the world. Let any doubter walk down Middle Temple Lane and ask the first young barrister he meets what he thinks of FIGTREE. I am ready to wager my annual income that the reply will be, "What, Old FIGTREE! Why, he's the laziest man at the Bar. I thought everybody knew that." I may be told, of course, that FIGTREE appears in all the big cases—that his management of them is extraordinarily successful; that the Judges defer to him; that his speech in the Camberwell poisoning case lasted a day and a half, and is acknowledged to be a masterpiece of forensic eloquence, fit to rank with the best efforts of ERSKINE; that his fees always exceed ten thousand pounds a year and that his book on Fines and Recoveries is a monument of industry. All this I shall hear from some member of the outside public, who does not know his FIGTREE. But the fact remains. FIGTREE is the most indolent being alive. I doubt if he can be induced to read a brief before he goes into Court. Many are the tales told by those who have been his juniors of the marvellous skill and address with which FIGTREE has time after time extricated himself from awkward situations into which he had been led by his ignorance of the details of the case in which he happened to be engaged. In the sensational libel case of Bagwell v. Muter, FIGTREE, as you must remember, appeared for the defendant. When the plaintiff's Junior Counsel had opened the pleadings, FIGTREE actually got up, and, had not his own Junior pulled him down, he would then and there have opened the case for the plaintiff. Yet FIGTREE's cross-examination of that same plaintiff, travelling as it did over a long period of time, and dealing with a most complicated story, in which dates were of the first importance, is still cited by those who heard it as the most remarkable display of its kind which the English Courts have afforded for years past. Whether the unfortunate BAGWELL, whom it showed conclusively to be a swindler and an impostor, has an equal admiration for it, I know not, nor is he, I fancy, likely to tell us, even when he returns from the prison which is now the scene of his labours. How FIGTREE, who at the outset did not even know on which side he appeared, managed in the time at his command to master this intricate case, must ever remain a mystery. HARRY ADDLESTONE, his Junior, is accustomed to talk darkly of a marvellous chronological analysis of the case which he had prepared for his leader, and evidently wishes me to believe that he, rather than FIGTREE, is to be credited with the success achieved. But the Solicitors have not yet withdrawn their confidence from FIGTREE to transfer it to ADDLESTONE.
Here, then, is an instance of a perfectly indolent man rising higher and higher every year on the ladder of professional advancement. I can only attribute it, my dear LAZINESS, to your beneficent influence, which preserves the great barrister from the weary labours to which his rivals daily submit. They say of him that he knows nothing of law. If I grant that, it merely proves that a knowledge of law is not required for success in the profession of the law. The deduction is dangerous, but obvious, and I recommend it warmly to all who are about to be called to the Bar.
I don't think I have anything more to say to you to-day; indeed, I know that you would be the last to desire that the writing of this letter should he in any way irksome to me. Besides, it is five o'clock P.M. My arm-chair invites me. I feel tired, and, that being so, I am convinced it would he an act of pedantic folly to deny myself the sweet refreshment of half-an-hour's sleep. Farewell, kindly one. I shall always rejoice to honour you, and celebrate your praise.
Yours, with all goodwill, DIOGENES ROBINSON.
P.S.—I reopen this letter to say that I have just read in an evening paper a terrible account of the total destruction by a tornado of the town in Canada which was poor TOM's place of exile. "The loss of life," it is added, "has been great, and several Englishmen are amongst the victims." No names are given. Good gracious! If TOM has indeed perished, how am I ever to forgive myself for neglecting him? What must he have thought of me? I curse myself in vain for my—bah! What is the use of telling you this? The same paper informs me, in the elegant language appropriate to these occasions, that "Mr. FIGTREE, Q.C., has been offered, and has accepted, the vacant Lord-Justiceship of Appeal."
* * * * *
AN OPPORTUNITY.—A Lyme Regis Correspondent sends us the following advertisement, found, he says, in the Bridport News; we omit dates and names:—
—— will SELL by AUCTION, Three Fine DAIRY COWS to calve respectfully in Dec., April, and May next. An excellent double-feeding chaff-cutter, &c.
A respectful cow will no doubt fulfil her engagements honorably. "A double-feeding chaff-cutter" ought to be an acquisition to a fast set on a coach at the Derby, though of course his "double-feeding" powers would have to be amply provided for at luncheon time.
* * * * *
"The nearest thing to 'setting the Thames on fire,'" said a quiet traveller by the Underground, "is the announcement which you will now see at the St. James's Park Station:—'A LIGHT HERE FOR NIAGARA.'" "Why," exclaimed an irate passenger to the timid suggestion of the above, "of course it doesn't mean that." Then he added, contemptuously, "Get out!" Which he did.
* * * * *
* * * * *
OR, THE NEW DUMBLEDUMDEARY.
"Rusticus expectat, dum defluat amnis; at ille Labitur, et labetur in omne volubilis aevum."
In the fall of the year, when M.P.'s were about, And speeches burst forth like a waterspout, HODGE took up his bundle, and caught up his staff, And went for a walk—if you please, don't laugh!— Singing dumbledumdeary, dumbledumdeary, Dumble, dumble, dumbledumdee!
Oh, HODGE had put on his bettermost smock, And wore his billycock gaily a-cock; For HODGE nowadays is a person of note, And great Governments bow to the "hind,"—with a vote. Singing dumbledumdeary, &c.
So he strolled on wi'out dread or fear Of Squoire or Parson, or County Peer, For the spouting M.P. and the Liberal Van Had made of the shock-headed joskin a Man! Singing dumbledumdeary, &c.
With promises stuffed, and with hope inspired, HODGE walked, and walked till he felt quite tired; So he sat himself down on the bank of a stream, And, falling asleep, dreamed a wonderful dream. Singing dumbledumdeary, &c.
The old, old stream was no longer the brook Where he'd angled for minnows with worm and hook; It swelled and swirled, and its rippling voice Was changed to loud echoes of platform noise. Singing dumbledumdeary, &c.
And it seemed to address him, "How long, friend HODGE, In a smock you will slave, in a pig-stye lodge? The Town revolts, but the landlord crew Still rule the rustics. What can you do?" Singing dumbledumdeary, &c.
"Oh, I can reap, and I can sow; And I can plough, and I can mow; And, as Lord RIPON doth treuly say, I can yarn my eighteen-pence a day!" Singing dumbledumdeary, &c.
"Oh, that," cried the Voices, "will never do! HODGE now must have freedom, and comfort too, And Village Councils, Allotments, and Larks! Though the Landlords take fright for their Manors and Parks," Singing dumbledumdeary, &c.
"No more must he live like a pig in a stye, Or we (Tory Codlir, Rad Short) will know why. And if you'll consent just to vote for us now, We'll put a new tune to your old 'Speed the Plough!'" Singing dumbledumdeary, &c.
Then HODGE, slightly puzzled, beheld (in his dream) A legion of faces that flowed with the stream. "There's two WILLIAMS, and JOEY, and JESSE!" he cried, "SOLLY, BALFY, and JOKIM talk, too, from the tide,—" Singing dumbledumdeary, &c.
"They're making a vast sight o' noise, and I fear, Whilst they all shout together, their meaning's scarce clear. They all drift one way, though, out yonder I'll sit! And wait till the shindying slackens a bit." Singing dumbledumdeary, &c.
So HODGE, like old HORACE's Rustic, still waits Till the waters flow by, or their turmoil abates; And then hopes to reach "Happy Home" o'er that stream. Let us hope that he mayn't find it only a dream! Singing dumbledumdeary, dumbledumdeary, Dumble, dumble, dumbledumdee!
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* * * * *
When the House of Commons meets in February, it will find many vacant places. Save, perhaps, on that sacred to the memory of OLD MORALITY, none will draw towards it such sorrowful glances as the bench below the Gangway, where, last Session, DICK POWER's smiling face was found. Everyone in the House knew "DICK," and all liked him—a modest-mannered, merry-hearted man, whom a strange destiny had not only dragged into political life, but, as Whip of the Parnellite Party, had made him the official representative of a body for the most part socially unknown, and disliked with a fervour happily not often imported into Parliamentary warfare. DICK POWER, whilst never swerving by a hair's breadth from loyalty to his colleagues and his leader, so bore himself that he was welcome in any Parliamentary circle, from "GOSSET's Room" to the floor of the House, which he sometimes "took" to deliver a witty speech in support of a Motion for adjourning over the Derby. He was only in his fortieth year, married scarce a fortnight, when comes the blind Fury with the abhorred shears and slits the thin-spun thread. "LYCIDAS is dead!"; but he will long be remembered as shedding through seventeen years a genial light on Irish politics, too often obscured by aggressive vulgarity, and the sacrifice of patriotic interests to the ends of personal vanity.
* * * * *
We are in a position to state that overtures were recently made to a well-known and popular member of the aristocracy in connection with a certain high office lately vacated. It is felt that a gentleman with the varied experience and capacity indicated by the circumstance (to which we may allude as not involving breach of confidence), that his name was successively mentioned in connection with the offices, recently vacant, of Postmaster-General, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and Leader of the House of Commons, is peculiarly well qualified for the post.
* * * * *
The PRIME MINISTER has, we learn, been much gratified by the receipt of a letter volunteered by one of his colleagues, expressing generous satisfaction at his selection of Mr. ARTHUR BALFOUR to the Leadership of the House of Commons. It was the more pleasing as the name of Lord SALISBURY's correspondent had, in Conservative circles, been prominently mentioned in connection with the office. "It is true," the Abounding Baron wrote, "that the public with unerring instinct has looked in another direction. I should therefore like to be the first to say that your Lordship has done well in recognising the services to the Unionist cause performed by Mr. BALFOUR. Of course there may be other openings, and in case your Lordship has occasion to communicate with me, it may be convenient to mention that, having come to town this morning and transacted business at my office in Bouverie Street, I am about to return to my country residence at Stow-in-the-Wold."
* * * * *
It is announced that Lord SALISBURY's new house at Beaulieu is to be let furnished for the winter months, the PREMIER not intending to return till the Spring. We understand that one of Mr. GLADSTONE's friends and admirers is in treaty for the residence, intending to place it for a few weeks at the disposal of the Leader of the Opposition. We have not yet heard how far this happily-conceived scheme has progressed.
* * * * *
THE TRAVELLING COMPANIONS.
SCENE—The roof of Milan Cathedral; the innumerable statues and fretted pinnacles show in dazzling relief against the intense blue sky. Through the open-work of the parapet is seen the vast Piazza, with its yellow toy tram-cars, and the small crawling figures which cast inordinately long shadows. All around is a maze of pale brown roofs, and beyond, the green plain blending on the horizon with dove-coloured clouds in a quivering violet haze. CULCHARD is sitting by a small doorway at the foot of a flight of steps leading to the Spire.
Culchard (meditating). I think MAUD must have seen from the tone in which I said I preferred to remain below, that I object to that cousin of hers perpetually coming about with us as he does. She's far too indulgent to him—a posing, affected prig, always talking about the wonderful things he's going to write! He had the impudence to tell me I didn't know the most elementary laws of the sonnet this morning! Withering repartee seems to have no effect whatever on him, I wish I had some of PODBURY's faculty for flippant chaff! I wonder if he and the PRENDERGASTS really are at Milan. I certainly thought I recognised ——. If they are, it's very bad taste of them, after the pointed way in which they left Bellagio. I only hope we shan't—
[Here the figure of Miss PRENDERGAST suddenly emerges from the door; CULCHARD rises and stands aside to let her pass; she returns his salutation distantly, and passes on with her chin in the air; her brother follows, with a side-jerk of recognition. PODBURY comes last, and halts undecidedly.
Podb. (with a rather awkward laugh). Here we are again, eh? (Looks after Miss P., hesitates, and finally sits down by CULCHARD.) Where's the fascinating Miss TROTTER? How do you come to be off duty like this?
Culch. (stiffly). The fascinating Miss TROTTER is up above with VAN BOODELER, so my services are not required.
Podb. Up above? And HYPATIA just gone up with BOB! Whew, there'll be ructions presently! Well out of it, you and I! So it's BOODELER's turn now? That's rough on you—after HYPATIA had whistled poor old BOB off. As much out in the cold as ever, eh?
Culch. I am nothing of the kind. I find him distasteful to me, and avoid him as much as I can, that's all. I wish, PODBURY, er—I almost wish you could have stayed with me, instead of allowing the PRENDERGASTS to carry you off as you did. You would have kept VAN BOODELER in order.
Podb. Much obliged, old chap; but I'm otherwise engaged. Being kept in order myself. Oh, I like it, you know. She's developing my mind like winking. Spent the whole morning at the Brera, mugging up these old Italian Johnnies. They really are clinkers, you know. RAPHAEL, eh?—and GIOTTO, and MANTEGNA, and all that lot. As HYPATIA says, for intensity of—er religious feeling, and—and subtlety of symbolism, and—and so on, they simply take the cake—romp in, and the rest nowhere! I'm getting quite the connoisseur, I can tell you!
Culch. Evidently. I suppose there's no chance of a—a reconciliation up there? [With some alarm.
Podb. Don't you be afraid. When HYPATIA once gets her quills up, they don't subside so easily! Hallo! isn't this old TROTTER?
[That gentleman appears in the doorway.
Mr. T. Why, Mr. PODBURY, so you've come along here? That's right! And how do you like Milan? I like the place first-rate—it's a live city, Sir. And I like this old cathedral, too; it's well constructed—they've laid out money on it. I call it real ornamental, all these little figgers they've stuck around—and not two of 'em a pair either. Now, they might have had 'em all alike, and no one any the wiser up so high as this; but it certainly gives it more variety, too, having them different. Well, I'm going up as high as ever I can go. You two better come along up with me.
ON THE TOP.
Miss P. (as she perceives Miss T. and her companion). Now, BOB, pray remember all I've told you! [BOB turns away, petulantly.
Miss T. (aside, to VAN B.). I guess the air's got cooler up here, CHARLEY. But if that girl imagines she's going to freeze me! (Advancing to Miss P.) Why, my dear, it's almost too sweet for anything, meeting you again!
Miss P. You're extremely kind, MAUD; I wish I could return the compliment; but really, after what took place at Bellagio, I—
Miss T. (taking her arm). Well, I'll own up to being pretty horrid—and so were you; but there don't seem any sense in our meeting up here like a couple of strange cats on tiles. I won't fly out anymore, there! I'm just dying for a reconciliation; and so is Mr. VAN BOODELER. The trouble I've had to console that man! He never met anybody before haff so interested in the great Amurrcan Novel. And he's wearying for another talk. So you'd better give that hatchet a handsome funeral, and come along and take pity on him.
[HYP., after a struggle, yields, half-reluctantly, and allows herself to be taken across to Mr. VAN B., who greets her effusively. Miss T. leaves them together.
Bob P. (who has been prudently keeping in the background till now, decides that his chance has come). How do you do. Miss TROTTER? It's awfully jolly to meet you again like this!
Miss. T. Well, I guess that remark would have been more convincing if you'd made it a few minutes earlier.
Bob. I—I—you see, I didn't know.... I was afraid—I rather thought—
Miss T. You don't get much further with rather thinking, as a general rule, than if you didn't think at all. But if you're at all anxious to run away the way you did at Bellagio, you needn't be afraid I'll hinder you.
Bob. (earnestly). Run away! Do you think I'd have gone if—I've felt dull enough ever since, without that.'
Miss T. Oh, I expect you've had a beautiful time. We have.
Miss P. (coming up). ROBERT, I thought you wanted to see the Alps? You should come over to the other side, and—
Miss T. I'll undertake that he sees the Alps, darling, presently—when we're through our talk.
Miss P. As you please, dear. But (pointedly) did I not see Mr. CULCHARD below?
Miss T. You don't mean to say you're wearied of Mr. VAN BOODELER already! Well, Mr. CULCHARD will be along soon, and I'll loan him to you. I'll tell him you're vurry anxious to converse with him some more. He's just coming along now, with Mr. PODBURY and Poppa.
Miss P. (under her breath). MAUD! if you dare—!
Miss T. Don't you dare me, then—or you'll see. But I don't want to be mean unless I'm obliged to.
[Mr. TROTTER, followed by CULCHARD and PODBURY, arrives at the upper platform. CULCHARD and PODBURY efface themselves as much as possible. Mr. TROTTER greets Miss PRENDERGAST heartily.
Mr. T. Well now, I call this sociable, meeting all together again like this. I don't see why in the land we didn't keep together. I've been saying so to my darter here, ever since Bellagio—ain't that so, MAUD? And she didn't know just how it came about either.
Miss P. (hurriedly). We—we had to be getting on. And I am afraid we must say good-bye now, Mr. TROTTER. I want BOB and Mr. PODBURY to see the Da Vinci fresco, you know, before the light goes. (Bob mutters a highly disrespectful wish concerning that work of Art.) We may see you again, before we leave for Verona.
Mr. T. Verona? Well, I don't care if I see Verona myself. Seems a pity to separate now we have met, don't it? See here, now, we'll all go along to Verona together—how's that, MAUD? Start whenever you feel like it, Miss PRENDERGAST. How does that proposal strike you? I'll be real hurt if you cann't take to my idea.
Miss T. The fact is, Poppa, HYPATIA isn't just sure that Mr. PRENDERGAST wouldn't object.
Bob P. I—object? Not much! Just what I should like, seeing Verona with—all together, you know!
Miss T. Then I guess that's fixed. (Aside, to Miss P., who is speechless). Come, you haven't the heart to go and disappoint my poor Cousin CHARLEY by saying you won't go! He'll be perfectly enchanted to be under vow—unless you've filled up all the vacancies already! (Aloud, to VAN B., as he approaches.) We've persuaded Miss PRENDERGAST to join our party. I hope you feel equal to entertaining her?
Van B. I shall be proud to be permitted to try. (To Miss P.) Then I may take it that you agree with me that the function of the future American fictionist will be— [They move away, conversing.
Podb. (To CULCH.) I say, old fellow, we're to be travelling companions again, after all. And a jolly good thing, too, I think!... eh?
Culch. Oh, h'm—quite so. That is—but no doubt it will be an advantage—(with a glance at Van B., who is absorbed in Miss P.'s conversation)—in—er—some respects. (To himself.) Hardly from poor dear PODBURY's point of view, I'm afraid, though! However, if he sees nothing—! [He shrugs his shoulders, pityingly.
* * * * *
Pocket-books for next year are coming in. Which for choice? "Solvitur ambulando" should be the resolution of the difficulty, given by one firm at least, that firm being "WALKER." They are handy, and conveniently pocketable, but to "The chiels amang ye taking notes," plain leaves, and no fruit, and no dates, we should say, would be preferable. They're reasonable prices, and you can't expect to get 'em for nothing; if you do—"WALKER!"
The Baron highly approves of Messrs. DE LA RUE's pocket-books. It is pleasant to have something in one's pocket, even if only a book. As to account-books and diaries—well enter nothing therein but what has been pleasant and profitable, and most diarians who adopt this rule will not find their memoranda overcrowded at the end of the year. "Letts be happy, while we can, and good luck to you, Ladies all, in 1892. Leap year!" quoth the Baron. "Over you go like the villagers in the German story, after the sheep, into the sea of matrimony, where may you all get on swimmingly." A propos, Mesdames BLYTHE and GAY say that the Christmas Number of Woman, produced by a number of women, is as full of attractive power as the Magnetic Lady herself.
"ARROWSMITH's Shilling Sensational, by 'a New Author,'" quoth the Baron, "would, methought, serve pour me distraire." The "New Author" uses the remarkably new device of a mole on the lost child's breast. Isn't that original? Miss Box and Miss Cox are lost, and found. "Have you a mole on your left breast?" "Yes!" "Then it is both of you!" Charming! So useful is the explanation that "Hanwell is a little village, a few miles from London." Perhaps it is the locality, there or thereabouts, where this thrillingly interesting tale—which could have been told in fifty pages, and needn't have been told at all—was written. Well, well, "All's Hanwell that ends Hanwell," and "I've galloped through a worse story before now," quoth the Baron, yawning, and so to bed.
In John Leech, His Life and Work (BENTLEY) Mr. FRITH quotes from an anonymous but obviously not an original authority, the dictum, "It is the happiness of such a life (as LEECH's) that there is so little to be told of it." Mr. BENTLEY has produced two handsome volumes worthy the reputation of his ancient and honourable house. They enshrine admirable reproductions of some of LEECH's best work, selected by the trained hand and sympathetic eye of Mr. FRITH. These are and will remain the chief attractions of a work to which the Baron, in common with the civilised world, has been looking forward to with interest, and of whose realisation he regrets to hear so disappointing an account from his trusty "Co." It is difficult to find dates in this higgledy-piggledy chance-medley of facts and opinions. But we all know that LEECH died in October, 1864. It was in Mr. Punch's pages that he found the true field for his heaven-born genius For twenty years at least he was one of the most prominent, best known, and best liked men in England. Surely within that period there must lie to the hand of the dilligent seeker material for a memoir worthy to be linked with the name of JOHN LEECH. Mr. FRITH has not given us such a book, and criticism is only partly disarmed by the comical reiteration of confession that he has failed in his appointed task. For what he has to say in the way of making known to the world the man JOHN LEECH, a very thin volume would have sufficed, even had he included the more useful of his remarks on LEECH's work and his method. But there being two volumes to fill, Mr. FRITH genially summarises The Physiology of Evening Parties, by Mr. ALBERT SMITH; Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour, and other not very high-class literature, whose only claim to being remembered is that LEECH illustrated them. Of The Marchioness of Brinvilliers, ALBERT SMITH's attempt to rival the attractions of the Newgate Calendar, Mr. FRITH positively gives two whole chapters! He allots one to the Bon Gaultier Ballads, and nineteen mortal pages to telling the Story of Miss Kilmansegg, with copious extracts from that easily accessible work.
This is not Memoir-writing, it is book-making. The reader can skip these chapters, and, diligently searching, will find here and there a ray of light thrown on this beautiful placid life, weighed down as it was from earliest manhood by family circumstances at which Mr. FRITH delicately hints. "Give, give!" was, truly, the cry of the daughters of the horseleach. There are, however, several other anecdotes contributed by personal friends of LEECH's, who have come to Mr. FRITH's assistance, and succeed in the main in making the book an interesting one, as giving the outside world some glimpses of a sweet and manly character. The volumes are crowded with illustrations. These are LEECH's own work, and make the volumes worth more than their published price.
THE BARON DE BOOK-WORMS & CO.
* * * * *
Oh, come and be my Queen, And share my lot In some artistic cot At Turnham Green, EVANGELINE!
The painted tambourine Shall grace its wall, And many a table small And folding screen Shall on its floor be seen, EVANGELINE!
Your beauty's dazzling sheen Upsets me quite— Of late my appetite Has wretched been, EVANGELINE!
I shun the soup tureen And pine for you; At pudding, joint, and stew My face turns green— What do the symptoms mean, EVANGELINE?
If Fate should come between My Love and me, This countenance will be No more serene, EVANGELINE!
With nitro-glycerine I'll speed my flight, Or else I will ignite Some Magazine— Some Powder Magazine, EVANGELINE!
* * * * *
AN AUNT AT WILL.
[A lawsuit has been occasioned in India through white ants devouring a will.]
It is usually supposed that Australia is topsey-turvey mad, but in India it seems that matters also go by contraries, when compared with their mode of procedure at home. A lawsuit has been occasioned in Calcutta through white ants devouring a will. In England our Aunts (who are generally whites) make wills (bless them!) and we devour them, or at least live on the proceeds.
* * * * *
* * * * *
KATHLEEN AND PETRUCHIO;
OR, SHAKSPEARE BALFOURISED.
Kathleen. HIBERNIA. Petruchio. Mr. BALFOUR. Grumio.... Mr. JACKSON. Haberdasher.. Mr. GLADSTONE.
Petruchio. Thus have I politicly begun my reign, And 'tis my hope to end successfully; My falcon now is sharp, and passing empty; And, till she stoop, she must not be full-gorg'd, For then she never looks upon her lure. Another way I have to man my haggard, To make her come, and know her keeper's call; That is, to watch her, as we watch these kites That bate, and beat, and will not be obedient. She plays no tricks to-day, nor none shall play; Last Session she ruled not, nor shall next Session; Resolute government is the only way To smooth these stormy spirits.
All the same, After the hurly-burly, I intend All shall be done in reverend care of her; And, in conclusion, she shall have her rights, If she will cease to rise, and rail, and brawl, And with her clangour keep the world awake. This is the way to kill her wrath with kindness, And thus I'll curb her mad and headstrong humour.— He that knows better how to tame a shrew, Let him speak out! 'Tis time the kingdom knew!
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Kathleen. The more my wrong the more his smile appears! How doth he madden me—and master me!— I—I, who never knew how to submit, Nor never fancied that I should submit,— Am starved for strife, stupid for lack of struggle, With Law kept bridled, and with Order saddled: And that, which spites me more than all these stints, He does it under name of perfect love; As who should say, if I should have my will, 'Twere deadly sickness or else present death.
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Petruchio. KATHLEEN, thou mend'st apace! And now, my love, Will we return unto thy father's house, And ruffle it as bravely as the best, With silken coats, and caps, and golden rings, With ruffs, and cuffs, and farthingales, and things; With orange tissue trimmed with true-blue bravery, Eschewing wearing of the green,—that's knavery. See GRUMIO there! He waits thy loving leisure To deck thy body with his boxed-up treasure. A cap of mine own choice, come fresh from town; It will become thee better than a crown. 'Tis my ideal. (Enter Haberdasher.) Well—what would you, sirrah?
Haberdasher. Here is the hat the lady did bespeak!
Petruchio. Why, this was moulded on a foreign block, A Phrygian cap. Fie, fie! 'tis crude and flaunting. Why, 'tis a coal-vase or a bushel-basket, A fraud, a toy, a trick, a verdant fool'scap: Away with it! Come, let me have a smaller!
Kathleen. I'll have no smaller: this doth fit the time, And gentlewomen wear such hats as these.
Petruchio. When you are gentle, you shall have one too, But of another pattern.
Grumio (aside). Mine, to wit.
Kathleen. Why, Sir, I trust I may have leave to speak: And speak I will. I am no child, no babe: Your betters have endured me say my mind, And, if you cannot, best you stop your ears. My tongue will tell the craving of my heart, Or else my heart, concealing it, will break; And rather than it shall, I will be free E'en to the uttermost,—at least in words!
Petruchio. Why, so thou art. But 'tis a paltry hat This Haberdasher would fob off on thee. I love thee well, but he, he loves thee not.
Kathleen. Love me or love me not, I like the hat, And it I will have, or I will have none.
Grumio (aside). Then is she like to go bareheaded long!
[Left arguing. Sequel—some day.
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OUR OLD FRIEND ONCE MORE.—Mrs. RAM has lately taken to theatre-going. She says, however, that she doesn't much care about going on first nights of new pieces, as the Stalls are full of Crickets.
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PAUL PRY IN THE PURPLE.
(EXTRACTS FROM LETTERS FOUND IN A GERMAN POST-BAG.)
TO A BISHOP.
It has occurred to me that your sermons are not quite as good as they should be. You do not seem to grasp your subject with sufficient strength. I have not time to come to listen to you, as I have other pressing engagements, and consequently write from hearsay. Still, I believe I have good reason for my strictures. However, that you may have an excellent example upon which to model your discourses in the future, I will myself visit your cathedral at a near date, and occupy your pulpit. I will wire ten minutes before I arrive with my sermon.
TO A GENERAL.
I congratulate you upon the success of the recent manoeuvres. Nothing could have been finer than the manner in which the entire Army saluted me on my approach. Perhaps the bands might have played the National Anthem half-an-hour longer or so, but for all that, the effect was excellent. And now I have got a really splendid idea. And you must help me. I want to order all the troops to another part of the country without telling their officers, and then, when they least expect it, you and I will order a general assembly. It will be such a joke to see the commanders when they appear on parade without any soldiers! They will be so surprised! And sha'n't we laugh! But mind, not a word to anyone until we have had our fun. As an old soldier who has deserved well of his Fatherland, I rely on your discretion.
TO A THEATRICAL MANAGER.
I was at the performances in your play-house the other evening, and, as I told you at the time, was not at all satisfied with the representation. I informed you that when I had time I would jot down my complaints, and I am now keeping my promise. I don't like the costume of the Tragedy Queen—her heels are too high and why does she wear gloves? The Low Comedian does not make the most of his part. He has to walk about with a band-box. Now why does he not seize the opportunity to place it on a chair and sit upon it? This would have a very comical effect. I have seen it done, and it made me laugh. Please let him sit upon the band-box for the future. If he sits down accidentally the effect will be heightened. It will be very funny. By the way, let all the box-keepers give programmes free of charge to officers and ladies under forty. I shall soon be at the theatre again to attend a rehearsal. I will wire ten minutes before I come, so that you may have proper time to call your company together. Till then, you incompetent sausage, you can enjoy your Lager and pipe in peace!
TO A DOCTOR.
I have been reading some of the Medical Journals, and I am not quite sure whether I think your manner of cutting off a leg is the proper way. It may be, but, on the other hand, it may not. Before you cut off another leg communicate with me, and I will fix a date (as early as I can—probably within six months), when I can see your patient, and give you my opinion. By the way, do not go your rounds until you hear from me, as I may want to see you at any time.
TO A COACH-BUILDER.
You don't know how to make a carriage. The other day I thought of a capital idea, but, for the moment, cannot remember it. However, I fancy it had something to do with square wheels. At any rate you had better not make any more carriages until I call. I will come as soon as I can—probably before Spring twelvemonths.
TO A RELATIVE.
Had not time to answer your letter before. I do not in the least agree with you. I hate people who do not mind their own business. Why not attend to your own, and leave mine alone? If you do not take care, I will arrange to visit you in State! So you had better mind what you are about!
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PROGRAMME OF THE CYCLOPAEDIC CIRCUS.
(UNDER THE IMMEDIATE PATRONAGE OF LORD SALISBURY.)
The Members of the School Board of Little Peddlington have the honour to announce that, in deference to the expressed opinion of the
PREMIER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM,
that it would be wise to substitute Circuses for school-rooms in the provinces, have arranged for the holding of
A GRAND SCHOLASTIC GALA,
on a scale of unprecedented magnificence. The Members have engaged, at considerable expense, that admirable Artist,
THE COURIER OF BOTH THE GLOBES,
who will, during a rapid ride on a retired cab-horse, exhibit and explain a series of gigantic maps of
EUROPE, ASIA, AFRICA, AND AMERICA.
This Star Artist will be followed by that talented troupe of relatives who for many years have drawn enormous crowds to their performances under the assumed but appropriate name of
THE BOUNDING BROTHERS OF THE SPELLING-BEES.
They will go through their marvellous feats in tossing barrels (bearing on their sides painted letters), and thus combining amusement with instruction. Their last act will be to keep in simultaneous motion a sufficient number of labelled milk-cans to spell the sentence, "Farewell to all kind friends in front." This marvellous double quartette will be followed by
THE ARITHMETICAL BICYCLIST,
who will ride his favourite two-wheeled vehicle while he sings a song introducing in a pleasing manner the Multiplication Table. This sweet-toned vocalist will be succeeded by
THE STAR-LOVING PIG ATTENDED BY COMICAL HERSCHEL.
In which the former will spell out (with the assistance of card-board letters) a number of interesting astronomical facts at the instigation of his mirth-provoking master and proprietor. This talented performer will be followed by
THE UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE QUADRILLE.
In which the entire troupe will appear on horseback, and go through the programme of studies (proficiency in which is required by the Tenth Standard) without a single mistake.
The performances will then be brought to an appropriate and jubilant conclusion by
A SILVER COLLECTION IN AID OF THE RATES!
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QUEER QUERIES.—OUR DEFENCES.—I am informed that Mr. STANHOPE is expected shortly to go abroad, "in order to recruit." Can even the blindest military optimist any longer deny that the British Army is a nefarious imposture, when the Minister for War is forced into an ignominious attempt to raise a body of foreign mercenaries by his own personal efforts?
SCIENTIFIC.—Could you kindly tell me what "the Great Ice Age" means? My Pater took me to hear some fellow lecture about it the other day, but I couldn't understand much of what he said. I thought he was going to talk about strawberry ices and lemon ices, which I like awfully, but he didn't even mention them! Don't you think twelve is the great Ice Age—I mean the age when boys ought to be allowed to eat as many as they like? N.B.—I am just twelve.
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WORTH SEEING.—"We understand that to the Exhibition of "Instruments of Torture," and now on view in London, have been lately added the Medici Collar, a Piano Organ, and a "Shakspeare for the use of Schools."
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MEM. BY "THE OFFICIAL RECEIVER."—"Firm as a Rock" will not be henceforth a proverb of universal application.
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(BEING A NEWLY-DISCOVERED FRAGMENT OF AN OLD GREEK PLAY, SUPPOSED TO BE A VERY EARLY "AGAMEMNON.")
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Cly. The coals I bought as Wallsend are not so.
Ag. Thus groundless hopes vanish—like coals in smoke.
Cly. You speak in words Mysterious, lacking sense.
Ag. The sense is patent to the reasoning mind.
Cly. And yet I paid for them upon the nail.
Ag. What matter, if the price was far too low?
Cly. Then call you eighteen shillings low for coal?
Ag. Yes, for "Prime Wallsend"—what could you expect?
Cly. Listen! In passing 'long the public way I saw a notice telling of these coals. It called them "ever-burning": said no skill Could put them out when once they were alight, Because they were "the best the world produced." I purchased some. Ai! ai! They turned out slates. My household maidens by Prometheus swear They never saw such stuff for lighting fires. What of it is not slag, that part is slate, And slated should they be that sold it me. Moreover, when with anger I remarked To those who bore the sacks upon their backs, Within our cellars to deposit them, That they had better bear their loads away Seeing I ordered coals, not lumps of slate, They answered that, if they refused to burn, They might be useful for a Rockery! So now they have the shillings, I the coals.
Ag. And having them, we have no household fires.
Cly. What then to do? You sit with idle hands.
Ag. I cannot turn to Wallsend bits of slag.
Cly. But you can seek the Archon, and denounce The man whose cunning robs our hearth of flame.
Ag. (going out). In what you say not nothing I perceive. Women, in hunting cheapness, capture costs.
The puny race of men Soars, in imagination, to the skies; While tackling Science and Theosophy Their hands the coal-scoop grasp!
From high Olympus Zeus Smiles at the perjuries of coal-heavers. Not always is the cheapest article The one that turns out best.
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* * * * *
A BOARD-SCHOOL CHRISTMAS.
(AN ANTICIPATION OF THE NOT VERY DISTANT FUTURE.)
It was a very unseasonable Yule-tide. Instead of the old-fashioned mild weather that had been the constant companion of Christmas for many years, the ground was covered with snow and the river blocked with ice. However, thanks to modern improvements, the artisans had not been impeded in executing their four hours of labour as provided by a recent statute. They had been sitting at their Club (supported by the State), reading the newspapers purchased out of the rates, and were only annoyed that no food and drink was supplied them free gratis and for nothing.
"It would never do," said an old workman, who remembered the eight-hour day that used to prevail at the end of the Nineteenth Century. "You see were we to have beer at will, the brewers' draymen might complain. It was once attempted, but the Licensed Victuallers made such a disturbance that the idea was abandoned."
"There is something in what you say," observed a second workman; "but, for the life of me, I don't see why the Nation shouldn't provide bread."
"No, there you are out!" cried a third. "I am a baker, and anything that interferes with my industry won't do."
And so they talked, discussing this and that, until all the subjects of the leaders in the daily papers had been exhausted. It was then that one of the workmen suggested a walk and a pipe on the Embankment.
So they lounged down the main thoroughfare of London, with its pleasant cafes and well-appointed restaurants, and came to the conclusion (for the fiftieth time) that it was far better than anything of the same kind in Paris, or any other of the capitals of Europe. They had all been abroad during their State-assisted vacation, and consequently had the chief towns of the world, so to speak, at their finger-tips. As they sauntered along, they came to a group of half-starved, perambulating performers, who were giving an entertainment to a crowd of bystanders. It was not a good programme. First a young woman in rags, played on an old piano, with decent precision, some extremely difficult variations of CHOPIN's Funeral March. She was followed by a man who painted a portrait of a leading statesman indifferently well. Then another man jumped into the river, and made his way in the cold water with the ease of a fifth-rate professional swimmer. Then a second young woman recited something or other in German, with an atrocious English accent. And the whole concluded with a lecture upon chemistry (given by a seedy-looking old man), which was illustrated with some ambitious, but feeble experiments.
On the balance the performance was a bore, and the public were rather pleased than otherwise, when a police constable ordered the troupe "to move on." The poor people gathered together their impedimenta and prepared to obey the officer's behest. It was then that the performers came face to face with the artisans. There was a cry of recognition.
"Why, would you believe it!" exclaimed one of the workmen, "if it isn't SALLY JONES, and TOMMY BROWN, and NORAH JENKINS, and HARRY SMITH!"
The well-fed and the starving cordially greeted one another. Then there were mutual explanations, and the old man who had lectured upon chemistry had his say:—
"You want to know why we are all starving, and why we are so much worse off than you, although we were educated at the same Board School? I will tell you. It was because you very wisely made up your minds to follow the occupations of your fathers. You became builders, bakers, coal-heavers and paviors.
"Ah, we did that," sighed out the elderly workman, "because we were too backward to attempt anything better. We were not clever people like you! We couldn't play the piano, and paint and swim, and go in for chemistry. We were not clever enough, and had to put up with passing a very low standard."
"Thank your lucky stars it was so," exclaimed the chemist, with tears in his eyes, "for your fate is happier than ours. We are all fifth-rate, and can do nothing else. We have no chance against those who have been born to this kind of thing, and we have forgotten how to do your work. So we are starving, and—"
But here the old man was interrupted by a policeman, who ordered all of them to move on. And on they moved. Half one way and half the other.
* * * * *
OUR OWN FINANCIAL COLUMN.
"CROESUS" has vanished! We can scarcely find it in our heart to add anything to this distressing statement; but for the sake of our readers whom he may have induced to patronise his financial schemes, we give a few slight details of the disaster.
Four days ago enormous piles of letters began to arrive at our office. They were addressed to "CROESUS," and had been sent on to us from his last address marked "gone away; try office of Punch." We opened them. They were all threatening letters.
"Why," wrote one angry gentleman, "have I heard nothing from you since I sent you my cheque for L10,000? Unless I receive a reply within a week, legal proceedings will be taken." The rest were similar in tone. Thereupon we resolved to call at the last address given to us by "CROESUS." It was somewhere in the Mile End Road. We arrived, entered, ascended the stairs, and found in a dingy back bed-room, three used half-penny stamps, a false nose, a pair of whiskers, and a large sheet of paper on which were written only these words: "Sold Again"—which obviously referred to some financial scheme or other. On inquiring of the landlady, we heard that her lodger had departed two days before, taking with him two large and heavy wooden chests. He had promised to return. We then consulted the police. They are very reticent, but consider they have got a clue.
And here we owe it to our readers to make a confession. We have never set eyes on "CROESUS." We engaged him entirely on the strength of the most glowing recommendations from a whole bevy of Bank-Managers, including the Managers of the Bank of Lavajelli, of the Pei-ho Provinces, of Samarcand, of Ashanti and of Dodge County, U.S.A. All these gentlemen wrote in the most complimentary terms of "CROESUS." "He is a man," wrote the Manager of the Dodge County Bank, "whom I have had the honour to know intimately for a considerable number of years. Indeed, we were educated together, and not a day has passed since then without our meeting. I beg to state that I consider him thoroughly fitted for the responsible position of financial director of a high-class Metropolitan paper. His personal appearance is aristocratic and prepossessing, his manners have about them a distinction which impresses all who meet him, and his dress, though modest, is always pleasing. His complete command of twenty-four languages must be of the highest advantage to him in unravelling the tangled skein of international finance." Acting upon such testimonials we engaged "CROESUS." We have now reason to believe that we have been made the victims of a gross and cruel deception. An expert in handwriting, whom we have consulted, gives it as his opinion, that every single one of these recommendations is in the handwriting of "CROESUS" himself, and the police, after protracted inquiries, have assured us that the Banks, whose supposed managers addressed us in favour of "CROESUS," never had any actual existence at all.
All we can do now is to assist justice by publishing herewith the photograph of "CROESUS." We apologise to all whom he may have deceived, but we do not hold ourselves responsible for any damage he has caused. We shall publish no more financial contributions in the meantime.
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ENGLISH AS SHE IS SUNG.
MR. PUNCH, SIR,—If I start a butcher's business, and give my shop the special title of The Welsh Meat Shop, is the great British Public so narrow-minded as to expect me to sell them only Welsh meat, the produce of Welsh farms only? If so, the Public, with all due respect, is a hass. For if I who have to live,—though perhaps others may not see the necessity for my existence,—by my trade, find that the Welsh meat, which the Public had expected to be ready and waiting, is not forthcoming, only one of two things can I do; the one is to shut up shop (which I won't), and the other is to provide my intending customers with French, Indian, English, Irish, Scotch, American, Australian, New Zealandian, Cape Colonial, in fact with any meat I can get from anywhere, and as long as it is toothsome, and I can afford to sell it at an average price, why should it not be sold at my Royal Welsh Meat Shop?
When I call my shop The Royal Welsh Meat Shop, do I thereby bar myself from dealing in English or foreign meats? Do I bar myself from dealing in Indian pickles or China oranges? No, certainly not; nor do I bar myself from selling neckties, gloves, ginger-beer, and Brazil nuts. So, when a House of Musical Entertainment is styled The English Opera House, it must be understood, "all to the contrary nevertheless and notwithstanding," to mean an English House where Opera may be performed, and not a Theatre where only English Opera is Housed. "My soul can not be fettered," as the poet says,—what poet, I don't know and don't care, but he said it, whoever he was, and he was right. If there is no English Opera for my House, then I get a French Opera, or a Dutch one, just as at an oyster-shop—but perhaps this is not quite the illustration I should like, as, at an oyster-shop, they do ask you which you will have, "Natives," or "Seconds," or "Anglo-Dutch"; and, when you can't afford Natives, you put up with an inferior quality at a lesser price. But if that oyster-seller called his shop "The Native-Oyster Shop," should I have any ground of action against him for selling any other oysters except Natives? No. But then he would ask me "If I wanted Natives or not?" And if I said "Yes," he would give me Natives. Now I admit I do not ask the Public at the doors Which will you have? because I may not be able to have an English Opera always on tap, so to speak. Metaphors a bit confused, but you know what I mean. If I had a few English Operas on tap I might turn 'em on, say, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: English Opera by English Composers on those days, and on the other days, any Operas by any Composers. But if the Public won't come on the English Opera nights, and will come on the other nights? What then? Why obviously I must keep my Natives (if I have any) in a barrel, and deal only with the foreign supply. "Blame not the Bard"—I mean blame not the patriotic man of business, but let our cry be "Art for Art's sake," and the English Opera for ever! that is, as long as Art and English Opera pay.
A MANAGER FIRST AND ANYTHING YOU LIKE AFTERWARDS.
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LATEST FROM SHOTSHIRE.—The only appropriate beverage for a Sportsman out shooting,—why "Pop" to be sure.
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NOTICE.—Rejected Communications or Contributions, whether MS., Printed Matter, Drawings, or Pictures of any description, will in no case be returned, not even when accompanied by a Stamped and Addressed Envelope, Cover, or Wrapper. To this rule there will be no exception.