The HISTORY of POMPEY the LITTLE
|Contents||Chapters IV-VI||Chapters X-XII|
|Chapter VII||Chapter VII||Chapter IX|
|Sir Thomas Browne|
WHEN our hero waked the next morning, and found himself in new apartments, the first thing he did was to piss on a pair of velvet breeches, which lay in a chair by his lordship's bedside ; after which, the door being open, he travelled forth, and performed a much more disreputable action on a rich Turkey carpet in my lady's dining-room. Having thus taken possession of his new house by these two acts of seisin, he returned to the bed-side, and reposed himself again to sleep till his lord should please to be stirring.
About ten o'clock lord Marmazet raised himself up in his bed, and rang his bell for servants to assist him in the fatigue of putting on his cloaths. The valet in chief immediately attended, undrew the curtains, and respectfully enquired his master's pleasure. In answer to which his lordship signifying that he would get up, Guillaume folded his stockings, placed his slippers by the bed-side, and was going to present him with his breeches --- when lo ! the crime our hero had been guilty of stared him full in the face, and gave such an air of surprize to his features, that his lordship could not help asking what was the matter. Guillaume then related the misdemeanor, at which his master was so far from being angry, that he only laughed at the astonishment of his valet, and calling the dog upon the bed, caressed him with as much tenderness, as if he had performed the most meritorious action in the world. Then turning again to his servant, ' what does the booby stare at, cries he, ' with such amazement ? I wish to G-d the dog had pissed in thy mouth. Prythee get a fresh pair of breeches, and let me rise --- or am I to lie a-bed till midnight ?'
As soon as he was dressed in his morning dishabille, he went down stairs to breakfast ; in which our hero bore him company, and had the honour of eating roll and butter in great magnificence. When breakfast was over, he recollected that it might now be time to send up compliments to his lady, which he generally performed every morning ; and imagining that she would not be displeased with the present of so pretty a dog, ' here, Guillaume,' said he, ' take this little dog, and carry him up stairs to your lady. My compliments, and desire to know how her ladyship does this morning. Tell her I found him --- pox take him, I don't know where I found him, but he's a pretty little fellow, and I am sure she must be pleased with him.'
THO' the reader must from hence conclude that lord and lady Marmazet reposed themselves in different beds at night, he will not, I imagine, be surprised at such a circumstance in this accomplished and fashionable age. Her ladyship was a woman of great wit, pleasure and amour, as well as her husband, only with a little more reserve and caution, to save appearances with the world. Her familiarity with a sharper at Bath, may have already given the reader some little sketch of her character ; and for the rest it will be only necessary to inform him, that she had spent the greatest part of her life in St. James's parish. Her husband had married her without the temptation of love, because she was a rich heiress of a noble family ; and she had consented to the match, with an equal indifference, only because it preserved her rank and station in the world. In consequence they soon grew totally unconcerned about each other ; but then, being both of easy chearful tempers, their indifference did not sour into hatred ; on the contrary, they made it a topic of wit, when they met, to railly one another on their mutual amours. These meetings indeed were not frequent, once or twice a week perhaps at dinner, at which times they behaved with the utmost politeness and complaisance ; or if they railed, it was done with so much gaiety and good-humour, that they only parted with the greater spirits to their evening amusements. In short, his lordship pursued his pleasures without any domestic expostulations, and her ladyship in return was permitted to live in all respects, as Juvenal expresses it, tanquam vicina mariti, more like her husband's neighbour than his wife.
Her ladyship was now just awake, and taking her morning tea in bed, when Guillaume ascended the stairs, and knocked at her chamber-door. The waiting gentlewoman being ordered out to see who it was, returned immediately to the bed-side with a dog in her arms, and delivered the message that accompanied him. As her ladyship had never in her life discovered any fondness for these four-footed animals, she could not conceive the meaning of such a present, and with some disdain in her countenance ordered ' the fellow to carry back his puppies to his master.' But when the servant was gone down stairs, bethinking herself that there might be some joke in it, which she did not perceive, and resolving not to be out-done by her husband in wit, she asked her maid eagerly, if there was any such thing as a cat in the house. ' A cat, my lady !' cries the waiting gentlewoman, ' yes, my lady, I believe there is such a thing to be found.' ' Well then,' said her ladyship, ' go and catch it directly, and carry it with my compliments to his lordship. Let him know I am infinitely obliged to him for his present, and have sent him a cat in return for his dog.'
The maid simpered without offering to stir, as not indeed conceiving her mistress to be in earnest ; but having the orders repeated to her, she set out immediately to fulfil them. After much laughter below stairs among the servants, a cat at length was catched, and the waiting-maid went with it in her arms to his lordship's dressing room. Having rapped at the door, and being ordered to enter, with a face half-blushing and half-smiling, she delivered here message in the following terms. ' My lady desires her compliments to your lordship, and begs the favour of you to accept of this, in return for your dog.' After which dropping the grave mouser on the floor, she was preparing to run away with all haste, being ready to burst with laughter. But his lordship, who was no less diverted, called her back, and having entertained himself with many jokes on the occasion, sent her up-stairs with a fresh message to her mistress. This was immediately returned on the part of her ladyship, and many little pieces of raillery were carried backwards and forwards, which perhaps might not be unentertaining : but as we are sensible with what contempt these little incidents will be conceived by the reader, if he happens to be a judge, a politician, or an alderman, we shall dwell no longer on them, and here put an end to the chapter.
Describing the miseries of a garretteer poet.
NOT long after this, as lord Marmazet was sitting in his study, reading some papers of state, with our hero under his chair ; Guillaume entered the room, and informed him that Mr. Rhymer the poet was below. ' Curse Mr. Rhymer the poet, and you too for an egregious blockhead,' cries his lordship ; ' why the devil did you let the fellow in ? tell him, his last political pamphlet is execrable nonsense, and unintelligible jargon, and I am not at leisure to see him this morning.' ' My lord,' replied the valet, ' he begged me to present his humble duty to your lordship, and to inform you, that a small gratuity would be very acceptable at present, for it seems his wife is ready to lie-in, and he says, he has not six-pence to defray the expences of her groaning.' ' How,' cries his lordship, ' has that fellow the impudence to beget children ? the dog pretends here to be starving, and yet has the assurance to deal in procreation --- Prythee, Guillaume, what sort of a woman is his wife ? have you ever seen her ?' ' Yes, my lord,' answered the trusty valet ; ' I have had the honour of seeing the lady, but I am afraid she would have no great temptations for your lordship ; for the poor gentlewoman has the misfortune to squint a little, which does not give a very bewitching air to her countenance, besides which, she has the accomplishment of red hair into the bargain.' ' Well then,' cries the peer, turn the hound out of doors, and bid him go to the evil. Pox take him, if he had a handsome wife, I might be tempted to encourage him a little ; but how can he expect my favour without doing any thing to deserve it ?' ' Then your lordship won't be pleased to send him a small acknowledgment,' said the valet de chambre. ' No,' replied the peer, ' I have no money to fling away on poets and hackney-writers ; let the fellow eat his own works, if he is hungry. --- Hold, stay, I have thought better of it ; here Guillaume, take this little dog, since my wife won't have him, and carry him to the poet. My service to the gentleman, and desire him to keep him for my sake.'
Guillaume was a man of some little humour, which had prompted him to the dignity of first pimp in ordinary to his lordship, and perceiving that his master had a mind to divert himself this morning with the miseries of an unhappy poet, he resolved that the joke should not be lost in passing through his hands. Taking the dog therefore from his lordship, he made haste down stairs, and accosted the expecting bard in the following manner : ' Sir ! his lordship is very busy this morning, and not at leisure to see you, but he speaks very kindly of you, and begs you would do him the favour to accept of this beautiful little Bologna lap-dog.' ' Accept of a lap-dog,' cries the poet with astonishment ; bless me ! what is the matter ? surely there must be some mistake, Mr. Guillaume ! for I cannot readily conceive of what use a Bologna lap-dog can be to me.' ' Sir,' replied the valet-de-chambre, ' you may depend upon it, his lordship had some reason for making you this present, which it does not become us to guess at.' ' No,' said the bard, I would not presume to dive into his lordship's councils ; but really now, Mr. Guillaume, a few guineas in present cash would be rather more serviceable to me than a Bologna lap-dog, and more comfortable to my poor wife and children.' ' Sir,' said the valet, ' you must not distrust his lordship's generosity : great statesmen, Mr. Rhymer, always do things in a different manner from the rest of the world : there is usually something a little mysterious in their conduct ; but assure yourself, sir, this dog will be the fore-runner of a handsome annuity, and it would be the greatest affront imaginable not to receive him. --- You must never refuse any thing, which the Great esteem a favour, Mr. Rhymer, on any account ; even tho' it should involve you and your family in everlasting ruin. His lordship desired that you would keep the dog for his sake, sir, and therefore you may be sure he has a particular regard for you, when he sends you such a memorial of his affection.'
The unhappy poet finding he could extort nothing from the unfeeling hands of his patron, was obliged to retire with the dog under his arms, and climbed up in a disconsolate mood to his garret, where he found his wife cooking the scrag end of a neck of mutton for dinner. The mansions of this son of Apollo were very contracted, and one would have thought it impossible for one single room to have served so many domestic purposes ; but good housewifery finds no difficulties, and penury has a thousand inventions, which are unknown to ease and wealth. In one corner of these poetical apartments stood a flock-bed, and underneath it, a green jordan presented itself to the eye, which had collected the nocturnal urine of the whole family, consisting of Mr. Rhymer, his wife, and two daughters. Three rotten chairs and a half seemed to stand like traps in various parts of the room, threatning downfals to unwary strangers ; and one solitary table in the middle of this aerial garret, served to hold the different treasures of the whole family. There were now lying upon it the first act of a comedy, a pair of yellow stays, two political pamphlets, a plate of bread-and-butter, three dirty night-caps, and a volume of miscellany poems. The lady of the house was drowning a neck of mutton, as we before observed, in meagre soup, and the two daughters sat in the window, mending their father's brown stockings with blue worsted. Such were the mansions of Mr. Rhymer, the poet, which I heartily recommend to the repeated perusal of those unhappy gentlemen, who feel in themselves a growing inclination to that mischievous, damnable, and destructive science.
As soon as Mr. Rhymer entered the chamber, his wife deserted her cookery, to enquire the success of his visit, on which the comforts of her lying-in so much depended ; and seeing a dog under her husband's arm, ' Bless me, my dear !' said she, ' why do you bring home that filthy creature, to eat up our victuals ? Thank heaven, we have got more mouths already, than we can satisfy, and I am sure we want no addition to our family.' ' Why, my dear,' answered the poet, ' his lordship did me the favour to present me this morning with this beautiful little Bologna lap-dog.' ' Present you with a lap-dog,' cried the wife interrupting him, ' what is it you mean, Mr. Rhymer ? but, however, I am glad his lordship was in so bountiful a humour, for I am sure then he has given you a purse of guineas to maintain the dog. --- Well, I vow it was a very genteel way of making a present, and I shall love the little fool for his master's sake. --- Great men do things with so much address always, that one is transported as much with their politeness as their generosity.' Here the unhappy bard shook his head, and soon undeceived his wife, by informing her of all that had passed in his morning's visit. ' How,' said she, ' no money with the dog ? Mr. Rhymer, I am amazed that you will submit to such usage. Don't you see that they make a fool, and an ass, and a laughing-stock of you ? Why did you take their filthy dog ? I'll have his brains dashed out this moment. --- Mr. Rhymer, if you had kept on your tallow-chandler's shop, I and mine should have had wherewithal to live ; but you must court the draggle-tail muses forsooth, and a fine provision they have made for you. --- Here I expect to be brought to bed every day, and you have not money to buy pap and caudle. --- O curse your lords and your political pamphlets ! I am sure I have reason to repent the day that ever I married a poet.' ' Madam,' said Rhymer, exasperated at his wife's conversation, ' you ought rather to bless the day, that married you to a gentleman, whose soul despises mechanical trades, and is devoted to the noblest science in the universe. Poetry, madam, like virtue, is its own reward ; but you have a vulgar notion of things, you have an illiberal attachment to money, and had rather be frying grease in a tallow-chandler's shop, than listening to the divine rhapsodies of the Heliconian maids. 'Tis true, madam, his lordship has not recompensed my labours according to expectation this morning, but what of that ? he bid me proceed in the execution of my design, and undoubtedly means to reward me. Lords are often destitute of cash, as well as poets, and perhaps I came upon him a little unseasonably, when his coffers were empty ; but I auspicate great things from his present of a dog. --- A dog, madam, is the emblem of fidelity.' ' The emblem of a fiddle-stick !' cried the wife, interrupting him, ' I tell you, Mr. Rhymer, you are a fool, and have ruined your family by your senseless whims and projects. --- A gentleman, quotha ! Yes forsooth, a very fine gentleman truly, that has hardly a shirt to his back, or a pair of shoes to his feet. --- Look at your daughters there in the window, and see whether they appear like a gentleman's daughters ; and for my part, I have not an under-petticoat that I can wear. --- You have had three plays damned, Mr. Rhymer, and one would think that might have taught you a little prudence ; but, deuce fetch me, if you shall write any more, for I'll burn all this nonsense that lies upon the table.' So saying, she flew like a Bacchanal fury at his works, and with savage hands was going to commit them to the flames, had she not been interrupted by her husband's voice, crying out with impatience, ' see, see, see, my dear ! the pot boils over, and the broth is all running away into the fire.' This luckily put an end to their altercation, and postponed the sacrifice that was going to be made ; they then set down to dinner without a table-cloth, and made a wretched meal, envying one another every morsel that escaped their own mouths. And 'tis highly probable poor Pompey would soon have fallen a sacrifice to hunger, and been served up at Mr. Rhymer's poetical table, had not an accident luckily happened, to relieve him from this scene of misery, squallidness, and poesy.
A poetical feast, and squabble of authors.
AFTER dinner was over, Mr. Rhymer sat himself down to an epic poem, which was then on the anvil, and his head not being clouded with any fumes of indigestion, he worked at it very laboriously till eight or nine o'clock in the evening. Then he took his hat, and went out to meet a club of authors, who assembled every Monday night, at a little dirty dog-hole of a tavern in Shire-lane, to eat tripe, drink porter, and pass their judgments on the books of the preceding week. Pompey waited on his master ; for as Mrs. Rhymer had resolutely vowed his destruction, the good-natured bard did not chuse to leave him at her mercy.
On their arrival in the club-room, they found there assembled a free-thinking writer of moral essays, a no-thinking scribler of magazines, a Scotch translator of Greek and Latin authors, a Grub-street bookseller, and a Fleet parson. These worthy gentlemen immediately surrounded Mr. Rhymer with great vociferation, and began to curse him for staying so long, declaring it would be entirely his fault, if the tripe was spoilt, which they very much feared. To prevent which however, they now ordered it to be served up with all possible expedition, and on its appearance, fell to work with the quickest dispatch. The reader will believe that little or no conversation passed among them at table, their mouths being much too busily employed to have any leisure for discourse ; but when the tripe was quite consumed, and innumerable slices of toasted cheese at the end of it, then they began to exercise their tongues as readily as they had before done their teeth.
By odd luck, every one of these great advancers of modern literature, happened to have a dog attending him ; and as the gentlemen drew round the fire after supper in a ring, the dogs likewise made an interior semi-circle, sitting between the legs of their respective masters. This could not escape the observation of the company, and many trite reflections began to be made on their fidelity, their attachment to man, and above all, on the felicity of their condition ; for a dog sleeping before a fire, is by all people esteemed an emblem of complete happiness. At length, they struck into a higher conversation. ' Gentlemen !' says the free-thinker, ' I should be glad to hear your sentiments concerning reason and instinct. I have a curious treatise now by me, which I design very soon to astonish the world with. 'Tis upon a subject perfectly new, and those dogs there put me in the head of it. The clergy I know will be up in arms against me, but no matter ; I'll publish my opinions in spite of all the priests in Europe.'
Here the Fleet parson, thinking himself concerned, took his pipe from his mouth with great deliberation, and said, ' I don't know what your opinions may be, but I hope you don't design to publish any thing to the disadvantage of that sacred order to which I belong : if you do sir, I believe you'll find pens enow ready answer you.'
' Yes, sir, no doubt I shall,' replied the free-thinker, ' and who cares for that ? perhaps you, sir, may do me the honour to be my antagonist, but I defy you all ? --- I defy the whole body of the priesthood. Sir, I love to advance a paradox ; I love a paradox at my heart, sir ! and I'll---I'll shew you some sport very shortly.'
' What do you mean by sport, sir ?' cries the doctor --- ' If you write as you talk, I hope you'll be set in the pillory for your sport.'
' You are bloody complaisant, sir,' returned the free-thinker ; ' but I'd have you to know we are not come to such a pass yet in this country, as to persecute people for searching after truth. You priests I know would be glad to keep us all in ignorance, but the age won't be priest-ridden any longer. There is a noble spirit and freedom of enquiry now subsisting in the nation : people are determined to canvass things freely, and go to the bottom of all subjects, without regarding base prejudices of education. The shops abound with a number of fine treatises written every day against religion, to the honour and glory of the nation.'
' To its shame and damnation rather,' cries the Fleet parson ; ' but what is your paradox, sir ?'
' Why this is my paradox, sir,' replied the free-thinker ; ' I undertake to prove that brutes think and have intellectual faculties. That perhaps you'll say is no novelty, because many others have asserted the same thing before me ; but I go farther sir, and maintain that they are reasonable creatures, amoral and gents.'
' And I will maintain that they are mere machines,' cries the parson, ' against you and all the atheists in the world. Sir, you may be ashamed to prostitute the noble faculty of reason to the beasts of the field.'
' DON'T tell me of reason,' said the free-thinker ; ' I don't care one half-penny for reason --- what is reason, sir ?'
' What is reason, sir?' resumed the doctor ; ' why reason sir, is a most noble faculty of the soul, the noblest of all the faculties. It discerns and abstracts, and compares and compounds, and all that.' ---
' And roasts eggs too, does it not ? you forget one of its noble faculties,' cries the other : ' but I will maintain that brutes are capable of reason, and they have given manifest proofs of it. Did you never hear of Mr. Locke's parrot, sir, that held a very rational conversation with prince Maurice for half an hour together ? what say you to that, sir ?'
' By my faith, gentlemen !' said the Scotch translator interrupting them, ' upon my word you are got here into a very deep mysterious question, which I do not very well understond what to make of ; but by my faith I have always thought brutes to have something particular in their intellectual faculties of their souls, ever since I read what-d'ye-callum there --- the Roman historian ; for why ? you know he tells us how the geese discovered to the Romans that the Gauls were coming to plunder the capitol. Now by my soul, they must have been a d-mn'd sensible flock of geese, and very great lovers of their country too, which let me tell you, is the greatest virtue under heaven. Besides, doth not Homer teach us, that Ulysses's dog Argus knew his old master at his return home, after he had been absent ten or twelve years at the siege of Troy ? now by Jove he was a plaguy cunning dog, and had a devilish good memory, otherwise he could not have remembered his old chrony so long.'
Before the Scotchman had finished his speech, the two other disputants, whose spirits were kindled with controversy, resumed their argument, and fell upon one another again with so much impetuosity, that no voices could be heard but their own. The scene which now ensued, consisted chiefly of noise and scolding, equal to any thing that passes among the orators at Robin-Hood's ale-house. In short, there was not a scurrilous term in the English language, which was not vented on this occasion ; till at length, the Fleet parson heated with rage and beer, flung his pipe at his antagonist, and was proceeding to blows, had he not been restrained by the rest of the company. The festivity of the evening being by this means destroyed, the club soon afterwards broke up, and the several members of it retired to their several garrets.
As Mr. Rhymer was walking home in a pensive solitary mood, wrapped up in contemplation on the stars of heaven, and perhaps forgetting for a few moments that he had but three-pence half-penny in his pocket, two young gentlemen of the town, who were upon the hunt after amorous game, followed close at his heels. They quickly smoked him for a queer fish, as the phrase is, and began to hope for some diversion at his expence. The moon now shone very bright, and Mr. Rhymer, whose eyes were fixed with rapture on that glorious luminary, began to apostrophize her in some poetical strains from Milton, which he repeated with great emphasis aloud. In the midst of this, the two gentlemen broke out in a profuse fit of laughter, at which the bard turned round in surprize, but soon recovering himself, he cast a most contemptuous look at them for their ignorance and want of taste. However, as the chain of ideas in his mind was by this means disturbed, he thought it most adviseable to make the best of his way home, and for that purpose called Pompey to follow him. Pompey indeed made many efforts, and seemed desirous to obey ; but in vain the poet called, in vain the dog endeavoured to follow ; and it was a long while before Mr. Rhymer, whose thoughts were a little muddled with contemplation and porter, found out that the two gentlemen had tied a handkerchief round his neck. He then stopt to demand his property, but finding himself pretty roughly handled, he began to think his own person in danger. Taking to his heels therefore, he ran away with the utmost precipitation, and left his dog behind him ; who on his part was not at all sorry to be delivered from such a master.
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