The HISTORY of POMPEY the LITTLE
|Contents||Chapters IV-VI||Chapters X-XII|
|Chapter VII||Chapter VIII||Chapter IX|
|Sir Thomas Browne|
Relating a curious dispute on the immortality of the soul, in which the name of our hero will but once be mentioned.
NOTHING is more common on the stage, than to suspend the curiosity of the audience in the most interesting scenes of a play, and relieve them (as it is called) with a dance of ghosts, or devils, or furies, or other out-landish beings. In imitation of this laudable custom, before the reader proceeds any farther in Pompey's history, he is desired to relieve himself with a curious dispute on the immortality of the soul, which passed one day in our hero's presence.
Lady Tempest, about this time, being indisposed with some trifling disorder, kept her chamber, and was attended by two physicians. These gentlemen were now making their morning visit, and had just gone through the examinations, which custom immemorial prescribes --- as, ' how did your ladyship sleep last night? --- do you find any drowth, madam ? --- pray let me look at your ladyship's tongue,' and many other questions which I have not leisure now to record ; when on a sudden, a violent rap at the door, and shortly afterwards the appearance of a visiter interrupted their proceedings. The lady, who now arrived, came directly up to lady Tempest, and made her compliments ; then being desired to sit down, she fell into some common chit-chat on the news of the town ; in the midst of which, without any thing preparatory to such a subject, addressing herself on a sudden to one of the physicians, with a face of infinite significance and erudition, she asked him, ' if he believed in the immortality of the soul ?' --- but before we answer this extraordinary question, or relate the conversation that ensued upon it, it will be for the reader's ease to receive a short sketch of her character.
In many respects this lady was in similar circumstances with lady Tempest ; only with this difference, that the one had been separated from her husband by his death, the other divorced from hers by act of parliament ; the one was famous for wit, and the other affected the character of wisdom. Lady Sophister, (for that was her name) as soon as she was released from the matrimonial fetters, set out to visit foreign parts, and had displayed her charms in most of the courts in Europe. There, in many parts of her tour, she had cultivated an acquaintance with Literati, and particularly in France, where the ladies affect a reputation of science, and are able to discourse on the profoundest questions of theology and philosophy. The labyrinths of a female brain are so various and intricate, that it is difficult to say what first suggested the opinion to her, whether caprice or vanity of being singular ; but all on a sudden her ladyship took a fancy into her head to disbelieve the immortality of the soul, and never came into the company of learned men without displaying her talents on this wonderful subject. This extraordinary principle, to shew that she did not take up her notions lightly and wantonly, she was able to demonstrate ; and could appeal to the greatest authorities in defence of it. She had read Hobbes, Malbranche, Locke, Shaftsbury, Woolaston, and many more ; all of whom she obliged to give testimony to her paradox, and perverted passages out of their works with a facility very easy to be imagined. But Mr. Locke had the misfortune to be her principal favourite, and consequently it rested chiefly upon him to furnish her with quotations, whenever her ladyship pleased to engage in controversy. Such was the character of lady Sophister, who now arrived, and asked the surprizing question above-mentioned, concerning the immortality of the soul.
Doctor Killdarby, to whom she addressed herself, astonished at the novelty of the question, sat staring with horror and amazement on his companion ; which lady Tempest observing, and guessing that her female friend was going to be very absurd, resolved to promote the conversation for her own amusement. Turning herself therefore to the doctor, she said with a smile, ' don't you understand the meaning of her ladyship's question, Sir ? She asks you, if you believe in the immortality of the soul ?'
' Believe in the immortality of the soul, madame !' said the doctor staring, ' bless me, your ladyships astonish me beyond measure --- Believe in the immortality of the soul ! Yes undoubtedly, and I hope all mankind does the same.'
' Be not sure of that, Sir,' said lady Sophister ; ' pray have you ever read Mr. Locke's controversy with the bishop of Worcester ?'
' Mr. Locke's controversy, madam !' replied the doctor --- ' I protest I am not sure ; Mr. Locke's controversy with the bishop of Worcester ! Let me see, I vow I can't recollect --- My reading has been very multifarious and extensive --- Yes, madam, I think I have read it, tho' I protest I can't be sure whether I have read it or no.'
' Have you ever read it, doctor Rhubarb ?' said she, addressing herself to the other physician.
' O yes, madam, very often,' replied he ; ' 'tis that fine piece of his where --- Yes, yes, I have read it very often ; I remember it perfectly well --- but pray, madam, is there any passage ( I beg your ladyship's pardon if I am mistaken) but is there any passage, I say, in that piece, which tends to confirm your ladyship's notion concerning the immortality of the soul ?'
' Why pray, Sir,' said the lady, with a smile of triumph, ' what do you esteem the soul to be ? Is it air, or fire, or æther, or a kind of quintessence, as Aristotle observed, and composition of all the element ?'
Doctor Rhubarb quite dumb-founded with so much learning, desired first to hear her ladyship's opinion of the matter. ' My opinion,' returned she, ' is exactly the same with Mr. Locke's. You know Mr. Locke observes, there are various kinds of matter --- well --- but first we should define matter, which you know the logicians tell us, is an extended solid substance --- Well, out of this matter, some you know is made into roses and peach-trees ; then the next step which matter takes, is animal life ; from whence you know we have lions and elephants, and all the race of brutes. Then the last step, as Mr. Locke observes, is thought and reason and volition, from whence are created men, and therefore you very plainly see, 'tis impossible for the soul to be immortal.'
' Pardon me, Madam,' said Rhubarb ; 'Roses and peach-trees, an elephants and lions ! I protest I remember nothing of this nature in Mr. Locke...' ' Nay Sir, said she, can you deny me this ? If the Soul is fire, it must be extinguished ; if it is air, it must be dispersed ; it be only a modification of matter, why then of course it ceases, you know, when matter is no longer modified --- if it be any thing else, it is exactly the same thing, and therefore you must confess --- indeed Doctor, you must confess, that 'tis impossible for the Soul to be immortal.'
Doctor Killdarby, who had sat silent for some time to collect his thoughts, finding what a learned antagonist he had to cope with, began now to harangue in the following manner. ' Madam,' said he, ' as to the nature of the soul, to be sure there have been such opinions as your ladyship mentions about it --- --- many various and unaccountable opinions. Some called it divinum coeleste ; others quinta essentia, as your ladyship observes ; and others inflammata anima, that is, madam, inflamed air. Aristoxenus, an old musician, as I remember, imagined the soul to be a musical tune ; and a mathematician that I have hard of , supposed it to be like an æquilateral triangle. Descartes,, I think, makes its residence to be the pineal gland of the brain, where all the nerves terminate ; and Borri, I remember, the Milanese physician, in a letter to Bartholine, de ortu cerebri & usu medico, asserts, that in the brain is found a certain very subtil fragrant juice (which I conceive may be the same as the nervous juice or animal spirits) and this he takes to be the residence or seat of the soul ; the subtility or fineness of which he supposes to depend, madam, on the temperature of this liquor --- but really all these opinions may very probably be false ; we do but grope in the dark, madam, we do but grope in the dark, and it would be better to let the subject entirely alone. The concurrent opinions of all mankind have ever agreed in believing the immortality of the soul ; and this, I confess, is to me an unanswerable argument of its truth. You see, madam, I purposely wave the topic of revelation.'
' Oh, Sir, as to that matter,' cries the lady, interrupting him, ' as to revelation, Sir' --- --- and here she ran into much common-place raillery at the expence only of christianity and the gospel, till lady Tempest cut her short, and desired her to be silent on that head ; for this good lady believed all the doctrines of religion, and was contented, like many others, with the trifling privilege only of disobeying all its precepts.
Lady Sophister however resolved not to quit the field of battle, but rallied her forces, and once more fell on her adversaries with an air of triumph. ' You say, I think, Sir,' resumed she, ' that a multitude of opinions will establish a truth. Now you know all the Indians believe that their dogs will go to heaven along with them ; and if a great many opinions can prove any thing to be true, what say you to that, Sir ? India you know, doctor, is a prodigious large wide tract of continent, where the Gymnosophists lived, and all that --- Pray, lady Tempest, let us look at your globes.'
' My globes, madam,' said lady Tempest, ' what globes of mine does your ladyship desire to see ?'
' What globes,' replied the disputant ; ' why your celestial and terrestrial globes to be sure ; I want to look out India in the map, and shew the doctor what a prodigious wide tract of continent it is in comparison of our Europe --- however, come, I believe we can do without them --- as I was saying therefore, Sir, the Indians you know believe their dogs will bear them company to heaven ; and if a great many opinions can establish the truth of an hypothesis --- you understand me, I hope, because I would fain speak to be understood --- I say, if a great many opinions can prove any thing to be true, what say you to that, Sir ? For instance now, there's lady Tempest's little lap-dog' --- ' My dear little creature,' said lady Tempest, catching him up in he arms, ' will you go to heaven along with me ? I shall be vastly glad of your company, Pompey, if you will.' From this hint both their ladyships had many bright sallies, till lady Sophister, flushed with the hopes of this argument, recalled her adversary to the question, an desired to hear his reply. ' Come, Sir,' said she, ' you have not yet responsed to my argument, you have not answered my last syllogism --- I think I have gravelled you now ; I think I have done for you ; I think I have demolished you, doctor.'
' Not at all, madam,' said Killdarby ; ' really as to that matter, that is neither here nor there --- Opinions, madam, vague irregular opinions will spring up and float in people's brains, but we were talking of the dictates of sense and reason. Savages, madam, will be savage, but Indians have nothing to do with Europeans. The reply to what your ladyship had advanced, would be easy and obvious ; but really I must beg to be excused --- my profession does not oblige me to a knowledge of such subjects --- I came here to prescribe as a physician, and not to discuss topics of theology. Come, brother, I believe we only interrupt their ladyships, and I am obliged to call upon my lord --- and Sir William --- and lady Betty, and many other people of quality this morning.' Dr. Rhubarb declared that he likewise had as many visits to make that morning ; whereupon, taking their leaves (and their fees) the two gentlemen retired with great precipitation, leaving her ladyship in possession of the field of battle ; who immediately reported all over the town, that she had out-reasoned two physicians, and obliged them by dint of argument to confess that the soul is not immortal.
And now begging the reader's pardon for this digression, let us return to our hero, who I am afraid is going to suffer a great revolution in his life.
Various and sundry matters.
LADY Tempest had been walking one morning in St. James's park, with her little favourite, as usual attending her ; for she never went abroad without taking him in her arms. Here she set him down on his legs, to play with some other dogs of quality, that were taking the air that morning in the mall ; giving him strict orders however not to presume to stray out of her sight. Yet in spite of this injunction, something or other tempted his curiosity beyond the limits of the mall ; and there, while he was rolling and indulging himself on the green grass (a pleasure by novelty rendered more agreeable to him) it was his misfortune to spring a bird ; which he pursued with such eagerness and alacrity, that he was quite out of sight before he thought proper to give over the chace. His mistress in the mean while was engaged in so warm and interesting a dispute on the price of silk, that she never missed her favourite ; nay, what is still more extraordinary, she got into her coach and drove home, without once bestowing a thought upon him. But the moment she arrived in her dining-room, and cast her eyes on the rest of her four-footed friends, her guilt immediately flew in her face, and she cried out with a scream, ' as I am alive, I have left little Pompey behind me.'
Then summoning up two of her servants, she commanded them to go directly and search every corner of the park with the greatest diligence, protesting she should never have any peace of mind, till her favourite was restored to her arms. Many times she rang her bell, to know if her servants were returned, before it was possible for them to have got thither : but at length the fatal message arrived, that Pompey was no where to be found. And indeed it would have been next to a miracle, if he had ; for these faithful ambassadors had never once stirred from the kitchen fire, where, together with the rest of the servants, they had been laughing at the folly of their mistress. And the reason why they denied their return sooner, was, because they imagined a sufficient time had not then elapsed, to give a probability to that lie, which they were determined to tell. Yet this did not satisfy their lady ; she sent them a second time to repeat their search, and a second time they returned with the same answer. At this again the reader is desired not to wonder ; for tho' her ladyship saw them out of the house herself, and ordered them to bring back her favourite under pain of dismission, the farthest of their travels was only to an ale-house at the corner of the street ; where they had been entertaining a large circle of their parti-coloured brethren with much ribaldry, at the expence of their mistress.
Tenderness to this lady's character makes me pass over much of the sorrow she vented on this occasion ; but I cannot help relating, that she immediately dispatched cards to all her acquaintance, to put off a drum, which was to have been held at her house that evening ; giving as a reason, that she had lost her darling lap-dog, and could not see company. She continued to advertize him in all the news-papers for a month together, with increase of the reward as the case grew more desperate ; yet neither all the enquiries she made, nor all the rewards she offered, ever restored little Pompey to her arms. We must leave her therefore to receive the consolations of her friends on this afflicting loss, and return to examine after our hero.
He had been pursuing a bird, as was before described ; and when his diversion was over, galloped back to the mall, not in the least doubting to find his lady there at his return. But alas ! how great was his disappointment : he ran up and down, smelling to every petticoat he met, and staring up in every female face ; yet neither his eyes or nose gave him the information he desired. Seven times he coursed from Buckingham-house to the horse-guards, and back again ; but all in vain : at length tired, disconsolate, and full of despair, he sat himself down under a tree, and there turning his head aside in a thoughtful attitude, abandoned himself to much mournful meditation. In this evil plight, while he was ruminating on his fate, and like many other people in the park, unable to divine where he should get a dinner ; he was spied by a little girl about seven years old, who was walking by her mother's side in the mall. She no sooner perceived him, than she cried out, ' la mamma ! there's a pretty dog,' and then applied herself with much tenderness to sollicit him to her. The wretched are always glad to find a friend ; and our little unfortunate no sooner saw one courting him to her, than immediately breaking off his meditations, he ran hastily up, and saluting her eagerly with his fore-paws, gave so many dumb expressions of joy, that speech itself could hardly have been more eloquent. The young lady, on her side, charmed with his ready compliance, snatched him up in her arms, and kissed him with great delight : then turning again to her mother, and asking her if she did not think him a lovely creature, ' I wonder,' says she, ' whose dog it is, mamma ! I have a good mind to take him home with me --- shall I, mamma ? Shall I take him home with me, mamma ?' to this also her mother consented, and when they had taken two or three more turns, they retired to their coach, and Pompey was conducted to his new lodgings.
As soon as they alighted at home, little miss ran hastily up stairs, to shew her brother and sisters the prize she had found ; and he was handed about from one to the other, with great delight and admiration of his beauty. Then he was introduced to all their favourites, which were a dormouse, two kittens, a squirrel, a parrot, and a magpye. To these he was presented with many childish ceremonies, and a thousand little follies, which make up the happiness of this happiest age. The parrot was to make a speech to him, the squirrel to treat him with some nuts, the kittens to dance for his diversion, the magpye to tell his fortune ; and all were enjoined to contribute something to the entertainment of the little stranger in his new apartments. And 'tis inconceivable how busy they were in the execution of these trifles, with all their spirits in a hurry, and their whole souls laid out upon them.
One would have imagined, after the extraordinary tenderness with which our hero had been treated by lady Tempest, he must have felt great regret and concern at the loss of her ; but I am sorry to say it, he had no sooner dined, and felt himself snug in a new apartment, that he entirely forgot his former mistress. Here I know not how to excuse his behaviour. Had he been a man, one should not have wondered to find him guilty of ingratitude, a vice deeply rooted in the nature of that wicked animal ; but that a dog --- a creature famous for fidelity, should so soon forget his former friend and benefactress, is, I confess, quite unaccountable ; and I would willingly draw a veil over this part of his conduct, if the veracity of an historian did not oblige me to relate it.
What the reader will know if he reads it.
THE father of this little brood, who are now in possession of our hero, was captain Vincent of the guards, a gentleman whose character will cost us no long description.
Captain Vincent of the guards, was an exceeding handsome man, about thirty years old, tall and well-proportioned, in his limbs ; but so entirely devoted to the contemplation of his own pretty person, that he never detached his thoughts one moment from the consideration of it. Conscious of being a favourite of the ladies, among whom he was received always with eyes of affection, he thought the charms of his figure irresistible where-ever he came, and seemed to shew himself in all public places as an object of public admiration. You saw for ever in his looks a smile of assurance, complacency, and self-applause ; he appeared always to be wondering at his own accomplishments, and especially when he made a survey now and then of his dress and limbs, 'twas as much as to say to his company, ' gentlemen and ladies, look on me if you can without admiration.' The reputation of two or three affairs which same had given him with women of fashion, still contributed to encrease his vanity, and authorized him, as he thought, to bestow more time and pains on the beautifying and adorning so successful a figure. In short, after many real or pretended amours, which made him insufferably vain, he married at last a celebrated town-beauty, a woman of quality, who was in all respects equal to, and worthy of such a husband.
Lady Betty Vincent, the wife of this gentleman, was one of those haughty nymphs of quality, who presume so much on the merit of a title, that they never trouble themselves to acquire any other. She was proud, expensive, insolent and unmannerly to her inferiors ; vain of her rank, and still vainer of her person ; full of extravagant airs, and tho' exceedingly silly, conceited of an imaginary wit and smartness. As she set out in life with a full persuasion that her prodigious beauty, merit, and accomplishments, must soon procure her the title of her grace, she rejected several advantageous matches that offered, because they did not in all points come up to the height of her ambition. At length finding her charms begin to decay, in a fit of lust, disappointed pride, and opposition to her mother, with whom she had then a quarrel, she patched up a marriage with captain Vincent of the guards, contrary to the advice and remonstrances of all her friends and relations.
As the captain had no revenue beside the income of his commission, and her ladyship's fortune did not exceed seven thousand pounds, it may be concluded, when the honey-moon of love was over, this agreeable couple did not find the matrimonial fetters sit perfectly easy upon them. To retrench in any article, they found it impossible ; to retire into the country, still more impossible ; that was horrors, death, and despair --- her ladyship could not hear of such a thing with patience --- she was ready to swoon at the mention of it ; and indeed the captain, who was equally attached to London, never made the proposal in earnest.
What then could they do in these embarrassing circumstances ? Why, they took a little house in Hedge-Lane, near the bottom of the Hay-Market, which being in the center of public diversions, served to keep them a little in countenance ; and there they supported their spirits as well as they could, with reflecting that they still lived in the world, tho' their apartments were not so commodious as they could wish.
Fettered pride is sure to turn into peevishness, and spleen is the daughter of mortified vanity. Finding themselves cramped with want, they grew uneasy, discontented, jealous of each other's extravagance, and were scarce ever alone without reproaching one another on the article of expence. The lady powted at the captain for going to White's, and the captain recriminated on his wife for playing at Brag ; and then followed a long contention, which of them spent the most money.
To compleat their misfortunes, her ladyship took to breeding, which introduced a thousand new expences ; and they must absolutely have starved in the midst of pride and vanity, had they not been seasonably relieved now and then by some handsome presents from lady Betty's mother, my old lady Harridan, who was still alive, and in the possession of a considerable jointure.
The devotion which the captain paid to his beautiful figure, has already been described ; nor was her ladyship one jot behind him in idolizing and adoring her own charms. She prided herself in a more particular manner on the lovely bloom and charming delicacy of her complexion, which had procured her the envy of one sex, and the admiration of the other ; tho' perhaps if her enviers and admirers had known the following little story, both these passions would have considerably abated in them.
It was our hero's custom, whenever he came into a new family, to gratify his curiosity as soon as possible, with a general survey of the house. On his arrival here, his little owners were so fond of him the first day, that they lugged him about in their arms, and never permitted him to stray one moment out of their sights ; but being left more at his own liberty the next morning, he thought it was then a convenient time for making his tour. After examining all the rooms above ground, he descended intrepidly into the kitchen, and began to look about sharp for a breakfast ; for to say the truth, he had hitherto met with very thin commons in his new apartments. At last a blue and white dish, which stood on the dresser, presented itself to his eye. This immediately he determined to be a lawful prey, and perceiving nobody present to interrupt him, boldly made a spring at it ; but happening unluckily to leap against the dish, down it came, and its contents ran about the kitchen. Scarce had this happened, when my lady's maid appeared below stairs, and began to scream out in a very shrill accent, ' why who has done this now ? I'll be whipped if this owdacious little dog has not been and thrown down my lady's backside's breakfast ;' after which she fell very severely on the cook, who now entered the kitchen, and began to reprimand her in a very authoritative tone, for not taking more care of her dressers ; ' but let the 'pothecary,' added she, ' come and mix up his nastiness himself an he will, for deuce fetch me if I'll wait on her ladyship's backside in this manner : If she will have her clysters, let the clyster-pipe doctor come and minister them himself, and not put me to her filthy offices. --- O Lord bless us ! well, rather than be at all this pains for a complexion, I'd be as brown as a berry all my lifetime. The finest flowers, I have heard say, are raised from dung, and perhaps it may be so --- I am sure 'tis so at our house, for my lady takes physic twice a week, and treats her backside with a clyster once a fortnight, and all this to preserve a complexion.'
While the waiting-gentlewoman was haranguing thus at the expence of her mistress, the captain's valet also came into the kitchen, and hearing his fellow-servant very loud and vociferous, enquired what was the matter. ' Matter,' cries she, ' matter enough o'conscience ! don't you see there ? this plaguy little devil of a dog has been and flung down my lady's backside's breakfast.' ' Bless us, a prodigious disaster indeed ! replied the valet ; ' why, what shall we do now, Mrs. Minikin ? I am afraid your lady's complexion will want its bloom to day.' ' Hang her complexion,' said Abigail, ' I wish her complexion was at the bottom of her own close-stool ; she need be so generous to her backside indeed --- I am sure she is not so over-and-above generous to her servants, and her trades-folks.' ' True,' cries the valet, ' if she would treat us with a breakfast now and then as well as her backside, methinks it would not be amiss, for deuce take me, if I ever saw such housekeeping in any family that ever I lived in, in my days. They dress plaguy fine both of 'em, and cut a figure abroad, while their servants are starving at home.' ' Yes, yes,' said Mrs. Minikin, ' 'tis all shew and no substance at our house. There's your pretty master, the captain, has been smugging up his pretty face, and cleaning his teeth for this hour, before the looking-glass this morning. I wonder he does not clyster for a complexion too. Tho', thank heaven, he's cox-comb enough already, and wants no addition to his pride ; he seems to think no woman can look him in the face without falling in love with him, with his black solitaire, and his white teeth, and his frizzled hair, and his fopperies. O Lord have mercy upon us ! well, every one to their liking, but hang me if I would not marry a monkey as soon as such a powdered scaramouch, were I a woman of quality. --- Get out you little nasty devil of a dog ; hang me if I won't brain you, and let the little vixens your mistresses say what they please.'
Having said this, she set out full of rage in pursuit of poor Pompey, who took to his feet with great precipitation, and fled for his life ; but not being nimble enough he was overtaken, and smarted severely for the trespass he had committed. To say the truth, he soon began to find himself very unhappily situated in this family ; for wretched are all those animals that become the favourites of children. At first indeed he suffered only the barbarity of their kindness, and was persecuted with no other cruelties than what arose from their extravagant love of him ; but when the date of his favour began to expire (and it did not continue long) he was then taught to feel how much severer their hate could be than their fondness. He had indeed from the first, two or three dreadful presages of what might happen to him ; for he had seen with his own eyes the two kittens, his play-fellows, drowned for some misdemeanor they had been guilty of, and the magpye's head chopt off with the greatest passion, for darting to peck a piece of plumb-cake that lay in the window without permission ; which instances of cruelty were sufficient to warn him, if he had any foresight, of what might afterwards happen to himself.
But he was not let long to entertain himself with conjectures before he felt in person and in reality the mischievous disposition of these little tyrants. Sometimes they took it into their heads that he was full of fleas, and then he was soused into a tub of water till he was almost dead, in order to kill the vermin that inhabited the hair of his body. At other times he was set on his hinder legs with a book before his eyes, and ordered to read his lesson ; which not being able to perform, they whipped him till he howled, and then chastised him the more for daring to be sensible of pain.
Much of this treatment did he undergo, often wishing himself restored to the arms of lady Tempest, when fortune taking pity of his calamities, once more resolved to change his lodgings, and deliver him from this house of inquisition.
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This page is by James Eason.