The HISTORY of POMPEY the LITTLE
|Chapter XIII||Chapter XIV||Chapter XV|
|Sir Thomas Browne|
Pompey returns to London, and occasions a remarkable dispute in the Mall.
ONCE more then our hero set out for the metropolis of Great Britain, and after an easy journey of two days arrived at a certain square, where his mistresses kept their court. To these ladies, not improperly might be applied the question which Archer asks in the play, Pray which of you three is the old lady ? the mother being full as youthful and airy as the daughters, and the daughters almost as ancient as the mother.
Now as fortune often disposes things in the most whimsical and surprizing manner, so it happened, that one of his mistresses took him with her one morning into St. James's Park, and set him down on his legs almost in the very same part of the Mall, from whence he had formerly made his escape from lady Tempest near eight years before, as is recorded in the first part of his history. Her ladyship was walking this morning for the air, and happened to pass by almost at the very instant that the little adventurer was set on his legs to take his diversion. She spied him in a moment, with great quickness of discernment, and immediately recollecting her old acquaintance, caught him up in her arms, and fell to kissing him with the highest extravagance of joy. His present owner perceiving this, and thinking only that the lady was pleased with the beauty of her dog, and had a mind to compliment him with a few kisses, passed on without interrupting her : but when she saw her ladyship preparing to carry him out of the Mall in her arms, she advanced hastily towards her, and redemanded her favourite in the following terms : ' Pray, madam, what is your ladyship going to do with that dog ?' Lady Tempest replied, ' Nothing in the world, madam, but take him home with me.' ' And pray, madam, what right has your ladyship to take a dog that belongs to me ?' ' None, my dear !' answered lady Tempest ; ' but I take him, child, because he belongs to me.' ' 'Tis false,' said the other lady, ' I aver it to be false ; he was given me by a gentleman of Cambridge, and I insist upon your ladyship's replacing him upon his legs, this individual moment.' To this, lady Tempest replied only with a sneer, and was walking off with our hero ; which so greatly aggravated the rage of her antagonist, that she now lost all patience, and began to exert herself in a much higher key. ' Madam,' said she, ' I would have you to know, madam, that I am not to be treated in this superlative manner. Your ladyship may affect to sneer, if you please, madam, and shew a contempt, madam, which is more due to your own actions than to me, madam ; for, thank heaven, I have some regard to decency in my actions.' ' Dear, Miss ! don't be in a passion,' replied lady Tempest ; ' it will spoil your complexion, child, and perhaps ruin your fortune --- but will you be pleased to know, my dear, that I lost this dog eight years ago in the Mall, and advertized him in all the new-papers, tho' you or your friend at Cambridge, who did me the favour to steal him, were not so obliging as to restore him ? --- And will you be pleased to know likewise, young lady, that I have a right to take my property wherever I find it.' ' 'Tis impossible,' cried the other lady, ' 'tis impossible to remember a dog after eight years absence ; I aver it to be impossible, and nothing shall persuade me to believe it.' ' I protest, my dear,' answered lady Tempest, ' I know not what sort of a memory you may be blest with, but really, I can remember things of a much longer date ; and as a fresh instance of my memory, I think, my dear, I remember you representing the character of a young lady for near these twenty years about town.' ' Madam,' returned the lady of inferior rank, now inflamed with the highest indignation ; ' you may remember yourself, madam, representing a much worse character, madam, for a greater number of years. It would be well, madam, if your memory was not altogether so good, madam, unless your actions were better.'
The war of tongues now began to rage with the greatest violence, and nothing was spared that wit could suggest on the one side, or malice on the other. the beaux, and belles, and witlings, who were walking that morning in the Mall, assembled round the combatants, at first out of curiosity, and for the sake of entertainment ; but they soon began to take sides in the dispute, 'till at length it became one universal scene of wrangle ; and no cause in Westminster-Hall was ever more puzzled by the multitude of voices all contending at once for the victory. At last, lady Tempest scorning this ungenerous altercation, told her adversary, ' Well, Madam, if you please to scold for the publick diversion, pray continue ; but for my part, I shall no longer make myself the spectacle of a mob.' And so saying, she walked courageously off with little Pompey under her arm. It was impossible for her rival to prevent her ; who likewise immediately after quitted the Mall, and flew home, ready to burst with shame, spite, and indignation.
Lady Tempest had not been long at her toilette, before the following little scroll was brought to her ; and she was informed, that a footman waited below in a great hurry for an answer. The note was to this effect.
' If it was possible for me to wonder at any of your actions, I should be astonished at your behaviour of this morning. Restore my dog by the bearer of this letter, or by the living G-D, I will immediately commence a prosecution against you in chancery, and recover him by force of law.
' Yours --- '
Lady Tempest, without any hesitation, returned the following answer.
' I have laughed most heartily at your ingenious epistle ; and am prodigiously diverted with your menaces of a law-suit. Pompey shall be ready to put in his answer, as soon as he hears your bill is filed against him in chancery.
' I am, dear miss, yours,
A terrible misfortune happens to our hero, which brings his history to a conclusion.
THIS letter inflamed the lady so much, that she immediately ordered her coach, and drove away to Lincoln's-Inn, to consult her sollicitor. She found him in his chambers, surrounded with briefs, and haranguing to two gentlemen, who had made him arbitrator in a very important controversy, concerning the dilapidations of a pig-stye. On the arrival of our lady, the man of law started from his chair, and conducted her with much civility to a settee which stood by his fire-side ; then turning to his two clients, whom he thought he had already treated with a proper quantity of eloquence. ' Well, gentlemen,' said he, ' when your respective attornies have drawn up your several cases, let them be sent to me, and I'll give determination upon them with all possible dispatch.' This speech had the desired effect in driving them away, and as soon as they were gone, addressing himself with an affectation of much politeness to the mistress of little Pompey, he began to enquire after the good lady her mother, and the good lady her sister --- but our heroine was so impatient to open her cause, that she hardly allowed herself time to answer his questions, before she began in the following manner. ' Sir, I was walking this morning in the Mall, when a certain extraordinary lady, whose actions are always of a very extraordinary nature, was pleased, in a most peculiar manner, to steal my lap-dog from me.' ' Steal your lap-dog from you, madam !' said the man of law ; ' I protest, a very extraordinary transaction indeed ! and pray, madam, what could induce her to be guilty of such a misbehaviour ?' ' Induce her !' cried the lady eagerly ; ' sir, she wants no inducement to be guilty of any thing that is audacious and impudent. --- But, sir, I desire you would immediately commence a suit against her in chancery, and push the affair on with all possible rapidity, for I am resolved to recover the dog, if it costs me ten thousand pounds.' The counsellor smiled, and commended her resolutions ; but paused a little, and seemed puzzled at the novelty of the case. ' Madam,' said he, ' undoubtedly your ladyship does right to assert your property, for we should all soon be reduced to a state of nature, if there were no courts of law ; and therefore your ladyship is highly to be applauded --- but there is something very peculiar in the nature of dogs --- There is no question, madam, but they are to be considered under the denomination of property, and not to be deemed feræ naturæ, things of no value, as ignorant people foolishly imagine ; but I say, madam, there is something very peculiar in their nature, madam. --- Their prodigious attachment to man, inclines them to follow any body that calls them, and that makes it so difficult to fix a theft. --- Now, if a man calls a sheep, or calls a cow, or calls a horse, why he might call long enough before they would come, because they are not creatures of a following nature, and therefore our penal laws have made it felony with respect to those animals ; but dogs, madam, have a strange undistinguished proneness to run after people's heels.' ' Lord bless me, sir !' said the lady, somewhat angry at the orator's declamation ; ' what do you mean, sir, by following people's heels ? I do protest and asseverate, that she took him up in her arms, and carried him away in defiance of me, and the whole Mall was witness of the theft.' ' Very well, madam, very well,' replied the counsellor, ' I was only stating the case fully on the defendant's side, that you might have a comprehensive view of the whole affair, before we come to unravel it all again, and shew the advantages on the side of the plaintiff. --- Now tho' a dog be of a following nature, as I observed, and may be sometimes tempted, and seduced, and inveigled away in such a manner, as makes it difficult --- do you observe me --- makes it difficult, I say, madam, to fix a theft on the person seducing ; yet, wherever property is discovered and claimed, if the possessor refuses to restore it on demand, --- on demand, I say, because demand must be made --- refuses to restore it on demand, to the proper, lawful owner, there an action lies, and, under this predicament, we shall recover our lap-dog.' The lady seeming pleased with this harangue, the orator continued in the following manner ; ' if therefore, madam, this lady --- whoever she is, A. or B. or any name serves our purpose --- if, I say, this extraordinary lady, as your ladyship just now described her, took your dog before witnesses, and refused to restore it on demand, why then we have a lawful action, and shall recover damages. --- Pray, madam, do you think you can swear to the identity of the dog, if he should be produced in a court of justice ?' The lady answered, ' yes, she could swear to him amongst a million, for there never was so remarkable a creature.' ' And you first became possessed of him, you say, madam, at the university of Cambridge. --- Pray, madam, will the gentleman, who invested you with him, be ready to testify the donation ?' She answered affirmatively. ' And pray, madam, what is the colour of your dog ?' ' Black and white, sir.' ' A male, or female, madam ?' To this the lady replied, ' she positively could not tell ;' whereupon, the counsellor, with a most sapient aspect, declared he would search his books for a precedent, and wait on her, in a few days, to receive her final determinations ; but advised her, in the mean while, to try the effect of another letter upon her ladyship, and once more threaten her with a prosecution. He then waited upon her to her chariot, observed that it was a very fine day, and promised to use his utmost endeavours to reinstate her in the possession of her lap-dog.
This was the state of a quarrel between two ladies for a dog, and it seemed as if all the mouths of the law would have opened on this important affair (for lady Tempest continued obstinate in keeping him) had not a most unlucky accident happened to balk those honourable gentlemen of their fees, and disappoint them of so hopeful a topic for shewing their abilities. This unfortunate stroke was nothing less than the death of our hero, who was seized with a violent pthisic, and after a week's illness, departed this life on the second of June, 1749, and was gathered to the lap-dogs of antiquity.
From the moment that he fell sick, his mistress spared no expence for his recovery, and had him attended by the most eminent physicians of London ; who, I am afraid, rather hastened than delayed his exit, according to the immemorial custom of that right venerable fraternity. The chamber-maids took it by turns to sit up with him every night during his illness, and her ladyship was scarce ever away from him in the day-time ; but, alas, his time was come, his hour-glass was run out, and nothing could save him from paying a visit to the Plutonian regions.
It is difficult to say, whether her ladyship's sorrow now, or when she formerly lost him in the Mall, most exceeded the bounds of reason. He lay in state three days after his death, and her ladyship, at first, took a resolution of having him embalmed, but as her physicians informed her the art was lost, she was obliged to give over that chimerical project ; otherwise, our posterity might have seen him, some centuries hence, erected in a public library at a university ; and who knows but some antiquary of profound erudition, might have undertaken to prove, with quotations from a thousand authors, that he was formerly the Egyptian Anubis ?
However, tho' her ladyship could not be gratified in her desires of emblaming him, she had him buried, with great funeral solemnity, in her garden, and erected over him an elegant marble monument, which was inscribed with the following epitaph, by one of the greatest elegiac poets of the present age.
King of the garden, blooming rose !
Which sprang'st from Venus' heavenly woes,
When weeping for Adonis slain,
Her pearly tears bedew'd the plain,
Here now thy precious dews destil,
Now mourn a greater beauty's ill ;
Ye lillies ! hang your drooping head,
Ye myrtles weep ! for Pompey dead ;
Light lie the turf upon his breast,
Peace to his shade, and gentle rest.
HAVING thus traced our hero to the fourteenth year of his age, which may be reckoned the threescore and ten of a lap-dog, nothing now remains, but to draw his character, for the benefit and information of posterity. In so doing we imitate the greatest, and most celebrated historians, lord Clarendon, Dr. Middleton, and others, who, when they have put a period to the life of an eminent person (and such undoubtedly was our hero) finish all with a description of his morals, his religion, and private character : Nay, many biographers go so far, as to record the colour of their hero's complexion, the shade of his hair, the height of his stature, the manner of his diet, when he went to bed at night, at what hour he rose in the morning, and other equally important particulars ; which cannot fail to convey the greatest satisfaction and improvement to their readers. Thus a certain painter, who obliged the world with a life of Milton, informs us, with an air of great importance, ' that he was a short thick man,' and then recollecting himself, informs us a second time, upon maturer deliberation, ' that he was not a short thick man, but if he had been a little shorter, and a little thicker, he would have been a short thick man ;' which prodigious exactness, in an affair of such consequence, can never be sufficiently applauded.
Now as to the description of our hero's person, for that we shall refer to the reader to the frontispiece prefixed to this work, and proceed to his religion, his morals, his amours, &c. in conformity to the practice of other historians.
Let it be remembered, in the first place, to his credit, that he was a dog of the most courtly manners, ready to fetch and carry, at the command of all his masters, without ever considering the service he was employed in, or the person from whom he received his directions : He would fawn likewise with the greatest humility, on people who treated him with contempt, and was always particularly officious in his zeal, whenever he expected a new collar, or stood candidate for a ribbon with other dogs, who made up the retinue of the family.
Far be it from us to deny, that in the first part of his life he gave himself an unlimited freedom in his amours, and was extravagantly licentious, not to say debauched, in his morals ; but whoever considers that he was born in the house of an Italian courtesan, that he made the grand tour with a young gentleman of fortune, and afterwards lived near two years with a lady of quality, will have more reason to wonder that his morals were not entirely corrupted, than that they were a little tainted by the ill effect of such dangerous examples.
As to religion, we must ingenuously confess that he had none ; in which respect he had the honour to bear an exact resemblance to all the well-bred people of the present age, who have long since discarded religion, as a needless and troublesome invention, calculated only to make people wise, virtuous, and unfashionable ; and whoever will be at the pains of perusing the lives and actions of the great world, will find them, in all points, conformable to such prodigious principles.
In politics it is difficult to say whether he was a whig or a tory, for so great was his caution, that he never was heard on any occasion to open his mouth on these subjects ; and therefore each of those illustrious clans of men may be allowed to lay claim to him, unless perhaps they should both concur, as is sometimes the case, to despise him for observing a neutrality.
For the latter part of his life, his chief amusement was to sleep before the fire, and indolence grew upon him so much, as he advanced in age, that he seldom cared to be disturbed in his slumbers, even to eat his meals : His eyes grew dim, his limbs failed him, his teeth dropped out of his head, and, at length, a pthisic came very seasonably to relieve him from the pains and calamities of long life.
Thus perished little Pompey, or Pompey the Little, leaving his disconsolate mistress to bemoan his fate, and me to write his eventful history.
Top of page
This page is by James Eason.