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he is obscure and mathematical. If I am to meet a Cambridge man, my hope is that he may be a small colleger. Whatever be their ambition, they are less obtrusive and loquacious, because kept down by the two great rival leviathans.
Habits of submission have rendered them timid, and when they do talk of the shop, it is in a soft low voice: they roar gently. It is long before these habits wear off. The Oxonians are more men of the world : they think less of study, and, perhaps, study less : their college habits are more social and general : they can talk of something else than the anecdotes of a college, and their ambition is not so great in retailing the licentious wit of a combination-room. These bachelors (buccalaurei baculo potiùs quam laureo digni) ought to undergo a course of polite education before they are brought out. They should remain in a state of probation three or four years at least. They should be taught, that taking a degree in arts, does not let them into all arts. They should remember that the fame of the immortal Xi-to-fou never travelled beyond the precincts of China, and that it is very possible for Tompkins to be a great personage at Cambridge, without being the town-talk of London.
There is another species of grievance which is indigenous to London. This is your aimable de bon ton : not your genuine dandy, who is infinitely too light and harmless a thing to be raised into the importance of being considered in the present article; but your well-dressed youth, who has ventured beyond the limits of his peculiar domain into the regions of fashion ; who is a great man at consultations upon the cut of a sleeve; talks of Rossini and Albert; is free of Lady -- --'s suppers, and is looked upon as
desirable piece of furniture at a concert, because he can applaud in the proper place; or at a ball, because he is up to the intricacies of quadrille. To sustain this character well, requires a great deal of tact; but it is generally overdone. Last week it was my misfortune to meet with such an one.
His whole talk ran upon parties and routs : till, by dint of repetitions, I acquired a tolerable knowledge of the etiquette of these things, and learned which are the best dancers, and who gives the best suppers in town. This, it must be allowed, is very important to know, when I may wish to figure on the “light fantastic toe," or when my appetite is very delicate. The smart flummery of his discourse was at first amusing, but it became a bore by its continuance. His face was smirking; he seemed to be on the watch to help a lady-one of those polite gentlemen who would rather overturn a table than a lady should ring a bell herself. I do not know whether I should have inserted this division from my own experience, if I had not been told that it is excessively common about town, and that all sensible men look upon it with great dislike.
But who does not know that literary grievance, the butterfly of belles-lettres, who flutters about the fields and sips the sweets? This is indeed a melancholy appendage to a dinner-table. You are sure to be deluged with his information. He knows every thing that is doing about town, in the literary way. He writes a little himselt': a squib in the Chronicle, or a sonnet in the Post. He is hand and glove with all the editors. He knows all the viewers. He reads the Edinburgh and Quarterly," and thinks as they do."
" and thinks as they do.” He knows what is about to be published; is in secret with all the anonymous ; and has a copy of all the verses handed about in genteel society. He has the entré at Murray's. He can recite you the charming passage in the last new poem, and has irrefragable proofs that Sir W. Scott wrote “Waverley." He knows whose tragedy is at Covent Garden, and what new melodrame at Drury Lane. He can talk a little of political economy; and Smith, Malthus, and Ricardo, " are familiar as his garter.” He has skimmed over the gulf of metaphysics, and, when occasion serves, can talk of Locke, Hartley, Hume, and Reid. He is a smatterer in politics. In short, no branch of knowledge is beyond his sphere, “Seneca is not too heavy, nor Plautus too light.” He has been at a great feast learning, and stolen the scraps. Like a bird who picks up chaff, he bears it about in his mouth, but never swallows it. The matter never digests into a subtle spirit, pervading his opinions and colouring his talk, but is a crude heavy mass, like an incubus. This “ learned Theban” is always ready to talk with you; he asks you how you like the new novel ; he disputes your propositions, but assents to your conclusions ; he agrees with no man at the outset, and differs from no one at the end. If his spirit moves, his conversation is like Godwin's Chaucer, de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis. The matter of his speech is words, words, words. His talk is like the Russian horn after the thaw-scraps of every thing. He bestows it on you freely : he is the essence of magnanimity: 'tis yours without asking: he wishes not your gratitude. “ Were he a thousand times as tedious as he is, he could find it in his heart to bestow it all on you.” But who does not cry out, “ Leave me, O leave me to repose” ? Who can endure the pitiless pelting of this storm? Who does not seek refuge from the omniscience of this sort of grievance ? This class is large-its name is legion, for they are many. Some of them are familiar to me, but I avoid them as leprous.
Occasionally, too, we are fastened upon by a sporting man, one whose education is in the basse-cour, who seems to have been cradled in a stable. His imagination teems with images of horses, dogs, and boxers. His pilgrimages are to Newmarket and Moulsey. He worships Neate and Whatever be the subject of conversation, he winds it to his own topic. His language is full of figures, and seems to be drawn half from the stable and half from the Fives Court. He subscribes to nothing but Tattersall's; and his charity extends only to a defeated boxer. His library is made up of sporting calendars and Boxiana. His compositions never extend beyond his betting-book. He knows all the jockies. He can trace you a horse's pedigree with unerring exactness, and is au fait at all the battles, from Figg and the Venetian down to Gipsy Cooper and
He does not argue, but he offers to bet you ten guineas. He estimates your wit by the courage with which you back your opinion. He is not to be done. But he is very good-natured at the bottom, and you lament he is a bore. There is something English in his propensities, and he is all over English in his likings. He is very tolerable, and yet not to be endured; for, after all, his dialect is offensive, and his eternal harping on horses, and dogs, and boxers, is not “germane to the matter.'
But of all the grievances in society the professed punster is the most intolerable. You cannot be safe in his company a moment. If you trust yourself with an opinion, he seizes on it with the voracity of a mastiff; he turns it inside out, and worries it to death. The silence of a punster is treacherous as the calm before a storm. He sits “hushed in grim repose," till the expected word comes; and then it is his cue. His ambition is to set the table in a roar-to be hailed as joke-master.
He comes into the room with half a dozen famous extempore puns, which have cost him a morning's labour to concoct. As long as he can clinch a word, or raise a laugh, he does not care how old, or how bad, his pun is: he will call any one singing in a garret
an attic warbler." He calls a friend of mine a unitharian, because he has but one hair on his head. He addresses a shoemaker, “O sovereign of the willing soul.” If you are a Templar, he hopes you may turn your gas into Coke. He is indefatigable in chasing down his pun. He reads only to find out resemblances, and listens only to bring in his pun. He is fond of no play except a play upon words, and yet he makes game of every thing
“ A wit with dunces, and a dunce with wits." His favourite poet is Crabbe, and his light reading, Joe Miller and Dr. Kett. He was educated in the “School for Wits." James the First is his favourite monarch. The only living authors he admires are Tom Dibdin and Mr. Moncrieff: with the last he is sworn brother. He is supposed to have furnished the puns to the latter's farces. His brain is full of " eggs of bon-mots and specks of repartees.” If you are in a dilemma and you ask what steps you should take, he recommends the library steps. If you ask him to ring the bell, he, with great solemnity, puts a ring on the finger of some pretty girl. If you object to him that his coat is too short, he tells you it will be long enough before he gets another. In short, he seems to like a good thing in proportion to its age: he has no particular wish to appear as the inventor, but merely the “ transmitter” of a jest.
These are some of the grievous things which are found about dinner. tables and general society, to the very great disturbance of hilarity. To some they may not appear so disagreeable; to me they are inexpressibly unendurable. A retired student, I come abroad into the world for relaxation and amusement; but what amusement can there be when“ so pestered with popinjays ?"—What but an excited bile and dissatisfaction with my kind ? Without being very old, yet I think I can remember when these plagues were less numerous and less afflicting. A dinner then was kindly and social ; the stream of talk flowed pleasantly, nothing the worse for being shallow; we bubbled without roaring. No one assumed more than his share. But this is an age of usurpations; even the dinner-table is not sacred ! Society was once more social; it looked for its delights, and found them, within a small circle. Now it spreads abroad and gathers in all that is confined. It sends its agents into the highways, and does not disdain the hedges. Wiser heads, or those more happily tempered than mine, may bear with these warts and boils of society; and account them but as the breakings-out which only prove the greater health of the body. But I cannot “ consider so curiously.” I ask not much from society, and cannot afford that the little should be given with so much alloy. I object to so large a charge for seigniorage. The duty eats up the article; the vexation more than counterbalances the pleasure. There is a custom in Italy, when you are invited to dinner, to send a list of all the guests; and if you dislike any of them, you send back the list marked. I wish it were the custom also in England: it would be a public advantage. For my own part, my mind is made up never to dine where I have reason to think I shall meet a traveller, a young Cantab. a merveilleux, a literary butterfly, a "varmint man,” or a punster.
VOL. V. NO. XXUI.
THE TRAVELLER AT HOME. WHoxver has travelled, must be well aware of the disagreeable sensation of strangeness which attends the first day's residence in a foreign capital, before the delivery of letters of recommendation has procured those hospitable attentions, which, in the course of a few hours, ripen casual acquaintance into friendship.
It is at this moment that the sensation of loneliness is felt in its keenest intensity. The inhabitants of the city are seen moving to and fro, each with his countenance expressive of some instant object, some active interest; they pass and repass, salute and are saluted, and exhibit to the looker-on a thousand nameless traits, which shew that they are at home. To the stranger no one bows, no one speaks, no one launches the glance of recognition. Even the buildings, in all the interest of their novelty, convey an impression the very reverse of inspiriting, by the total absence of all association of ideas. The spectacle of two friends enjoying the abandonment of unrestricted chit-chat; the sudden glow of pleasure mantling on the cheek of some smiling beauty, at the unexpected rencontre of a favourite youth; the transient interchange of kindly feeling shot from the eye as they pass,-impress upon the stranger a sickening recollection that to such pleasures he has no claim. His heart yearns for some one to address, for some one who will awaken a remembrance; or his imagination turns, perhaps, self-bidden, to domestic scenes, and to the affectionate beings by whom they are inhabited. At such a moment should chance bring the traveller in contact with the most distant acquaintance-a fellow-passenger in a stage--an individual met in some large assembly of another town, or encountered in the routine of Lions and sight-seeing on some former occasion,--he hails his approach with all the ardour of friendship, and feels, for the instant, as towards a brother. As the eye wanders instinctively over the passing crowd, in the vague search of some such object of recognition, the spirits flag, till feelings almost of ill-will arise towards the population; as if they were guilty of neglect and personal slight, by the indifference with which they pass. With this unreasonable, but, by no means unnatural, pettishness and dislike to all he has seen, rankling in his heart, the stranger, towards the close of evening, Aies from the oppressive solitude of the crowd to his lonely inn; and after various efforts to find occupation in the bizarre decorations of the chamber, or, like Belshazzar*, in the handwriting on the wall, from which he “cannot turn away," or, perhaps, in the thousand-times perused livre des postes,-through sheer despair he retires to bed, full two hours before the time when habit should predispose him for sleep.
This uneasy and distressing sensation is hardly ever thrown entirely off by the most experienced traveller ; though use brings with it a stronger conviction that such circumstances are in the natural order of things. There is, however, a case in which the position of a stranger is accompanied with a tenfold bitterness, in which the spirit revolts with a tenfold sense of injury, from the consciousness of neglect and isolation; and that is, when, after years of absence, he returns to his native city, and finds all the social relations he had left behind him at parting, disturbed or dissolved.
* It is bnt seldom that he can ask
Why the dark destinies have hung their sentence
Unsearchable ?" Wherever the English travel they contrive to express pretty intelligibly their ennui, their dislike and contempt for foreigners, in moral apophthegms, such as “ Dirty Italian (nn.” “ D-n all Frenchmen.” “Stupid Germans.”
The conviction of this melancholy truth, unlike the sense of strangeness in a foreign capital, comes upon us by degrees. The first moments of arrival are, on the contrary, replete with recollections and acknowledgements. The physical objects have remained unchanged. The church we have frequented in our youth, stands where it did; the rows of trees under whose shade we frolicked in our childhood, are still growing; the house inhabited by some early friend remains the same. The first visits, likewise, to our remaining connexions are usually exhilarating and satisfactory: the hearty shake of the hand, the cordial congratulation, the hospitable dinner made in honour of our return, exhibit few signs of change, save those that time has stamped on the countenances of our friends.
But by degrees the realities of the position transpire in all their naked unloveliness. A few short conversations suffice to discover, in the minds of our companions, a total break-up of all those associations which subsisted when we left them, and which then bound them to us by similarity of pursuit, of sentiment, or of amusement. The gay thoughtless man of pleasure has settled into the tame, plodding man of business, whose occupations have no leisure for friendship, no opportunity for enjoyment. The single man has married, and has concentrated all his affection upon his wife and children. The companion has changed his pursuits, the friend his connexions; old acquaintances have died, new faces have come upon the scene; boys have grown into manhood, and the girls with whom we used to dance and flirt, have become the mothers of families. In short, the cards of society have been shuffled and cut so often, that no traces remain of the game we left playing at the time of our departure.
We ourselves, on the contrary, remain insensible to the operations of time. We mistake the memory of what we have felt for an actual sentiment; and picturing our friends on the intellectual retina with all their primitive associations, surrounded by the bright halo of early sensations and unworn feelings, so different from those colder and more calculating sentiments which attach us to newer acquaintance, we grow young in the recollection ; thus taking no account either of the changes which have occurred in ourselves, in our friends, or in the circumstances in which they are placed, we are wholly unprepared for that moral and social dislocation which awaits us, in our endeavours to thrust ourselves once more into a place in society which others have already occupied. The gap we left in the social circle has long been filled up; and we are hurt to find ourselves in the situation of one returned from the grave, after his fortune has been divided amongst thankless heirs, and his loss forgotten by his nearest relations.
I myself was born and educated in London, and for the first thirty years of my life was never absent from it, except on those short excursions which return us to our friends the more welcome for our tempo