The HISTORY of POMPEY the LITTLE
|Contents||Chapters VII-IX||Chapters XIII-XV|
|Chapter X||Chapter XI||Chapter XII|
|Sir Thomas Browne|
A matrimonial dispute.
LADY Betty Vincent had a mother still living, as we hinted in the preceding chapter ; who having worn out her life in vanity, cards, and all sorts of luxury, was now turned methodist at seventy, and thought by presenting heaven with the dregs of her age, to atone for all the riot and lasciviousness of her youth. For this purpose she had renounced all public diversions, put herself under the tuition of the two great field-preaching apostles, and was become one of the warmest votaries of that prevailing sect.
But besides the self-mortification she was pleased to undergo, her ladyship had likewise an additional stratagem to procure her pardon above, which she thought impossible to fail her ; and this was to take her eldest grand-daughter out of the temptations of a wicked seducing age into her own family, and breed her up a methodist : the merit of which laudable action she hoped would compensate all her own miscarriages, and effectually restore her to the divine favour.
Having thus laid the scheme of compounding matters with heaven, and making the virtues of the grand-daughter balance as it were and set off the sins of the grand-mother, she now thought only of putting it in execution. In the first place she communicated her design to the two apostles, and the moment she was assured of their approbation, she dispatched a message to her daughter, desiring an hour's conversation with her the first time she was at leisure.
Lady Betty, who had great dependance on her mother, did not fail to answer the summons, and was with her very early the next morning ; so very early, that the clock had but just struck one ; which she said was an instance of her uncommon filial obedience. It may be imagined the two ladies soon came to agreement ; lady Betty being as glad to get rid of a charge, as lady Harridan to acquire a companion, which she represented as the motive that induced her to take her grand-daughter into her family.
Matters being thus settled, lady Betty returned home to dinner ; where she observed a sullen silence till the cloth was removed, and the servants were carrying away the last things. Then it was that she pleased to open her mouth, and bade one of the footmen ' tell Minikin to get Sally's cloaths and linnen packed up against the evening.' There happened at this time to be a miff subsisting between her ladyship and the captain, and they had glowted at one another for several days without exchanging a word. She did not therefore vouchsafe to ask her husband's consent in the step she was taking, nor even to inform him of it in direct terms, but left him to extract it as well as he could from this oblique message, which she sent to her maid. The captain, who saw plainly that some mystery was contained under these orders, had at first a mind to be revenged by affecting not to hear them ; but curiosity prevailing over his resentment, he submitted at length to ask whither his daughter was going ?
Why, if you will spend all your life at White's, and lose all your money in play, (replied the lady with an air of disdain) I must dispose of my children as well as I can, I think.'
' But what connexion is there, in the name of God,' said the captain, ' between my playing at White's, and your packing up your daughter's cloaths ? --- Unless perhaps you are going to send your daughter to the Foundling-Hospital.'
' Yes, perhaps I am,' cries she with a toss of her head ; ' if one can't maintain one's children at home, they must e'en come upon the parish, and there's an end of it.'
Still the captain remained unenlightened ; not a ray of information transpired through these dark speeches, and indeed there seemed to be no likelihood of an eclaircissement ; for in this manner they continued to play at cross-purposes with one another for several minutes. At last, his patience being utterly exhausted, he insisted very earnestly, and somewhat angrily, to know what was going to be done with his daughter. ' Why, mamma has a mind to take the girl to live with her, if you must know,' replied her ladyship, ' and that is going to be done with your daughter. If you will get children, without being able to maintain them, you may be thankful methinks to find there is somebody in the world that will take them off your hands.' ' Oh Madam !' cries the captain, ' as to the article of begetting children, I apprehend your ladyship to be full as guilty as I am, and therefore that is out of the question---but as to your mamma's taking them off our hands, devil take me if I am not exceedingly obliged to her for it. Your mamma is welcome to take them all, if she pleases. --- I only wanted to know what was going to be done with the girl, and now I am most perfectly satisfied ;' which he uttered with the most taunting pronunciation in the world.
There is nothing so exceedingly provoking as a sneer to people enraged and inflamed with pride. The captain perceived the effect it had, and resolving to pursue his triumph, ' My dear,' added he, ' to be sure the prudent care you are taking to provide for your children is highly commendable, but I am afraid your mamma will debauch the girl with religion. --- She'll teach her perhaps to whine, and cant, and say her prayers under the godly Mr. Whitefield.'
Lady Betty had never in her life shown the least regard for her mother. She had married in direct opposition to her will, and partly out of revenge, because she happened at that time to have a quarrel with her, and knew her disinclination to the match : but now so much was she galled with the captain's raillery, that she gladly seized on any thing which offered as a handle of reproach. With rage therefore sparkling in her eyes, and indignation glowing all over her face, she cried out, ' How dare you ridicule my mamma ? If mamma has a mind to be an old doting idiot, and change her religion, does it become you of all people to reproach her with it ? You have the greatest obligations to her, sir, and you may be ashamed to give yourself such airs. You ridicule my mamma ! --- You of all people in the world ! --- 'Twould have been well for me, I am sure, if I had taken mamma's advice, and never had you ; for you know you brought nothing but your little beggarly commission, and what is the income of a little beggarly commission ? 'tis not sufficient to furnish one's pincushion with pins. And who pray was you, when I had you ? You know you was no blood or family ; and yet you pretend to ridicule my mamma ! you of all people ! you ! --- if it was not for mamma now, you would starve, you and all your brats would starve with want.'
When a dispute is grown to the highest, especially if it be a matrimonial one, all sober argument and cool reply are nothing better than words spoken against the wind. The judicious captain therefore, instead of answering this invective of his spouse, very wisely, in my opinion, fell a singing ; which so exasperated the fair lady, and so utterly overset her patience, that she started from her chair, swept down two or three bottles and glasses with her hoop-petticoat, flounced out of the room, and rushed up stairs ready to burst with spite and indignation.
All the while this dispute was passing the parlour, our hero was the subject of as fierce a one among his little owners, or rather tormentors, in another room. For as the eldest girl was going into a different family, it was necessary they should make a separation of their play-things ; and our hero being incapable of division, unless they had carved him out into shares, a warm debate arose concerning him, both sides obstinately refusing to wave their pretensions. This perhaps may seem a little wonderful to the reader, who has been informed that they were all long ago grown tired of him ; but let him consider the tempers of this little family, begotten in spleen, peevishness, and pride, and I believe he will not think it unnatural, after the recent example he has seen of their parents, that a spirit of opposition should make them contend with the greatest vehemence for a matter of the most absolute indifference to them. This was in reality the cause of their contention, and they would soon have gone together by the ears, had not their mamma appeared to decide the question in favour of her eldest girl ; whose claim she said was indisputable, from the circumstance of her finding him in the Park.
Lady Betty was hardly yet recovered from her passions, but being now told that lady Harridan's coach was waiting for her at the door, she composed her face as well as she could, and mounted into it, attended by her daughter and the hero of this history.
A stroke at the methodists.
THEY arrived at lady Harridan's about seven o'clock in the evening, and were immediately conducted up-stairs into her lady's dining-room, where they found a large company of women assembled. On the first sight of so many ladies, I believe our hero concluded, he was got into some rout or drum, such as he had often seen at lady Tempest's ; yet on the other hand he knew not well how to reconcile many appearances with such a supposition. He saw no cards, he heard no laughing --- the solemn faces of the servants, who now and then appeared, the sober looks of the company, every thing seemed to inform him, that pleasure never could be the cause of this assembly. It was indeed a sisterhood of the godly, met together to bewail the vanities of human life, and congratulate one another on their common good-luck, in breaking away from the enchantments of a sinful world.
The causes, which had converted them to methodism, were almost as various as the several characters of the converts. Some the ill-success of their charms had driven to despair ; others a consciousness of too great success had touched with repentance ; and both these terminated in superstitious melancholy. Disappointed love and criminal amour, tho' opposite in nature, here wrought the same effects : thunder and lightning, ill-omened dreams, earthquakes, vapors, small-pox, all had their converts in this religious collection : but far the most part of them, like the noble president, were women fatigued and worn out in the vanities of life, the battered and super-annuated jades of pleasure, who being grown sick of themselves, and weary of the world, were now fled to methodism, merely as the newest sort of folly, that had lately been invented.
--- Species non omnibus una,
Nec diversa tamen ; qualem decet esse sororum.
The appearance of lady Betty in such a company as this, was like a wasp's invading a nest of drones. She was too spirited, too much drest, too worldly to be agreeable to them, and they in return gave as little pleasure to her. In short, she very soon found herself out of her element, and after sitting a few minutes only, rose up and began to make her departing curtsies.
' Why sure you are not going, lady Betty,' cried the mother---' I presumed upon your staying the evening with us.'
' No thank you,' replied the daughter ; ' another time, if you please, mamma ; but you seem to be all too religious abundantly for me at present. I can't afford to say my prayers above once a week, mamma, and 'tis not Sunday to-day according to my calculation.'
' For shame, for shame, my dear, don't indulge such levity of discourse,' said lady Harridan ; ' let me prevail on you to stay, lady Betty, and I am sure we shall make a convert of you. There is that tranquillity, my dear, that composure, that serenity of mind attending methodism, that I am sure no person who judges fairly, can refuse to embrace it. Pleasure, my dear, is all vanity and folly, an unquiet, empty, transient delusion---believe me, child, I have experienced it, I have proved the vanity of it, and depend upon't, sooner or later you will come to the same way of thinking.'
' Very likely I may,' replied lady Betty ; ' but you'll give me leave to grow a little wickeder first, won't you, mamma ? I have not sins enough at present, I am not quite wicked enough as yet to turn methodist.'
' Fie ! fie ! don't encourage that licentiousness of conversation,' cries the old lady ; ' you shock me, my dear, beyond measure, you make my blood run cold again to hear you --- but let me beseech you to stay, and you'll have the pleasure of hearing the dear Whitefield talk on this subject --- we expect him every minute.'
' Do you ?' says lady Betty ; ' then upon my honour I'll hie me away this moment, for I'll promise you, mamma, I have not the least desire or curiosity to hear the dear Whitefield --- and so your servant, ladies, your servant.' Having said this, she brushed down stairs, and left the company astonished at her prophaneness.
As lady Betty went out, the dear Whitefield and his brother apostle entered, who were the only people wanting to compleat this religious collection. On their appearance the mysteries began, and they all fell to lamenting the wickedness of their former lives. The great guilt of loving cards, the exceeding sinfulness of having been fond of dancing in their youthful days, were enumerated as sins of the most atrocious quality ; whilst other crimes, of a nature perhaps not inferior to these, were very prudently kept out of sight. Then Mr. Whitefield began to preach the history of his life, and related the many combats and desperate encounter he has had with the devil ; how satan confined him to his chamber once at college, and permitted him not to eat for several days together ; with ten thousand other malicious pranks play'd by the prince of darkness on the body of that unfortunate adventurer, if we may believe his own journals. He proceeded in the next place to describe the many miracles, which heaven has wrought in his favour ; how it ceased to rain once, and the sun broke out on a sudden, just as he was beginning to preach on Kennington-Common ; with a million more equally stupendous prodigies, which shew how great an interest heaven takes in all the actions of that religious mountebank. When the company had enjoyed enough of this scriptural and suspirious conversation, they proceeded in the last place to singing of psalms, and this concluded the superstition of the evening.
All the former part of the time, our hero sat very composed and quietly before the fire ; but when they began to chant their hymns, surprized and astonished with the novelty of this proceeding, he fell to howling with the most sonorous accent, and in a key much higher than any of the screaming sisters. Nor was this all ; for presently afterwards, Mr. Wh---d attempting to stroke him, he snarled and bit his finger : which being the self-same indignity that Lucian formerly offered to the hand of a similar impostor, we thought it not beneath the dignity of this history to relate it. To say the truth, I believe he had taken some disgust to that exceeding pious gentleman ; for besides these two instances of ill-behaviour, he was guilty of a much greater rudeness the next day to his works.
Lady Harridan, as soon as she arose the next morning, sent for her little grand-daughter immediately into her close, and made her repeat some long methodistical prayers ; after which she heard her read several pages out of the apostle's journal, and then they went to breakfast ; but by mistake left poor Pompey shut up in the closet. The little prisoner scratched very impatiently to be released, and made various attempts to open the door ; but not having the good fortune to succeed, he leaped upon the table, and wantonly did his occasions upon the field-preacher's memoirs, which lay open upon it. Whether this was done to express his contempt of the book, or merely from an incapacity of suppressing his needs, is hardly possible for us to determine ; tho' we are sensible how much it would exalt him in the reader's esteem, to ascribe it to the former motive ; and indeed it must be confessed, that his chusing to drop his superfluities on so particular a spot, may very well countenance such a suspicion ; but unless we had the talents of Æsop, to interpret the sentiments of brutes, it will for ever be impossible to come at the truth of this important affair.
However that be, lady Harridan unfortunately returned to her close soon afterwards, and saw the crime he had been guilty of. Rage and indignation sparkled in her eyes ; she rang her bell instantly with the greatest fury, and on the appearance of a footman, ordered him immediately to be hanged. His young mistress, whose love for him had long since cooled, and who besides feared her grand-mamma's resentment, did not think proper to oppose the sentence. He was had away therefore that moment to execution ; which I dare say, courteous reader, thou art extremely glad to hear, as it would put a period to his history, and prevent thee from misspending any more of thy precious time. But alas ! thy hopes are in vain --- thy labours are not yet at an end. The footman, who happened to have some few grains of compassion in his nature, instead of obeying his lady's orders, sold him that day for a pint of porter to an ale-house keeper's daughter in Tyburn-Road. Here then, gentle friend, if thou art tired, let me advise thee to desist and fall asleep ; or if perchance thy spirits are fresh, and thou dost not yet begin to yawn, proceed on courageously, and thou wilt in good time arrive at the end of thy journey.
The history of a modish marriage ; the description of a coffee-house, and a very grave political debate on the good of the nation.
POMPEY was sold, as we have just observed, to an alehouse-keeper's daughter, for the valuable consideration of a pint of porter. This amiable young lady was then on the point of marriage with a hackney-coachman, and soon afterwards the nuptials were consummated to the great joy of the two ancient families, who were by this means sure of not being extinct. As soon as the ceremony was over at the Fleet, the new-married couple set out to celebrate their wedding at the Old Blue-Boar in Tyburn-Road, and the bride was conducted home at night dead-drunk to her new apartments in a garret in Smithfield.
This fashionable pair had scarce been married three days before they began to quarrel on a very fashionable subject. For the civil well-bred husband coming home one night from his station, and expecting the cow-heels to have been ready for his supper, found his lodgings empty, and his darling spouse abroad. At about eleven o'clock she came flouncing into the room, and telling him, with great gaietè de coeur, that she had been at the play, began to describe the several scenes of Hamlet prince of Denmark. Judge if this was not provocation too great for a hackney-coachman's temper. He fell to exercising his whip in a most outrageous manner, and she applying herself no less readily to more desperate weapons, a most bloody fray ensued between them ; in which the coachman had like to have been stabbed with a penknife, and his fair spouse was obliged to keep her bed near a month with the bruises she received in this horrid rencounter.
Pompey now most sensibly felt the ill effects of his former luxury, which served only to aggravate the miseries of his present condition. The coarse fare he met with in roofless garrets, or cellars under ground, were but indelicate morsels to one who had formerly lived on ragouts and fricassees ; and he found it very difficult to sleep on hard and naked floors, who had been used to have his limbs cushioned up on sopha's and couches. But luckily for him, his favour with his mistress procured him the hatred of his master, who sold him a second time to a nymph of Billingsgate for a pennyworth of oysters.
His situation indeed was not mended for the present by this means, but it put him in a way to be released the sooner from a course of life so ill suited to his constitution or his temper. For this delicate fisherwoman, as she went her rounds, carried him one evening to a certain coffee-house near the Temple, where the lady behind the bar was immediately struck with his beauty, and with no great difficulty prevailed on the gentle water-nymph to surrender him for a dram of brandy.
His fortunes now began to wear a little better aspect, and he spent his time here agreeably enough in listening to the conversations and disputes that arose in the coffee-room among people of all denominations ; for here assembled wits, critics, templars, politicians, poets, country squires, grave tradesmen, and sapient physicians.
The little consistories of wit claimed his first attention, being a dog of a natural turn for humour, and he took a pleasure to hear young Templars criticise the works of Shakespear, call Mr. Garrick to account every evening for his action, extol the beauty of actresses, and the reputation of whores.
When he was tired of the clubs of humour, he would betake himself to another table, and listen to a junto of politicians, who used to assemble here in an evening with the most public-spirited views ; namely, to settle the affairs of the nation, and point out the errors of the ministry. Here he has heard the government arraigned in the most abusive manner, for what the government never performed or thought of ; and the lowest ribaldry of a dirty news-paper, cried up as the highest touches of attic irony. He has heard sea-fights condemned by people who never saw the sea even thro' a telescope ; and the general of an army called to account for his disposition of a battle, by men whose knowledge of war never reached beyond a cock match.
A curious conversation of this kind passed one day in his hearing, which I shall beg leave to relate as a little specimen of coffee-house oratory. It happened at the end of the late rebellion ; and the chief orator of the club began as usual with asserting, that the rebellion was promoted by the ministry for some private ends of their own. ' What was the reason,' said he, ' of its being disbelieved so long ? Why was our army absent at such a critical conjuncture ? I should be glad to hear any man answer me these questions. They may think perhaps they are acting all this while in secret, and applaud themselves for their cunning ; but I believe I know more than they would with me to know. Thank God I can see a little, if I please to open my eyes. 'Zounds, old Walpole is behind the curtain still, notwithstanding his resignation, and the old game is playing over again, whatever they may pretend --- There was a correspondence between Walpole and Fleury, to my knowledge, and they projected between them all the evils that have since happened to the nation.'
The company all seemed to agree with this eloquent gentleman's sentiments ; and one of them ventured to say he believed the army was sent into Flanders, on purpose to be out of the way at the time of the insurrection. ' 'Zounds,' says the orator, ' I believe you are in the right, and the wind blew them over against their inclinations. Pox ! what made What-d'ye-callum's army disperse as it did ? let any body answer me that, if they are able. Don't you think they had orders from above to run away ? --- By G-d I do, if you don't, and I believe I could prove it too, if I was to set about it. Besides, if they have any desire of preventing future invasions from France, why don't they send out and burn all their shipping ? Why don't they send out V-rn-n with a strong fleet, and let him burn all their shipping ? I warrant him, if he had a proper commission in his pocket, he would not leave a harbour or a ship in France --- but they know they don't dare do it for fear of discoveries ; they are in league with the French ministry ; or else, damme, can any thing be so easy as to take and burn all the shipping in France ?'
A gentleman, who had hitherto sat silent at the table, replied, with a sneer on his countenance, ' no, sir, nothing in the world can be so easy, except talking about it.' This drew the eyes of the company upon him, and every one began to wink at his neighbour, when the orator resumed the discourse in the following manner. ' Talk, sir ? no faith, we are come to that pass, that we don't dare talk now-a-days ; things are come to such a pass, that we don't dare open our mouths.' ' Sir, said the gentleman, I think you have been talking already with great licentiousness ; and let me add too, with great indecency on a very serious subject.' ' 'Zounds, sir, said the orator, may not I have the liberty of speaking my mind freely upon any subject that I please ? why, we don't live in France, sir ; you forget, surely --- This is England, this is honest Old England, sir, and not a Mahometan empire ; tho' God knows how long we shall continue so in the way we are going on --- and yet, forsooth, we must not talk ; our mouths are to be sewed up, as well as our purses taken from us --- Here we are paying four shillings in the pound, and yet we must not speak our minds freely.' ' Sir, said the gentleman, undoubtedly you may speak your mind freely ; but the laws of your country oblige you not to speak treason, and the laws of good-manners should dispose you to speak with decency and respect of your governors. You say, sir, we are come to that pass, that we dare not talk --- I protest, that is very extraordinary ; and if I was called upon to answer this declaration, I would rather say we are come to that pass now-a-days, that we talk with more virulence and ill-language than ever --- we talk upon subjects, which it is impossible we should understand, and advance assertions, which we know to be false. Bold affirmations against the government are believed merely from the dint of assurance with which they are spoken, and the idlest jargon often passes for the soundest reasoning. Give me leave to say, your, sir, are a living example of the lenity of that government, which you are abusing for want of lenity, and your own practice in the strongest manner confutes your assertions --- but I beg we may call another subject.'
Here the orator having nothing more to reply, was resolved to retire from a place where he could no longer make a figure. Wherefore, flinging down his reckoning, and putting on his hat with great vehemence, he walked away muttering surlily to himself, ' things are come to a fine pass truly, if people may not have the liberty of talking.' The rest of the company separated soon afterwards, all of them harbouring no very favourable opinion of the gentleman, who had taken the courage to stand up in defence of the government. Some imagined he was a spy, others concluded he was a writer of the gazettes, and the most part were contented with only thinking him a fool.
This angry orator was no sooner got home to his family, and seated in his elbow-chair at supper, than he began to give vent to the indignation he had been collecting ; ' 'Zounds,' said he, ' I have been called to account for my words to-night. I have been told by a jack-a-napes at the coffee-house, that I must not say what I please against the government. Talk with decency indeed ! a fart of decency ! --- let them act with decency, if they have a mind to stop people's mouths --- Talk with decency ! d-mn 'em all, I'll talk what I please, and no king or minister on earth shall controul me. Let 'em behead me, if they have a mind, as they did Balmerino, and t'other fellow, that died like a coward. Must I be catechized by a little sychophant that kisses the a--e of a minister ? What is an Englishman, that dares not utter his sentiments freely ? --- Talk with decency ! I wish I had kicked the rascal out of the coffee-house, and I will, if ever I meet him again, damme --- Pox ! we are come to a fine pass, if every little prating, pragmatical jack-a-napes is to contradict a true born Englishman.'
While his wife and daughters sat trembling at the vehemence of his speeches, yet not daring to speak, for fear of drawing his rage on themselves, he began to curse them for their silence ; and addressing himself to his wife, ' why do'st not speak,' cries he, ' what, I suppose, I shall have you telling me by-and-by too, that I must talk with decency ?' ' My dear,' said the wife, with great humility, ' I know nothing at all of the matter.' ' No,' cries he, ' I believe not ; but you might know to dress a supper, tho', and be d-mn'd to you --- Here's nothing that I can eat, according to custom. Pox, a man may starve with such a wife at the head of his family.'
When the cloth was removed, and he was preparing to fill his pipe, unfortunately he could not find his tobacco-stopper, which again set his choler at work. ' Go up stairs, Moll !' said he to one of his daughters, ' and feel in my old breeches pocket --- Damme, I believe that scoundrel at the coffee-house has robbed me with his decency --- Why do'st not stir, girl ? what, hast got the cramp in thy toes ? Why, papa,' said the girl flippantly, ' I am going as fast as I can.' --- Upon which, immediately he threw a bottle at her head, and proceding from invectives to blows, he beat his wife, kicked his daughters, swore at his servants ; and after all this, went reeling up to bed with curses in his mouth against the tyranny of the government.
Nothing can be more common than examples in this way, of people who preside over their families with the most arbitrary brutal severity, and yet are ready on all occasions to abuse the government for the smallest exertion of its power. To say the truth, I scarce know a man, who is not a tyrant in miniature, over the circle of his own dependants ; and I have observed those in particular to exercise the greatest lordship over their inferiors, who are most forward to complain of oppression from their superiors. Happy is it for the world, that this coffee-house statesman was not born a king, for one may very justly apply to him the line of Martial,
Hei mihi ! si fueris tu leo, qualis eris ?
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This page is by James Eason.