The HISTORY of POMPEY the LITTLE
|Contents||Chapters X-XII||Chapters XVI-XVIII|
|Chapter XIII||Chapter XIV||Chapter XV|
|Sir Thomas Browne|
A description of counsellor Tanturian.
BUT among the many people, who frequented this coffee-house, Pompey was delighted with no-body more than with the person of counsellor Tanturian ; who used to crawl out once a week, to read all the public papers from Monday to Monday, at the moderate price of a penny. His dress and character were both so extraordinary, as will excuse a short digression upon them.
He set out originally with a very humble fortune at the Temple, not without hopes, however, of arriving, some time or other, at the chancellor's seat : But having tried his abilities once or twice at the bar, to little purpose, nature soon whispered in his ear, that he was never designed for an orator. He attended the judges indeed, after this, through two or three circuits, but finding his gains by no means equivalent to his expences, he thought it most prudent to decline the noisy forum, and content himself with giving advice to clients in a chamber. Either his talents here also were deficient, or same had not sufficiently divulged his merit, but his chamber was seldom disturbed with visiters, and he had few occasions to envy the tranquillity of a country life, according to the lawyer in Horace ;
Agricolam laudat juris legumque peritus,
Sub Galli cantum consultor ubi ostia pulsat.
His temper grew soured and unsocial by miscarriages, and the narrowness of his fortune obliging him to a strict frugality, he soon degenerated into avarice. The rust of money is very apt to infect the soul ; and people, whose circumstances condemn them to oeconomy, in time grow misers from very habit. This was the case with counsellor Tanturian, who having quite discarded the relish of pleasure, and finding his little pittance, by that means, more than adequate to his expences, resolved to apply the overplus to the laudable purposes of usury. This noble occupation he had followed a long time, and by it accumulated a sum of ten thousand pounds, which his heart would not suffer him to enjoy, though he had neither relation or friend to leave it to at his death. He lived almost constantly alone in a dirty chamber, denying himself every comfort of life, and half-starved for want of sustenance. Neither love, nor ambition, nor joy, disturbed his repose ; his passions all centered in money, and he was a kind of savage within doors.
The furniture of his person was not less curious than his character. At home indeed he wore nothing but a greasy flannel cap about his head, and a dingy night-gown about his body ; but when he went abroad, he arrayed himself in a suit of black, of full twenty years standing, and very like in colour to what is worn by undertakers at a funeral. His peruke, which had once adorned the head of a judge in the reign of Queen Anne, spread copiously over his back, and down his shoulders. By his side hung an aged sword, long rusted in its scabbard ; and his black silk stockings had been so often darned with a different material, that, like Sir John Cutler's, they were not metamorphosed into black worsted stockings.
Such was counsellor Tanturian, who once a week came to read the newspapers at the coffee-house where Pompey lived. A dog of any talents for humour, could not help being diverted with his appearance, and our hero found great pleasure in playing him tricks, in which he was secretly encouraged by every body in the coffee-room. At first indeed, he never saw him without barking at him, as at a monster just dropped out of the moon ; but when time had a little reconciled him to his figure, he entertained the company every time he came with some new prank, at the counsellor's expence. Once he ran away with his spectacles ; at another time, he laid violent teeth on his shirt, which hung out of his breeches, and shook it, to the great diversion of all beholders : But what occasioned more laughter than any thing, was a trick that follows.
Tanturian had been tempted one day, by two old acquaintance, to indulge his genius at a tavern ; where he complain'd highly of the expensiveness of the dinner, tho' it consisted only of a beef-steak and two fowls. That nothing might be lost, he took an opportunity, unobserved by the company, to slip the leg of a pullet into his pocket ; intending to carry it home for his supper at night. In his way he called at the coffee-house, where little Pompey playing about him as usual, unfortunately happened to scent the provision in the counsellor's pocket. Tanturian, mean time, was so deeply engaged with his newspaper, that he never attended to the motions of the dog, who getting slily behind him, thrust his head into the pocket, and boldly seizing the spoils, displayed them in triumph to the sight of the whole room. The poor counsellor could not stand the laugh, but retired home in a melancholy mood, vexed at the discovery, and more vexed at the loss of his supper.
But these diversions were soon interrupted by a most unlucky accident, and our hero, unfortunate as he has hitherto been, is now going to suffer a turn of fate more grievous than any he yet has known. Following the maid one evening into the streets, he unluckily missed her at the turning of an alley, and happening to take a wrong way, prowled out of his knowledge before he was aware. He wandered about the streets for many hours, in vain endeavouring to explore his way home ; in which distress, his memory brought back the cruel chance that had separated him from his best mistress lady Tempest, and this reflection aggravated his misery beyond description. At last, a watchman picked him up, and carried him to the watch-house, where he spent his night in all the agonies of horror and despair. For a watch-house, as I dare say many of my readers can testify from experience, is not the most agreeable place of repose, either for dogs or men.
A short chapter, containing all the wit, and all the spirit, and all the pleasure of modern young gentlemen.
AS he was here abandoning himself to lamentation and despair, some other watchmen brought in two fresh prisoners to bear him company in his confinement, who I am sorry to say it, were two young lords. They were extremely disordered, both in their dress, and understanding ; for champagne was not the only enemy they had encountered that evening. One of them had lost his coat and waist-coat ; the other his bag and peruke, all but a little circular lock of hair, which grew to his forehead, and now hanging over his eyes, added not a little to the drollery of his figure.
The generous god of the grape had cast such a mist over their understandings, that they were insensible at first of the place of honour they were promoted to ; but at length, one of them a little recovering his wits, cried out, ' what the devil place is this ? a bawdy-house, or a presbyterian meeting-house ?' ' Neither , sir,' answered a watchman, ' but the round-house.' ' O p-x,' said his lordship, ' I thought you had been a dissenting parson, old grey-beard, and was going to preach against wh--ring, for you must know, old fellow, I am confounded in for it--- But what privilege have you, sir, to carry a man of honour to the round-house ?' ' Ay,' said the other, ' what right has such an old fornicator as thou art, to interrupt the pleasures of men of quality ? may not a nobleman get drunk, without being disturbed by a pack of rascals in the streets ?' ' Gentlemen,' answered the watch, ' we are no rascals but servants of his majesty king George, and his majesty requires us to take up all people that commit disorderly riots in his majesty's streets.' ' You lie, you scoundrels,' said one of their lordships, ' 'tis the prerogative of men of fashion to do what they please, and I'll prosecute you for a breach of privilege --- D--mn you, my lord, I'll hold you fifty pound, that old prig there, in the great coat, is a cuckold, and he shall be judge himself. --- How many eyes has your wife got, old fellow ? one or two ?' ' Well, well,' said the watchman, ' your honours may abuse us as much as you please ; but we know we are doing our duty, and we will perform it in the king's name.' ' Your duty, you rascal,' cried one of these men of honour, ' is immediately to fetch us a girl, and a dozen of champagne ; if you'll perform that, I'll say you are as honest an old son of a whore, as ever lay with an oyster- woman. My dear Fanny ! if I had but you here, and a dozen of Ryan's claret, I should esteem this round-house a palace--- Curse me, if I don't love to sleep in a round-house sometimes ; it gives a variety to life, and relieves one from the insipidness of a soft bed.' ' Well-said, my hero,' answered his companion, ' and these old scoundrels shall carry us before my lord-mayor to-morrow, for the humour of the thing. Pox take him, I buy all my tallow-candles of his lordship, and therefore I am sure he'll use me like a man of honour.'
In such kind of rhodomontade did these illustrious persons consume their night, and principally in laying wagers, which at present is the highest article of modern pleasure ; every particular of human life being reduced by the great calculators of chances to the condition of a bet. But nothing is esteemed a more laudable topic of wagering, than the lives of eminent men ; which, in the elegant language of Newmarket, is called running lives ; that is to say, a bishop against an alderman, a judge against a keeper of a tavern, a member of parliament against a famous boxer ; and in this manner all people's lives are wagered out, with proper allowances for their ages, infirmities, and distempers. Happy the nation that can produce such ingenious, accomplished spirits !
These two honourable peers had been spending their evening at a tavern, with many others, and when the rational particle was thoroughly drowned in claret, one of the company leaping from his chair, cried out, ' who will do any thing ?' upon which, a resolution was immediately taken, to make a sally into the streets, and drink champagne upon the horse at Charing-Cross. This was no sooner projected than executed, and they performed a great number of heroical exploits, too long to be mentioned in this work, but we hope some future historian will arise to immortalize them for the sake of posterity. After this was over, they resolved to scour the streets, and perceiving a light in a cellar under ground, our two heroes magnanimously descended into that subterranean cave, in quest of adventures. There they found some hackney-coachmen enjoying themselves with porter and tobacco, whom they immediately attacked, and offered to box the two sturdiest champions of the company. The challenge was accepted in a moment, and whilst our heroes were engaged, the rest of the coachmen chose to make off with their cloaths, which they thought no inconsiderable booty. In short, these gentlemen of pleasure and high-life were heartily drubbed, and obliged to retreat with shame from the cellar of battle, leaving their cloaths behind them, as spoils, at the mercy of the company. Soon afterwards, they were taken by the watch, being too feeble to make resistance, and conducted to the round-house ; where they spent their night in the manner already described. The next morning, they returned home in chairs, new-dressed themselves, and then took their seats in parliament, to enact laws for the good of their Country.
Our hero falls into great misfortunes.
WHEN the watchman had discharged himself in the morning of these honourable prisoners, he next bethought himself of poor Pompey, who had fallen into his hands in a more inoffensive manner. Him he presented that day to a blind beggar of his acquaintance, who had lately lost his dog, and wanted a new guide to conduct him about the streets. Here our hero fell into the most desponding meditations. ' And was this misery,' thought he, ' reserved in store to compleat the series of my misfortunes ? Am I destined to lead about the dark footsteps of a blind, decrepit, unworthy beggar ? Must I go daggled thro' the streets, with a rope about my neck, linking me to a wretch that is the scorn of human nature ? O that a rope were fixed about my neck indeed for a nobler purpose, and that were here to end a dreadful, tormenting existence ! Can I bear to hear the sound of, pray remember the poor blind beggar ? I, who have conversed with lords and ladies ; who have slept in the arms of the fairest beauties, and lived on the choicest dainties that London could afford. Cruel, cruel fortune ! when will thy persecutions cease !'
Yet to say the truth, his condition was not so deplorable upon trial, as it appeared in the prospect ; for tho' he was condemned to travel thro' dirty streets all day long in quest of charity, at night both he and his master fared sumptuously enough on their gains ; and many a lean projector or starving poet might envy the suppers of this blind beggar. He seldom failed to collect four or five shillings in a day, and used to sit down to his hot meals with as much stateliness as a peer could to a regular entertainment and dessert.
I have heard a story of a cripple, who used constantly to apply for alms at Hyde-Park-Corner ; where a gentleman, then just recovered from a dangerous fit of sickness, never failed to give him six-pence every morning, as he passed by in his chariot for the air. A servant of this gentleman's going by chance one day into an alehouse, discovered the self-same beggar sitting down to a breast of veal with some more of the fraternity, and heard him raving at the landlord, because the bur was gone, and there was no lemon ready to squeeze over it ; all of them threatning to leave the house, if their dinners were not served up with more regularity and respect. The footman informed his master of this extraordinary circumstance ; and next morning when the pampered hypocrite applied for alms as usual, the gentleman put his head out of the chariot, and told him with great indignation, ' no, sir, I can eat veal without lemon.'
After our hero had lived in this condition some months in London, his blind master set out for Bath, whither, it seems, he always resorted in the public seasons ; not for the sake of playing at Eo, it may be imagined, nor yet for the pleasure of being taken out by the accomplished Mr. Nash to dance a minuet at a ball ; but with the hopes of a plentiful harvest among infirm people, whom ill health disposes to charity. The science of begging is reduced to certain principles of art, as well as other professions ; and as sickness is apt to influence people with compassion, the objects of charity flock thither in great numbers ; for wherever the carrion is, there will be the crows be also.
The many adventures that befel them on their journey ; how terribly our hero was fatigued with traveling thro' miry highways, who had been used to ride in coaches and six ; and how often he wished his blind tyrant would drop dead with an apoplexy, shall be left to the reader's imagination. Suffice it to say, that in about three weeks or a month's time, they arrived at the end of their journey, and the beggar readily groped out his way to a certain alehouse, which he always favoured with his company ; where the landlord received him with great respect, professing much satisfaction to find his honour so well in health. By this the reader will perceive that he was a beggar of some distinction.
If our hero made any reflexion, he could not help being surprized at such civility, paid to such a person in such a place ; but how much greater reason had he for astonishment, when on the evening of their arrival, he saw a well-drest woman enter the room, and accost his master in the following terms, ' Papa, how do you do ? you are welcome to Bath.' The beggar no sooner heard her voice, than he started from his chair, and gave her a paternal kiss ; which the fair lady received with an air of scorn and indifference, telling him, ' he had poisoned her with his bushy beard.' When this ceremony was over, she threw herself into an arm-chair, and began to harangue in the following manner --- ' Well, papa, so you are come to Bath at last ; I thought we should not have seen you this season, and I have immediate necessity for a sum of money. Sure no mortal ever had such luck at cards, as I have had. You must let me have five or ten pound directly.' ' Five or ten pound !' cries the beggar in amaze ; ' how in the devil's name should I come by five or ten pound ?' ' Come, come, no words,' cried the daughter, ' for I absolutely must and will have it in spite of your teeth. I know you are worth above a hundred pounds, and what can you do with your money better, than give it me to make a figure in life with ? Deuce take the men, they are grown so plaguy modest, or so plaguy stingy, that really 'tis hardly worth coming to Bath now in the seasons. Hang me if I have had a cull this twelve-month --- but do you know, old dad, that brother Jack's at the Bath ?'
' Oh !' cries the beggar, ' there's another of my plagues --- I shall have him dunning me for money too very soon I suppose, for the devil can't answer the extravagancies of that fellow. Well, he'll certainly come to be hanged at last, that's my comfort, and I think the sooner he swings, the better it will be for his poor father, and the whole kingdom.'
' Hanged !' replied the lady, ' no, no, Jack is in no danger of hanging at present, I assure you ; he is now the most accomplished, modish, admired young fellow at the Bath ; the peculiar favourite of all the ladies ; and in a a fair way of running off with a young heiress of considerable fortune. Let me see, old dad --- If you'll bespeak a private room, and have a little elegant supper ready at eleven o'clock to morrow night (for Jack won't be able to get away from the rooms sooner than eleven) I'll bring him to sup with you, and you shall hear his history from his own mouth.' To this the old hypocrite her father readily consented, and promised to provide something decent for them ; after which, starting from her chair, ' well, papa,' said she, ' you must excuse me at present, for I expect company at my lodgings, and so can't afford to waste any more time with you in this miserable dog-hole of an ale-house.' Having made this polite apology, she flew to her chair, which waited at the door, and was conducted home with as much importance, as if she had been a princess of the blood.
The next day, the blind imposter, attended by our hero, went out on his pilgrimage, and continued whining for charity, and profaning the name of G-d til night ; after which, he returned to his ale-house, put on a better coat, and got himself in readiness for the reception of his son and daughter. At the hour appointed, these illustrious personages entered the room, and the conversation was opened by the son in the following easy strain. ' Old boy !' (cries he, seizing his father by the hand) ' I am glad to see thee with all my heart. Well, old fellow, how does your crutch and blind eyes do ? what, you continue still in the old canting hypocritical way, I perceive --- Pox take you, I saw you hobbling through the streets to-day, old miserable, but you know I am ashamed to take notice of you in public --- tho' I think I have thrown you down many a tester at the corner of a street, without your knowing whom you was oblige to for such a piece of generosity.'
' Sir, I honour your generosity,' replied the beggar, ' but, prythee Jack, they tell me you are going to be married to an heiress of great fortune, is there any truth in the story.'
Here the beau-sharper took a French snuff-box out of his pocket, and having entertained his nose with a pinch of rappee, replied as follows. ' Yes, sir, my unaccountable somewhat has had the good luck to make conquest of a little amorous tit, with an easy moderate fortune of about fifteen thousand pounds, who does me the honour to doat on this person of mine to distraction. But prythee, old blue-beard, how didst thou come by this piece of intelligence ?' ' From that fine lady your sister, sir,' replied the beggar. ' O pox ! I thought so,' cries the beau. ' --- Bess can never keep any thing in her but her teeth, nor them neither, can you Bess ? you understand me --- but as I was saying, concerning this match ; yes, sir, I have the honour at present to be principal favourite of all the women at Bath ; they are all dying with love of me, and I may do what I please with any of them ; but I, sir, neglecting the rest, have singled out a little amorous wanton, with a trifling fortune of fifteen or twenty thousand pounds only, whom I shall very soon whip into a chariot, I believe, and drive away to a parson.'
' Lord !' cries the father, ' if she did know what a thief she is going to marry !'
' Why, what then ? you old curmudgeon ! she would be the more extravagantly fond of me on that account. 'Tis very fashionable, sir, for ladies to fall in love with highwaymen now-a-days. They think it discovers a soul, a genius, a spirit in them, above the little prejudices of education ; and I believe I could not do better than let her know that I have returned from transportation. --- But prythee, old dim, what hast got for supper to night ?' ' Nothing I am afraid that a gentleman of your fashion can condescend to eat,' replied the beggar ; ' for I have only ordered a dish of veal cutlets, and a couple of roasted fowls.' ' Come, come, prythee don't pretend to droll, old blinker !' cries the son, ' but produce your musty supper as fast as you can, and then I'll treat you with a bottle of French claret. Come, let us be merry, and set in for jovial evening. Pox ! I have some little kind of sneaking regard for thee, for begetting me, notwithstanding your crutch and blind eyes, and I think I am not altogether sorry to see thee. --- Here, drawer, landlord, bring up supper directly, you dog, or I'll set fire to your house.'
This extraordinary summons had the desired effect, and supper being placed on the table, the three worthy guests sat down to it with great importance. The lady took upon her to manage the ceremonies, and asked her papa in the first place, if she should help him to some veal cutlets ? to which the answer was, ' if you please madam !' when she had served her father, she then performed the same office to herself ; after which, twirling the dish round with a familiar air, ' I'll leave you,' said she, ' to take care of yourself, Jack !' much mirth and pleasantry reigned at this peculiar meal, to the utter astonishment of the master of the house, who had never seen the like before. When supper was over, and they began to feel the inspiration of the claret, ' Jack !' says the father, ' I think I know nothing of your history, since you returned from transportation --- Suppose you should begin and entertain us with an account of your exploits.' ' With all my heart,' cries the son ; ' I believe I shall publish my life one of these days, if ever I am driven to necessity, for I fancy it will make a very pretty neat duodecimo ; and 'tis the fashion, you now, now-a-days for all whores and rogues to entertain the world with their memoirs. --- Come, let us take another glass round to the health of my dear little charmer, and then I'll begin my adventures.' Having so said, he filled out three bumpers, drank his toast on his knees, and then commenced his narration in the following manner.
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This page is by James Eason.