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have you been in town?"....Two hours.'...." How long do you stay?.... Ten guineas....If you'll come to Venable's after the play is over, you'll find Tom Latine, Bob Classic, and two or three more, who will be very glad to see you. What, you're in town upon the sober plan at your father's? But hearkye Frank, if you'll call in, I'll tell your friend Harris to prepare for you, So your servant; for I'm going to meet the finest girl upon town in the green boxes."
I left the coffee-house pretty late; and as I came into the piazza, the fire in the Bedford-Arms kitchen blazed so cheerfully and invitingly before me, that I was easily persuaded by a friend who was with me, to end the evening at that house. Our good fortune led us into the next room to this knot of academical rakes. Their merriment being pretty boisterous, gave us a good pretext to enquire, what company. were in the next room. The waiter told us, with a smartness which those fellows frequently contract from attending on beaux and wits, "some gentlemen from Oxford with some ladies, sir. My master is always very glad to see them; for while they stay in town, they never dine or sup out of his house, and eat and drink, and pay better, than any nobleman."
As it grew later, they grew louder: 'till at length an unhappy dispute arose between two of the company, concerning the present grand contest between the Old and the new interest, which has lately inflamed Oxfordshire. This accident might have been attended with ugly consequences: but as the ladies are great enemies to quarrelling, unless themselves are the occasion, a good-natured female of the company interposed, and quelled their animosity. By the mediation of this fair one, the dispute ended very fashionably, in a bet of a dozen of claret, to be drank there by the company then present, whenever the wager should be decided. There was something so
extraordinary in their whole evening's conversation, such an odd mixture of the town and university, that I am persuaded, if Sir Richard had been witness to it, he could have wrought it into a scene as lively and entertaining, as any he has left us.
The whole time these lettered beaux remain in London, is spent in a continual round of diversion. Their sphere, indeed, is somewhat confined; for they generally eat, drink, and sleep within the precincts of Covent-Garden. I remember I once saw, at a public inn on the road to Oxford, a journal of the town transactions of one of these sparks; who had recorded them on a window-pane for the example and imitation of his fellow-students. I shall present my reader with an exact copy of this curious journal, as nearly as I can remember.
Monday....Rode to town in six hours....saw the two last acts of Hamlet....At night, with Polly Brown. Tuesday....Saw Harlequin Sorcerer.....At night, Polly again.
Wednesday....Saw Macbeth....At night, with Sally Parker, Polly engaged.
Thursday....Saw the Suspicious Husband.....At night, Polly again.
Friday....Set out at twelve o'clock for Oxford....a damn'd muzzy place.
There are no set of mortals more joyous than these occasional rakes, whose pride it is to gallop up to town once or twice in the year with their quarterage in their pockets, and in a few days to squander it away in the highest scenes of luxury and debauchery. The tavern, the theatre, and the bagnio, engross the chief part of their attention; and it is constantly Polly again with them, till their finances are quite exhausted, and they are obliged to return (as Bookwit has it) "to small beer and three halfpenny commons.”
I shall enlarge no further on this subject at present, but conclude these reflections with an Ode, which I
have received from an unknown correspondent. tells me, it was lately sent from an academical friend to one of these gentlemen, who had resigned himself wholly to these polite enjoyments, and seemed to have forgot his connexions with the university. All, who peruse this elegant little piece, will, I doubt not, thank me for inserting it; and the learned reader will have the additional pleasure of admiring it as an humourous imitation of Horace.
Icci, beatis nunc Arabum invides
SO you, my friend, at last are caught.......
Your whole ambition now to shine
Say, gallant youth, what well-known name
What watchmen mourn your fury?
What sprightly imp of Gallic breed
(I mean the outward part) Form'd by his parent's early care To range in nicest curls his hair,
And wield the puff with art?
L. I. Ode xxix.
No more let mortals toil in vain,
What rolling time will bring:
Since you each better promise break,
Now turn'd a very Paris,
No. XII. THURSDAY, APRIL 18.
Nor shall the four-leg'd culprit 'scape the law,
TURNING over the last volume of Lord Bolingbroke's works a few days ago, I could not help smiling at his lordship's extraordinary manner of commenting on some parts of the Scriptures. Among the rest he represents Moses, as making beasts accountable to the community for crimes, as well as men whence his lordship infers, that the Jewish legislator supposed them capable of distinguishing between right and wrong, and acting as moral agents. The oddity of this remark led me to reflect, if such an opinion should prevail in any country, what whimsical laws would be enacted, and ow ridiculous they would appear, when put in execution. As if the horse, that carried the highwayman, should be arraigned for taking a purse, or a dog indicted for feloniously stealing a shoulder of mutton. Such a country would seem to go upon the same, principles, and to entertain the same notions of justice, as the puritanical old woman, that hanged her cat for killing mice on the sabbath-day.
These reflections were continued afterwards in my sleep; when methought such proceedings were common in our own courts of judicature. I imagined
myself in a spacious ball like the Old Bailey, where they were preparing to try several animals, who had been guilty of offence against the laws of the land. The walls I observed, were hung all round with bulls-hides, sheep-skins, foxes-tails, and the spoils of other brute malefactors; and over the justice-seat, where the king's arms are commonly placed, there was fixed a large stag's-head, which over-shadowed the magistrate with its branching horns. I took particular notice, that the galleries were very much crowded with ladies; which I could not tell how to account for, 'till I found it was expected, that a goat would that day be tried for a rape.
The sessions soon opened; and the first prisoner that was brought to the bar, was a Hog, who was prosecuted at the suit of the Jews on an indictment for burglary, in breaking into their synagogue. As it was apprehended, that religion might be affected by this cause, and as the prosecution appeared to be malicious, the Hog, though the fact was plainly proved against him, to the great joy of all true Christians, was allowed benefit of clergy.
An indictment was next brought against a Cat for killing a favourite canary-bird. This offender belonged to an old woman, who was believed by the neighbourhood to be a witch. The jury, therefore, were unanimous in their opinion, that she was the devil in that shape, and brought her in guilty. Upon which the judge formally pronounced sentence upon her, which I remember concluded with these words: "You must be carried to the place of execution, where you are to be hanged by the neck nine times, 'till you are dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead; and the fidlers have mercy upon your guts."
A Parrot was next tried for scandalum magnatum. He was accused by the chief magistrate of the city, and the whole court of aldermen, for defaming them,