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can never shake them off while he keeps his gown on his back.
The University of London is not without its TuftHunters; who fasten, like leeches, on a young man of fortune on his first coming to town. They beset him as soon as he arrives, and when they have once surrounded him, seldom fail of securing him to themselves; for no persons of character care to have any connexions with him, when he has been frequently seen in such bad company. It is a great misfortune for any young gentleman to fall into their hands: though indeed, as a fool is the natural prey of knaves, the wealthy maintainers of this fraternity are generally none of the wisest: and as at the University, "where "the learned pate ducks to the golden fool," the gentleman student is distinguished by a cap with a gold tuft, I always consider these sons of folly in town, as adorned with a showy cap hung with bells, which serve at once to denote the depth of their parts, and to call their train about them.
The dialect of the town has very expressively characterised these humble dependants on men of fortune by the name of hangers-on. They will, indeed, take such sure hold, and hang on a man so constantly, that it is almost impossible to drop them. Whenever the gentleman appears, the hanger-on is sure to be at his elbow. They will squeeze themselves into every party that is formed; and I have known instances of their thrusting themselves into strange families, by sticking to their patron's skirts and impudently introducing themselves where he has been invited to dinner: which, indeed, I think, would not be an improper custom, provided they would submit to stand behind his chair. They will stick so closely, that all the adhesive qualities of burs, pitch, &c. seem to be collected in them; and the line of Pope's Odyssey, so often ridiculed, may rather be considered as emphasi
than tautology in speaking of them. The hanger-on clings to his fool, as Ulysses did to the rock, and in Pope's words,
They stick adherent, and suspended hang.
The tenaciousness of an hanger-on is so very strong, that whoever is drawn into their snares, is so firmly lined that he can hardly ever loose himself from them. For as nothing but the lowest meanness of spirit could ever prevail on a man to submit to such dependance on another, it is in vain to think of getting rid of such abject wretches by treating them with contempt..... They will take as much beating, provided you will allow them an equal degree of familiarity as a spaniel. They will also submit to do any little offices, and are glad to make themselves useful, whenever they have an opportunity. They will go among the brokers to borrow money for you, pimp for you, or submit to any other such gentleman-like employment to serve
It must here be noted, that every hanger-on is a person of strict honour and a gentleman; for though his fortune is (to be sure) somewhat inferior to yours, and he submits to make himself convenient on several occasions, yet on that account you are indebted to his infinite good-nature; and all his endeavours to serve you proceed from his great regard for you. I remember one of these friendly gentlemen, who carried his esteem so far, that in a quarrel with his rich companion, in which he was favoured with several tweaks by the nose, and kicks on the breech, he received all these injuries with patience, and only said, with tears in his eyes," dear Jack, I never expected this usage "from you. You know I do not mind fighting; but "I should never have a moment's peace, if I was to "do you the least injury. Come, Jack, let us buss
"and be friends." Their gentility is unquestionable; for they are seldom of any trade, though they are sometimes, being younger brothers perhaps, of a profession. I know one, who is a nominal lawyer; but though his friend has often fed him, our counsellor could never with any propriety consider him as a client; and I know another, who, like Gibbet in the play, is called captain, whose elegant manner of living must be supported by his being on full pay with his patron, since he does not even receive the common soldier's groat a day from his commission. However, considering at one view the gentility of their profession, and the shortness of their finances, I often look upon them as a band of decayed gentlemen, the honourable pensioners of those they follow. The great men among the Romans had a number of these hangers-on, who attended them wherever they went, and were emphatically called umbræ, or shadows; and, indeed, this appellation conveys a very full idea of the nature of these humble retainers to the wealthy, since they not only follow them like their shadows, but "like a shadow prove the substance true:" for whenever you observe one or more of these umbræ perpetually at the heels of any gentleman, you may fairly conclude him to be a man of fortune.
These faithful friends are so careful of every thing that concerns you, that they always enquire with the greatest exactness into your affairs, and know almost as well as your steward the income of your estate. ... They are also so fond of your company, and so desirous of preserving your good opinion, that an hangeron will take as much pains to keep you entirely to himself, and to prevent a rival in your affections, as a mistress and as a convenient female is a very necessary part of the equipage of a person of fashion, these male companions must be a very agreeable part of the retinue of those high-spirited young gentlemen,
who are fond of being the head of their company. It is only a more refined taste in expences to pay a man for laughing at your wit and indulging your humour, and who will either drink his bottle with you at the tavern, or run to the end of the town for you on an errand.
I might also take notice of an humbler sort of hangers-on, who fix themselves to no one particular, but fasten upon all their friends in their turns. Their views, indeed, are seldom extended beyond a present subsistence; and their utmost aim perhaps is to get a dinner. For this purpose they keep a register of the hours of dining of all their acquaintance; and though they contrive to call in upon you just as you are sitting down to table, they are always with much difficulty prevailed upon to take a chair. If you dine abroad, or are gone into the country, they will eat with your family, to prevent their being melancholy on account of your absence; or if your family is out, they will breakfast, dine, and sup with you out of charity, because you should not be alone. Every house is haunted with these disturbers of our meals: and perhaps the best way to get rid of them would be to put them, with the rest of your servants, upon board-wages.
But besides these danglers after men of fortune, and intruders on your table in town, the country breeds a race of lowly retainers, which may properly be ranked among the same species. Almost every family supports a poor kinsman: who, happening to be no way related to the estate, was too proud of his blood to apply himself in his youth to any profession, and rather chose to be supported in laziness at the family-seat. They are, indeed, known perhaps to be cousins to the squire, but do not appear in a more creditable light, than his servants out of livery; and sometimes actually submit to as mean offices of drudg
ery, as the groom or whipper-in. The whole fraternity of hangers-on, whether in town or country, or under whatever denomination, are the sons of idleness: for it will be found upon examination, that whenever a man, whose bread depends on his industry, gives himself up to indolence, he becomes capable of any meanness whatever; and if they cannot dig, yet, like our hangers-on, to beg they are not ashamed.
No. XCVIII. THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11.
Ut id ostenderem, quod te isti facilem putant.
What shall we call it? Folly, or good-nature?
To Mr. Town.
I HAVE been some years married to one of the best women in the world. She possesses all the virtues that can be named: but alas! she possesses some of them to excess. Those which I wish to particularise, and which are infinitely pernicious to me and my fortunes, are her super-abundant good-nature, and her boundless generosity.
It is a little difficult perhaps to ascertain, what are, or ought to be, the exact bounds of good-nature ; which, of all virtues, seems to me most necessary to