The HISTORY of POMPEY the LITTLE
|Contents||Chapters VII-IX||Chapters XIII-XV|
|Chapter X||Chapter XI||Chapter XII|
|Sir Thomas Browne|
Our hero goes to the university of Cambridge.
FROM the street, where this fray happened, our hero was introduced to a bagnio, where the two young gentlemen, his new masters, spent their night in the delights of love ; and the next morning he set out with one of them for the university of Cambridge.
The young Cantab, who now took possession of him, had come up to London upon a scheme, as it is called, to treat himself with a masquerade and other diversions of the town. For being a gentleman of a lively, enterprizing temper, he could not brook the dull restraints of a collegiate life, and seldom resided there above three or four days at a time.
He had received the first part of his education at Westminster school, where he had acquired what is usually called, a very pretty knowledge of the town ; that is to say, he had been introduced, at the age of thirteen, into the most noted bagnios, was acquainted with the most celebrated women of pleasure, and could drink his two bottles of claret in an evening, without being greatly disordered in his understanding. At the age of seventeen, it was judged proper for him, merely out of fashion, and to be like other young gentlemen of his acquaintance, to take lodgings at a university ; whither he went with a hearty contempt of the place, and a determined resolution never to receive any profit from it.
He had been admitted under a tutor, who knew no more of the world than if he had been bred up in a forest, and whose sour pedantic genius was ill-qualified to cope with the vivacity and spirit of a young gentleman, warm in the pursuit of pleasure, and one who required much address, and very artful management, to make any kind of restraint palatable and easy to him.
He had been admitted in the rank of a fellow-commoner, which, according to the definition given by a member of the university in a court of justice, is one who sits at the same table, and enjoys the conversation of the fellows. It differs from what is called a gentleman-commoner at Oxford, not only in the name, but also in the greater privileges and licenses indulged to members of this order ; who do not only enjoy the conversation of the fellows, but likewise a full liberty of following their own imaginations in every thing. For as tutors and governors of colleges have usually pretty sagacious noses after preferment, they think it impolitic to cross the inclinations of young gentlemen, who are heirs to great estates, and from whom they expect benefices and dignities hereafter, as rewards for their want of care of them, while they were under their protection. From hence it comes to pass, that pupils of this rank are excused from all public exercises, and allowed to absent themselves at pleasure from the private lectures in their tutors rooms, as often as they have made a party for hunting, or an engagement at the tennis-court, or are not well recovered from their evening's debauch. And whilst a poor unhappy soph, of no fortune, is often expelled for the most trivial offences, or merely to humour the capricious resentment of his tutor, who happens to dislike his face ; young noblemen, and heirs of great estates, may commit any illegalities, and, if they please, overturn a college with impunity.
There is nothing so wild and ungovernable, as a boy just broke loose from school, and taking his first flight of liberty at a university. This is the case with those, who have been bred up at private schools under some restraint : but as to Pompey's master, his school-education had set him very forward in the world, and he came to Cambridge much riper than other people leave it. From the first moment he distinguished himself for his intrepid spirit, and was quickly chosen captain-general by his comrades, in all their parties of pleasure, and expeditions of jollity. Many pranks are recorded of his performing, which made the place resound with his name ; but one of his exploits being attended with circumstances of a very droll nature, we cannot forbear relating it.
There was in the same college, a young master of arts, Williams by name, who had been elected into the society, in preference to one of greater genius and learning, because he used to make a lower bow to the fellows, whenever he passed by them, and was not likely to disgrace any of his seniors by the superiority of his parts. This gentleman concluding now there was no farther occasion of study, after he had obtained a fellowship, which had long been the object of his ambition, gave himself over to pursuits more agreeable to his temper, and spent the chief of his time in drinking tea with barbers daughters, and other young ladies of fashion in the university, who there take to themselves the name of misses, and receive amorous gownsmen at their ruelles. For nothing more is necessary to accomplish a young lady at Cambridge, than a second-hand capuchin, a white washing gown, a pair of dirty silk shoes, and long muslin ruffles ; in which dress they take the air in the public walks every Sunday, to make conquests, and receive their admirers all the rest of the week at their tea-tables. Now Williams, having a great deal of dangling good-nature about him, was very successful in winning the affections of these academical misses, and had a large acquaintance among them. The three miss Higginses, whose mother kept the sun tavern ; miss Polly Jackson, a baker's daughter ; the celebrated Fanny Hill, sole heiress of a taylor, and miss Jenny of the coffee-house, were all great admirers of our college-gallant ; and fame reported, that he had admission to some of their bed-chambers, as well as to their tea-tables. Upon this presumption, our young fellow-commoner, laid his head together with other young gentlemen, his comrades, to play him a trick, which we now proceed to disclose.
About this time, a bed-maker of the college was unfortunately brought to-bed, without having any husband to father the child ; and as our master of arts was suspected, among others, to have had a share in the generation of the new-born infant, being a gentleman of an amorous nature, it occurred to our fellow-commoner to make the following experiment upon him.
As Mr. Williams was coming out of his chamber one morning early to go to chapel, he found a basket standing at his door, on the top of his stair-case, with a direction to himself, and a letter tied to the handle of the basket. He stood some little time guessing from whom such a present could come, but as he had expected a parcel from London by the coach for a week before, he naturally concluded this to be the same, and that it had been brought by a porter from the inn, and left at his door before he was awake in the morning. With this thought he opened the letter, and read to the following effect.
' Am surprized should use me in such a manner ; have never seen one farthing of your money, since was brought to-bed, which is a shame, and a wicked sin. Wherefore have sent you your own bastard to provide for, and am your dutiful sarvant to command tell death.---
' Betty Trollop.'
The astonishment, which seized our master of arts at the perusal of this letter, may easily be imagined, but not so easily described : he turned pale, staggered, and looked like Banquo's ghost in the play ; but as his conscience excused him from the crime laid to his charge, he resolved, (as soon as his confusion would suffer him to resolve) to make a public example of the wretch, that had dared to lay her iniquities at his door. To this end, as soon as chapel was over, he desired the master of the college to convene all the fellows in the common-room, for he said he had an affair of great consequence to lay before them. When the reverend divan was met according to his desire, he produced the basket, and with an audible voice read the letter, which had been annexed to it : after which he made a long oration on the unparalleled impudence of the harlot, who had attempted to scandalize him in this audacious manner, and concluded with desiring the most exemplary punishment might be inflicted on her ; for he said, unless they discouraged such a piece of villainy with proper severity, it might hereafter be their own lots, if they were remiss in punishing the present offender. They all heard him with great astonishment, and many of them seemed to rejoice inwardly, that the basket had not travelled to their doors ; as thinking, perhaps, it would have been unfatherly and unnatural to have refused it admittance. At length it was ordered to be unpacked ; which was performed by the butler of the college, in presence of the whole fraternity ; when lo ! instead of a child puling and crying for its father, out-leaped Pompey, the little hero of this little history ; who had been enclosed in that osier confinement by his young master, and convey'd very early in the morning to Mr. Williams's chamber-door. The grave assembly were astonished and enraged at the discovery, finding themselves convened only to be ridiculed ; and all of them gazed on our hero with the same kind of aspect, as did the daughters of Cecrops on the deformed Erichthonius, when their curiosity tempted them to peep into the basket, which Minerva had put into their hands, with positive commands to the contrary.
Adventures at Cambridge.
WILLIAMS, tho' much ashamed and out of countenance, was yet in his heart very glad to be relieved from the apprehensions of maintaining a bastard, which he imagined would add no great lustre to his reputation as fellow of a college. When therefore Pompey escaped out of his wicker prison, he was in reality pleased with the discovery, which put an end to his fears, and feigning himself diverted with the thing, took the little dog home to his own chambers.
This was an adventure of the comic kind, attended with no ill consequences to our hero ; but we now proceed to relate one of a very tragic nature indeed, which fortune seems to have reserved in store, as the utmost stretch of her malice, to compleat the miseries of his unhappy life.
There flourished at this college, or rather was beginning to flourish, a young physician, who now stood candidate for fame and practice. He had equipped himself with a gilt-headed cane, a black suit of cloaths, a wise mysterious face, a full-bottomed flowing peruke, and all other externals of his profession ; so that, if according to the inimitable Swift, the various members of a common-wealth are only so many different suits of cloaths, this gentleman was amply qualified for the discharge of his office. But not chusing to rely totally on his dress to introduce him into business, he was willing to add to it a supplemental, and as many think, superfluous knowledge of his art.
About this time, a member of the university died in great torments of the iliac passion, and some peculiarities in his case made a noise among the faculty of Cambridge. The theory of this terrible disorder, caused by the cessation of the peristaltic motion of the guts, our young doctor very well understood ; but not contenting himself with theory only, he resolved to go a step farther, and for this purpose, cast his eyes about after some dog, intending to dissect him alive for the satisfaction of his curiosity.
A dog might have been the emblematic animal of Esculapius or Apollo, with as much propriety as he was of Mercury ; for no creatures I believe have been of more eminent service to the healing tribe than dogs. Incredible is the number of these animals, who have been sacrificed from time to time at the shrines of physic and surgery. Lectures of anatomy subsist by their destruction ; Ward (says Mr. Pope) tried his drop on puppies and the poor ; and in general all new medicines and experiments of a doubtful nature are sure to be made in the first place on the bodies of these unfortunate animals. Their very ordure is one of the chief articles of the Materia Medica ; and I am persuaded, if the old Egyptians had any physician among them, they certainly described him by the hieroglyphic of a dog.
But not to spend too much time in these conjectures, our young doctor had no sooner resolved to satisfy himself concerning the peristaltic motion of the guts, than unluckily, in an evil hour, Pompey presented himself to his eye. More unluckily for him still, neither his master Mr. Williams, nor any other of his college-friends happened to be present, or within view at this moment. Machaon therefore very boldly seized him as a victim, and conveyed him into a little dark place near his room, which he called his cellar, and in which he kept his wine. There he shut him up three or four days in the condemned hole, while he prepared his chirurgical instruments, and invited some other young practitioners in physic of his acquaintance to be present at our hero's dissection.
The day being soon appointed for his death, the company assembled at their friend's room in the morning at breakfast, where much sapient discourse passed among them concerning the operation in hand, not material to be now related. At length cries the hero of the party, ' Come gentlemen ! we seem I think to have finished our breakfasts, let us now proceed to business :' after which, the tea-things were removed, the instruments of dissection placed on the table, and the doctor went to his cellar to bring forth the unhappy victim.
And here, good-natured reader, I am sure it moves thy compassion to think that poor Pompey, after suffering already so many misfortunes, must at last be dissected alive to satisfy a physician concerning the peristaltic motion of the guts. The case would indeed be lamentable, if it had happened : but when the doctor came to call him forth to execution, to his great surprize no dog was there to be found. He found however something else not entirely to his satisfaction, and that was his wine streaming in great profusion about his cellar. The truth is, our hero, being grown desperate with hunger, had in his struggles for liberty broke all the bottles, and at last forcibly gnawed his way thro' a deal board, that composed one side of the cellar. The danger however which he had been in, made him sick of universities, and he wished earnestly for an accident, which soon happened, to relieve him from an academic life.
The character of a master of arts at a university.
ABOUT this time, three ladies and a gentleman happened to be returning out of the north, and having never seen Cambridge, were inclined to make it in their way to London. The gentleman whom they had been visiting in the country, knowing this resolution, sent a letter before-hand to Mr. Williams, who had been his fellow-collegiate, in which he advertised him of the arrival of the party, and desired him to be assistant in shewing them the curiosities of Cambridge. And this gives us an opportunity of explaining some farther particulars in that gentleman's character, being not an uncommon one, I believe, in either of our universities.
If we were in a hurry to describe him, it might be done effectually in two or three words, by calling him a most egregious trifler ; but as we have leisure to be a little more circumstantial, the reader shall be troubled with a day's journal of his actions.
MR. Williams was, in the first place, a man of the most punctilious neatness ; his shoes were always blacked in the nicest manner, his wigs were powdered with the exactest delicacy, and he would scold his laundress for a whole morning together, if he discovered a wry plait in the sleeve of his shirt, or the least speck of dirt on any part of his linen. He rose constantly to chapel, and proceeded afterwards with great importance to breakfast, which, moderately speaking, took up two hours of his morning. When this was over, he amused himself either in pairing his nails, or watering two or three orange-trees, which he kept in his chamber, or in tilling a little spot of ground, about six feet square, which he called his garden, or in changing the situation of the few books in his study. The Spectators were removed into the place of the Tatlers, and the Tatlers into the place of the Spectators. But generally speaking, he drew on his boots immediately after breakfast, and rode out for the air, having been told that a sedentary life is destructive of the constitution, and that too much study impairs the health. At his return home, he had barely time to wash his hands, clean his teeth, and put on a fresh-powdered wig, before the college-bell summoned him to dinner in the public hall. His afternoons were spent in drinking tea with the young ladies above-mentioned, who all esteemed him a prodigious genius, and were ready to laugh at his wit, before he opened his mouth. In these agreeable visits he remained till the time of evening chapel ; after which, supper succeeded to find him fresh employment ; from whence he repaired to the coffee-house, and then to some engagement at a friend's room, for the remaining part of the evening. By this account of his day's transactions, the reader will see how very impossible it was for him to find leisure for study, in the midst of so many important avocations ; yet notwithstanding this great variety of business, he made a shift sometimes to play half a tune on the German flute in a morning, and once in a quarter of a year, took the pains to transcribble a sermon out of various authors.
Another part of his character was a great affectation of politeness, which is more pretended to in universities, where less of it is practised, than in any other part of the kingdom. Thus Mr. Williams was always talking of genteel life, to which end he was plentifully provided with stories by a female cousin, who kept a milliner's shop in London, and never failed to let him know by letters what passed among the Great ; tho' she frequently mistook the names of people, and attributed scandal to one lord, which was the property of another. Her cousin however did not find out the mistakes, but retailed her blunders about the colleges with great confidence and security.
But nothing pleased him more than shewing the university to strangers, and especially to ladies, which he thought gave him an air of acquaintance with the genteel world ; and on such occasions he would affect to make expensive entertainments, which neither his private fortune, or the income of his fellowship could afford.
To this gentleman, the party we have before spoken of, was recommended ; and he had lived in expectation of their coming for several days together, in consequence of his friend's letter. At length they arrived, and sent him a message from their inn, desiring the favour of his company at supper. This he no sooner received, than he posted away with all imaginable dispatch, and with many academical compliments welcomed them to Cambridge. Nor did he depart to his college, till he had made them promise to dine with him at his chambers the succeeding day.
Early then the next morning he rose with the lark, and held a consultation with the college cook concerning the entertainment : For as he had never yet been honoured with company of so high a rank, he resolved to do what was handsome, and send them away with an opinion of his politeness. Among many other devices he had to be genteel, one very well deserves mentioning, being of a very academical nature indeed ; for he was at the expence of purchasing a China vase of a certain shape, which sometimes passes under a more vulgar name, to set in his bed-chamber ; that if the ladies should chuse to retire after dinner, for the sake of looking at the pattern of his bed, or to see the prospect out of his window, or from any other motive of curiosity, they might have the pleasure of being served in China.
When these affairs were settled, he dressed himself in his best array, and went to bid the ladies good-morrow. As soon as they had breakfasted, he conducted them about the university, and shewed them all the rarities of Cambridge. They observed, ' that such a thing was very grand, that another thing was very neat, and that there were a great many books in the libraries, which they thought it impossible for any man to read through, tho' he was to live as long as Methuselah.'
When their curiosity was satisfied, and Williams had indulged every wish of vanity, in being seen to escort ladies about the university, and to hand them out of their coach, they all retired to his chambers to dinner. Much conversation passed, not worth recording, and when the cloth was taken away, little Pompey was produced on the table for the ladies to admire him. They were greatly struck with his beauty ; and one of them took courage to ask him as a present, which the complaisant master of arts, in his great civility, complied with, and immediately delivered him into the lady's hands. He likewise related the story, how he came into his possession, which another person perhaps would have suppressed ; but Williams was so transported with his company, that he was half out of his wits with joy, and his conversation was as ridiculous as his behaviour.
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This page is by James Eason.