Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

theatre found it closed. It was the first Wednesday in Lent! I will not mention, "to ears polite," the place to which the elder Culpepper consigned the Lord Chamberlain. Still, the execration was not "Sesamy;" so the portals continued closed. "We have nothing left for it," said the father, as he bundled the two ladies back into the coach, "but to return as wise as we came." 66 Suppose you and I go to the Epigram Club," said the son to the captain. The latter thought any port better than the storm of the slopseller, and gladly acceded to the proposal. "Where do you meet?" said the dragoon, as he and his companion hastily turned up Southampton-street. "At the Wrekin," answered the other; "you will find it a very agreeable lounge: I hope you have got an epigram ready." "Geud Gad! not I," ejaculated the son of Mars. "I know a great many songs. I know 'Drink to me only,' and 'Fly not yet,' and 'Believe me of all these endearing young charms,' and the first verse of Had I a heart.' But as to epigrams I only know one which begins-" Here the hero was cut short in his narrative by an encounter with two waiters, who, with a brace of napkins and five brace of bows, ushered the two gentlemen upstairs. The company had assembled, and the dinner was upon the table. Captain Thackeray and young Culpepper had already dined upon cold beef and cucumbers in Savage-gardens. This, however, made no difference. Like James Boswell the elder, who regularly dined at the Sheriff of London's table twice in each day during the Old Bailey sessions, the two friends felt a returning appetite, and played as good a knife and fork as if nothing had happened.

On the removal of the cloth, the president gave three knocks with his hammer upon a table, whose dinted surface bore evident tokens of many former attacks of the same sort. Silence being procured, he commenced his harangue by reminding the society, that, there, nobody was required to sing: that it was gothic barbarity to call upon a gentleman to struggle with a cold and hoarseness: that the organs of singing were frequently deranged, those of speaking very seldom: and, therefore, that the usages of this institution were highly rational, inasmuch as no man was there called upon for a song, but every man for an epigram. Then, addressing himself to the member on his right, with the most amusing gravity, he exclaimed, "Mr. Merryweather, may I trouble you for an epigram?" Mr. Merryweather, thus accosted, begged to remind the company that on the Bow-street side of Covent-garden Theatre, stood a statue of Comedy and another of Tragedy. "You are right, sir," said Culpepper, "and they both look so sober that it would puzzle Garrick himself to say which was which." "You have hit it, sir," answered Merryweather; 66 upon that circumstance hinges

my epigram. It is as follows:

With steady mien, unalter'd eye,

The Muses mount the pile.

Melpomene disdains to cry,
Thalia scorns to smile.

Pierian springs when moderns quaff,

"Tis plainly meant to shew,

Their Comedy excites no laugh,

Their Tragedy no woe."

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

A pretty general knocking of glasses upon the table denoted that this sally told well; and the society, as in duty bound, drank Mr. Merryweather's health. "Mr. Morris," said the deputy chairman to a member on his right hand, "were you at the late masquerade at the Opera House?" "I was," answered Morris, with all the elation which is felt by a man who thinks he sees an opening for throwing in a good thing. "I went with Lump the leatherseller. He wore a Domino, but he wanted to go in character."-"What character?"-" Charles the Second."-" Indeed! and what made him alter his determination ?""My epigram."—"Oh pray let us have it."-" Certainly.

To this night's masquerade, quoth Dick,
By pleasure I am beckon'd,

And think 'twould be a pleasant trick
To go as Charles the Second.

Tom felt for repartee athirst,
And thus to Richard said:

You'd better go as Charles the First,
For that requires no head."

"Bravo," ejaculated the president," your health, Mr. Morris: I think you are in a fair way of winning the silver medal. I don't think any of your successors will beat that. But we shall see. Mr. Vice, you will please to call upon Mr. Snaggs. We must take him in time, or the Hampstead stage will be too sharp for us." Snaggs, who for the last five minutes had been fidgetting and looking at his watch, with as much disengaged hilarity as falls to the lot of any married man, who is tied down to stage-coach hours, started from a reverie, and begged to inform the company, that in his village resided a physician and a vicar, who often walked arm in arm together. "Which circumstance," said Snaggs, "induced me to squib at them after the following fashion : How D. D. swaggers, M. D. rolls!

1 dub them both a brace of noddies :
Old D. D. has the Cure of souls,

And M. D. has the Care of bodies.
Between them both, what treatment rare
Our souls and bodies must endure,
One has the Cure without the Care,

And one the Care without the Cure."

The applause which followed this effusion, was so much louder than that which was excited by Mr. Morris, that the latter began to tremble for his silver medal. His fears, however, were groundless. Snaggs again looked at his watch, snatched up his hat, and, like the landlord in Joseph Andrews, "ran down stairs without any fear of breaking his neck."

The president now looked at his watch also: it pointed to the hour of nine: he exchanged a significant glance with the vice-president, (who also officiated as secretary); and the latter cast his eyes towards a mahogany box in the window-seat, and began to fumble for his keys. "Silence, gentlemen," exclaimed the former, "and listen to a report of our committee, setting forth the objects and prospects of this institution." The secretary then drew forth a red morocco bound book, and proceeded to business.

The report commenced by stating, that the object of the Epigram

Club was to induce writers and speakers in general, by their precept and example, to compress what they might have to utter, into as small a compass as possible. The report dilated upon the alarming increase of forensic and parliamentary eloquence, and then enumerated the number of epigrams which, with a view of stopping the farther increase of the mischief, the committee had caused to be distributed in England, Scotland, and Ireland, a great portion of which had been translated into the Hindostan and Catabaw languages; so that, to adopt their own phraseology, "they had the heartfelt delight of epigrammatizing the naked Gentoo and the tattooed Otaheitean." The report then stated, that, by the exertions of the committee, seventeen epic poems had been strangled in their birth. As a special instance of the efficacy of their labours, the report mentioned that Major Cartwright, at a late meeting at the Mermaid at Hackney, had reduced his oration within the compass of seven hours; and that Mr. Gale Jones had not said the same thing more than seven times. The committee concluded by lamenting that in the midst of their apparently prosperous career, the dæmon of Circumbendibus (so was he denominated in the report) had suddenly reared his hydra head, and, though pelted by a large assortment of cheap epigrams, had maintained a running fight until he had reached his camp in the liberties of Westminster. The report added, that the dæmon had lately " grown fat and kicked," in his two strongest citadels, the Court of King's Bench and Saint Stephen's Chapel. But that, aided by the Speaker in the latter, and the Judges in the former, Members and junior Counsel were henceforth to be limited in their harangues and that, upon the whole, the committee relied with confidence on the hope, that in the process of a century or so, lawyers and senators would be forced either to speak in epigram, or to hold their tongues.

"A dry subject, Mr. Secretary," exclaimed the chairman. "Mr. Daffodil, pray favour us with an epigram." This request was addressed to a slender young man, who sat like a lily drooping,' and had all the air of having been recently jilted. Thus called upon, he started from the reverie in which he appeared to be plunged, and in a silver tone spoke as follows:

"To Flavia's shrine two suitors run

And woo the fair at once:
A needy fortune-hunter one,
And one a wealthy dunce.

How, thus twin-courted, she 'll behave
Depends upon this rule-

If she's a fool she'll wed the knave,
And if a knave the fool."

This effort was received with some applause, but it did not quite amount to a hit. The company seemed to opine that knave and fool were not fit names to call a lady. It mattered little what they thought, young Daffodil had relapsed into his reverie. The following was pronounced considerably better:

"My thrifty spouse, her taste to please,

With rival dames at auctions vies;
She doats on every thing she sees,
And every thing she doats on buys.

1 with her taste am quite enchanted:
Such costly wares, so wisely sought!
Bought, because they may be wanted

Wanted, because they may be bought."

"I should not be at all surprised," said Captain Thackeray to the utterer of this jeu d'esprit, "if Mrs. Backhouse gave you that idea. You must know her-she lives in Castle-street, Holborn, and spends the whole morning in picking up things remarkably cheap. She bought the late Irish giant's boots; she has no occasion for them at present, but they may come into play. Last Wednesday she met with a capital bargain in Brokers' Row, Moorfields-a brass door-plate, with Mr. Henderson engraved upon it: it only cost her ninepence halfpenny. Should any thing happen to Backhouse, and she be afterwards courted by any body of the name of Henderson, there is a door-plate ready."

This sally, proving successful, drew the attention of the club towards the utterer; and the chairman told him, that, when his turn arrived, he had no doubt of his favouring the company with an excellent epigram; adding, "in the mean while, sir, I believe it is my turn:

Two Harveys had a separate wish

To please in separate stations;
The one invented Sauce for fish,
The other Meditations.

Each has his pungent powers applied
To aid the dead and dying,

That relishes a Sole when fried,

This saves a Soul from frying."

"Gentlemen," said the member whose turn was next in succession, "I have a weighty objection to all that has been hitherto uttered. An epigram should not be extended to eight lines; and I believe all that we have heard this evening, have been of that length. Four lines ought to be the ne plus ultra: if only two, so much the better. Allow me to deliver one which was uttered by an old gentleman, whose daughter Arabella importuned him for Money:

Dear Bell, to gain Money, sure, silence is best,
For dumb Bells are fittest to open the chest."

"and in nar

"I am quite of your opinion," said he who followed; rating an epitaph by a disconsolate husband upon his late wife, I mean to confine myself within the same Spartan limits:

Two bones from my body have taken a trip,
I've buried my Rib, and got rid of my Hyp."

"Now, captain," said the president, addressing himself to young Culpepper's mustachio'd associate. The dragoon started, and waxed rather red. "Oh me, is it? Geud Gad! I'm very sorry-I can't at this moment--Really, it's very ridiculous: Oh, now I remember,' Had I a heart for falsehood framed-" "Beg pardon, sir," said the president, "but that's Sheridan." "Oh, true, I had forgotten; well then'Drink to me only with thine eyes-' "Beg pardon again, sir, but that's Ben Jonson." "Oh, true! Geud Gad! how uncommonly stupid. Oh! now I have it: Quoth Sylvia to a reverend dean-" "Beg pardon again, sir, but that's Swift." "Swift, is it? Geud Gad! I could have sworn it was my own. Pray, must it be in English?" "No, sir, we are not confined to any language." "Well then, I will give

6

you a Latin one. My friend Culpepper and I, on coming out of the Opera-house last Saturday, got into a dispute with a hackney-coachman. Upon which I collared him, and he collared me, and he tore the silk-facing of my cloak. Upon which says Culpepper, Who is to mend it? Upon which said I, Nobody can replace the silk-facing but the man who made the cape: because, according to the Latin adage,

Qui capit ille facit.

Now I think I have beaten the two gentlemen who epigrammatized last. They have made a great merit of confining themselves to two lines, and, egad! I have confined myself to one.""Your quantum of merit, sir," said the chairman very gravely, "will depend upon the votes of the gentlemen present."

A dark mahogany ballotting-box was now produced: each member had two votes: the several epigrams were proposed, and ballotted for, in rotation; and upon drawing forth the balls, it was ascertained that each person had given one favourable ball to his own epigram, and one to Captain Thackeray's: thus intimating, that, next to his own production, the superior merit lay with the Latin adage. "Our visitor has it," said the president; and at the same time, with great ceremony, threw over the captain's head a blue silk riband, to which was appended a silver medal. "Geud Gad! it's very like a Waterloo Medal," exclaimed the son of Mars, and sat as proud as a peacock until the meeting broke up.

THE SILENT LANGUAGE OF LOVE.

By an old German Poet, GEORGE RUDOLPH WECKHERLIN, who lived at the beginning of the Seventeenth Century, and was a friend of our Sir Henry Wotton; he appeared in England at the Court of James 1. and was well received there, though now nearly forgotten.

To Myrta.

SINCE, Myrta, speech or silence tend

Alike to wound our mutual bliss,

Let us to looks a language lend,

Expressive of our tenderness;

For Love, whose power we constantly revere,

Will make this silent language clear.

Let then thy rapid glances move,

Nor fear by them thy flame to own;

They're faithful couriers of Love

Το eyes of envious fools unknown;

For Love, whose power they impiously contemn,
Will hide this silent speech from them.

And should some busy eye observe
These still expressive looks of our's,
Then we'll our intercourse preserve
In spirit like angelic powers;

For Love, whose humble votaries we are,
Will make this silent language clear.

Thus we 'll deceive the jealous eyes
Of babblers, by our simple art;
While their foil'd malice to our joys
Shall still increased delight impart;

For Love, whose power they impiously contemn,

Will hide our silent speech from them.

D. J.

« AnteriorContinuar »