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company on a level. Besides all this, three or four rounds of toasts, where many are met together, must unavoidably lift them all into good company. These are no small advantages to society; not to mention the wit and morality contained in many toasts.
Toasts are doubtless very useful and entertaining; but the wisest institution ever made in drinking societies, is the custom of appointing what is called an absolute toast master. The gentleman invested with this dignity is created king of the company; and, like other absolute monarchs, he commonly makes great use of his power. It is particularly his office to name the toast, to observe that every man duly tosses off his bumper, and is in every respect good company. He is also to correct all misdemeanors, and commonly punishes an offender by sconcing him a bumper : that is, in the language of hard drinkers, not unmercifully denying him his due glass, but obliging him to add another to it of perhaps double the quantity. For offences of a very heinous nature, the transgressor is ordered a decanter of water, or a tankard of smallbeer. The privilege of inflicting a bumper is exerted almost every moment; for there is hardly any sort of behaviour, which does not produce this punishment. I have known a man sconced for drinking, for not drinking, for singing, for talking, for being silent, and at length sconced dead drunk, and made very good company.
But none of these qualifications abovementioned constitute good company in the genteel part of
the world. Polite assemblies neither aim at wit and humour, nor make the least pretence to cultivate society. Their whole evenings are consumed at the card-table, without the least attempt at any other conversation, but the usual altercations of partners between the deals. Whist has destroyed conversation, spoiled society, and " murdered sleep." This kind of good company is as ridiculous, and more insipid than either the society of witlings or hard
drinkers. Tossing off bumpers is as rational, and an employment infinitely more joyous, than shuffling a pack of cards a whole night and puns, jokes, and mimicry, however stale and repeated, furnish the company with conversation of as much use and variety, as the odd trick and four by honours.
Such are the agreeable evenings passed at White's, and the other coffee-houses about St. James's. Such is the happiness of assemblies, routs, drums and hurricanes; and without gaming what insipid things are even masquerades and ridottos! At such meetings the man who is good company, plays the game very well, knows more cases than are in Hoyle, and often possesses some particular qualifications, which would be no great recommendation to him any where else. Instead of meeting together, like other companies, with a desire of mutual delight, they sit down with a design upon the pockets of each other: though, indeed it is no wonder, when one has stripped another of two or three thousand pounds, if the successful gamester thinks the person he has fleeced very good company.
By what has been said, it appears that the notion of good company excludes all useful conversation which, in either of the abovementioned societies, would undoubtedly be despised as stupid and pedantic. The witlings have too lively a genius, and too warm an imagination, to admit it. The boon companions can join nothing but love to a bottle: and among gamesters, it would, like sleep, be mere loss of time, and hindrance of business. Yet an accomplished member of either of these societies is called good company; which is just as proper an expression, as, according to Serjeant Kite, Carolus is good Latin for Queen Anne, or a stout beating. But a set of people, who assemble for no other purpose than to game, have, in particular, so very bad a title to the denomination of good company, that they appear to me to be the very worst.
N'58. THURSDAY, MARCH 6, 1755.
Quicumue impudicus, adulter, ganeo, quique alienum as grande confluerat, quo flagitium aut facinus redimeret; prætereà, omnes undiue parricida, sacrilegi, convicti judiciis, aut pro factis judiciun timentes; ad hoc, quos manus atque lingua perjurio et sanguine civili alebat; postremò, omnes, quos flagitium, egestas, conscius animus exagitabat.
Would you, like Catiline's, an army choose,
Go ransack White's, the taverns, and the stews :
A Misfortune, which happened to me the other day, sufficiently convinced me of the inconveniences arising from the indiscriminate power lodged in our pressgangs; who pay no more regard to those, who plead protection from the badge of literature, than a bailiff's follower. I would not have the reader think, that I was pressed myself:-but my Devil (that is, the messenger of the printing house) was carried off, as he was going with the copy of a Connoisseur to press. Learning appears to me of so much importance, that (in my opinion) the persons of the lowest retainers to it should be sacred from molestation; and it gives me concern, though a very loyal subject, that even a ballad-singer, or the hawker of bloody news, should be interrupted in their literary vocations. I have in vain endeavoured to recover my manuscript again : for, though I cannot but think any one of my papers of almost as much consequence to the nation as the fitting out a fleet, the ignorant sailors were so regard.
less of its inestimable contents, that after much inquiry I detected them (with my Devil in conjunction) lighting their pipes with it, at a low alehouse by PuddleDock.
This irretrievable loss to the public, as well as my. self, led me to consider, whether some other method might not be thought of, to raise sufficient forces for the fleet and army, without disturbing poor labourers and honest mechanics in their peaceful occupations. I have at length, with great pains and expense of thought, hit upon a scheme, which will effectually answer that end; and without further preface shall lay it before the public.
I would propose, that every useless member of the community should be made of service to his country, by being obliged to climb the ropes, or carry a mus quet; and every detrimental one should be prevented from injuring his fellow-subjects, and sent to annoy the common enemy. To begin with the country. There is no occasion to rob the fields of their husbandmen, or to fetch our soldiers, as the Romans took their dictator, from the plough. It is well known, that every county can supply us with numerous recruits, if we were to raise them out of that idle body called country Squires; many of whom are born only for the destruction of game, and disturbance of their neighbours. They are mere vegetables, which grow up and rot on the same spot of ground; except a few perhaps, which are transplanted into the Parliament House. Their whole life is hurried away in scampering after foxes, leaping five-bar gates, trampling upon the farmers corn, and swilling October. As they are by their profession excellent marksmen, and have been used to carry a gun, they might employ their powder to more purpose in fetching down a Frenchman than a pheasant and most of them might be incorporated among the cavalry, or formed into light-bodied troops
and mounted on their own hunters. They might also be of great use in marauding, or getting in forage; and if they would follow an enemy with the same alacrity and defiance of danger, as they follow a fox, they might do prodigious execution in a pursuit. The greatest danger would be, that if a fox should perchance cross them in their march, they would be tempted to run from their colours for the sake of a chace; and we should have them all desert, or (in the language of fox hunters) gone away.
If the country is infested with these useless and obnoxious animals, called Squires, this metropolis is no less over-run with a set of idle and mischievous creatures, which we may call town Squires. We might soon levy a very numerous army, were we to enlist into it every vagrant about town, who, not having any lawful calling, from thence takes upon himself the title of gentleman, and adds an Esq. to his name. A very large corps too might be formed from the Students at the Inns of Court, who, under the pretence of following the law, receive as it were a sanction for doing nothing at all. With these the several tribes of play-house and coffee-house Critics, and that collective body of them called the Town, be allowed to rank: And though no great exploits can be expected from these invalids, yet (as they are of no other use whatever) they may at least serve in the army, like Falstaff's men, as "food for powder."
Rut a very formidable troop might be composed of that part of them, distinguished by the name of Bloods. The fury of their assaults on drawers and watchmen, and the spirit displayed in storming a bagnio, would be of infinite service in the field of battle. But I would recommend it to the general to have them strictly disciplined; lest they should shoot some of their own comrades, or perhaps run away,