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of a stable-keeper, who had been appointed a Commissioner of Taxes by the influence of the famous Duke of Queensberry, and was giving himself ridiculous airs at Brookes's, "So, Mr. Commissioner, you 've been installed, have you?" said George. "Yes, sir," replied the other, “and without taking a single step in the matter." "I believe you, sir," rejoined Selwyn, "Reptiles can neither walk nor take steps; nature ordained them to creep."
Brookes's was by no means exclusive. A Sir Robert Macraith, who had been several years a waiter at the "Cocoa Tree," a famous house in earlier days and obtained a considerable fortune by marriage, was a member. One evening, when the "Cocoa Tree" was in the mart, he jestingly announced his intention of purchasing it, and changing the name to "Bob's Coffee House," by way of speculation. 'Right," said Selwyn, it will be Bob without, and robbing (Robin) within." To the lady of the knight, whose father had been a usurer or pawnbroker, it is recorded that he was still more severe. She had shewn him through a number of gaudy apartments, decorated with still more gaudy pictures, and at last conducted him to a room still more gorgeous, where there was none. "Here," said the lady, "I intend to hang up my family." "I thought,” replied the wit, "they had been hung up long ago."
Selwyn was indeed a connoisseur in the matter of hanging. It was one of his horrid foibles to have a taste for being present at the shocking spectacle of an execution, and no opportunity, whether in town or country, was ever neglected by him. His morbid curiosity even led him to Paris on one occasion, when all the provincial executioners of France were assembled, either with the view of rendering the scene more impressive, or of witnessing some new experiment that was about to be made of a drop. George arrived breathless just after the executioner of Lyons, and the Paris functionary in ecstacy took him for the official of London, who had arrived express to witness the performance. "Monsieur de Londre?" said he, coming forward to express his exalted sense of the compliment: "No," replied George, "I am only an amateur; but should have no objection to practice on a gentleman of your address."
Selwyn's wit was often of a coarse order. It was on his return from this excursion that a general officer who had served in the American war, after taunting him for his peculiar bad taste, turned the conversation by describing some hot and cold springs in Virginia, so contiguous that he had only to pull a trout out of the one and throw it into the other to get cooked. "I believe you," said Selwyn, "for when I was lately in France I heard of a third spring in Auvergne, containing parsley and
"Mr. Selwyn," said the general, "consider the improbability-parsley and butter!"
"I ask your pardon," replied George, "I believed your story; you surely are too polite to discredit mine."
This reminds one of an anecdote of Foote the dramatist. He had called one day on Garrick, and heard the great actor instruct his servant to say that he was "not at home." Indignant with the denial, Sam limped off, and, the next time the other visited him, bawled from the top of the stairs that he was "out of town." "How can you say so," replied Garrick, "don't I hear you." "I believed you the other day," rejoined Sam, " and it will be hard if you don't believe me."
To return to Selwyn and Brookes's, however. Selwyn was one evening at the club, when the Duke of Queensberry, in reference to the late Mr. Whitbread who was then pressing the ministry hard, remarked—“ The brewer is making a desperate lunge at popularity." "Pardon me, Duke," said Selwyn," he is only playing at carte and tierce.
It was shortly after this period, when the famed Corresponding Society was in full vigour, that Selwyn was one May-day walking with Fox, as a troop of chimney-sweepers, in their gaudy trappings, appeared in view. "I say, Charlie," remarked the wit, "I have often heard you talk of the majesty of the people, but I never before saw any of their princes and princesses."
The Prince of Wales and Duke of York frequently, about this period, visited Brookes's; the former from congeniality of political opinion with the members, the other in consequence of his being well received, when he, one midnight or morning, in company with some of the roues of the day, burst open its doors by way of lark. The Prince was a joyous spirit, fully equal to most of them in point of story and repartee; and the Duke is supposed to have drawn from his visits inspiration for the only good thing he ever said in his life: "Here, waiter, remove this marine," was the unfortunate slip he made, in allusion to an empty bottle, one day in the presence of General Miller, a distinguished officer of that branch of the service; at a dinner in Greenwich. “I am at a loss," noticed the General, "to know why the corps to which I have the honour to belong should be compared to an empty bottle?" "No offence, my dear General," replied the Duke; "I mean a good fellow who has done his duty already, and is prepared to do it again.'
Another celebrated character who frequented Brookes's in the days of Selwyn, was Dunning, the famous counsellor, afterwards Lord Ashburton, and many keen encounters passed between them. Dunning was a short, thick man, with a turn-up nose, a constant shake of the head, and latterly a distressing hectic cough-but a wit of the first water. Though he died at the comparatively early age of fifty-two, he amassed a fortune of £150,000 during twenty-five years' practice at the bar; and lived, notwithstanding, so liberally, that his mother, an attorney's widow, some of the wags at Brookes's wickedly recorded, left him in dudgeon on the score of his extravagance. Sheridan, especially, a more congenial wit than Selwyn, who now appeared upon the scene, was wont humourously to depict a dinner at the lawyer's country-house near Fulham, when the following conversation was represented to have occurred :
"John," said the old lady to her son, after dinner, during which she had been astounded by the profusion of the plate and viands,-"John, I shall not stop another day to witness such shameful extravagance."
"But, my dear mother," interrupted Dunning," you ought to consider that I can afford it: my income, you know-”
"No income," said the old lady impatiently, "can stand such shameful prodigality. The sum which your cook told me that very turbot cost, ought to have supported any reasonable family for a week."
"Pooh, pooh! my dear mother," replied the dutiful son, “you would not have me appear shabby. Besides what is a turbot?"
"Pooh, pooh! what is a turbot?" echoed the irritated dame; "don't pooh me, John: I tell you such goings-on can come to no good, and you'll see the end of it before long. However, it shan't be said your
mother encouraged such sinful waste, for I'll set off in the coach to Devonshire to-morrow morning."
"And notwithstanding," said Sheridan, "all John's rhetorical efforts, to detain her, the old lady kept her word."
Despite of Dunning's celebrity and success as a barrister, he stood, like most great lawyers, in wholesome fear of the law himself. A neighbouring farmer on one occasion cutting down two of the trees on his premises, Dunning's butler, a zealot, informed him of the trespass, and added, that he had threatened the delinquent with a law-suit. "Did you indeed?" said his master; "then you must carry it on yourself, for you may deperd on't I shan't,"-keeping in view, probably, the declaration of the celebrated counsellor Marriot, who at the close of a long and successful forensic career, announced that if any one were to claim the coat on his shoulders and threaten him with a law-suit in the event of refusal, he would at once give it up, lest in defending the coat he lost his other garments too.
Selwyn and Dunning entertained no especial regard for each other. For medicine as well as law, the supercilious wit entertained supreme contempt. One evening the counsellor and a Dr. Brocklesby were moralizing on the superfluities of life, and the needless wants men created for each other. "Very true, gentlemen," said George, "I am a proof of the justice of your remark; for I have lived all my life without wanting either a lawyer or physician."
He was, however, at the period becoming unusually bitter. He had been brought in haste from the Continent by a rumoured change of ministry, by which he might lose his place. But his wit preserved it. Appearing at Court next day-a cold day in the middle of March-in light habiliments, the King remarked them and the incongruity. "Very true, Sire, they are cold; and yet I assure your Majesty I have been in a violent perspiration ever since my arrival in England."
It was during this tour he sarcastically remarked to an old French Marquis, who was expatiating on the genius of his countrymen in inventing ruffles.- True, but mine surpass them, for they added shirts." And it was said that a young, and titled, but very giddy lady, asking him if she did not look very young? "Yes," he replied, "as if you had just come from boarding-school; but it is to be hoped that in a year or two you will be able to read, write, sit, stand, walk, and talk."
Sheridan, however, was now eclipsing Selwyn at Brookes's, though he had not effected an entrance without considerable difficulty. Selwyn perseveringly black-balled him, under the impulse of aristocratic prejudices, as, it was said, he would have black-balled George the Third himself, had he not been able to shew quarterings for four generations, and it required the interposition of the Prince of Wales to baffle the opposition. Even then, George was rather circumverted than fairly beaten. The Prince arriving one evening arm-in-arm with Sheridan, when the ballot was for the third time to take place, summoned the cynical wit from the room on pretext of having some important circumstances to communicate, and along with Sheridan detained him so long that the ballot had been concluded in the interval. Selwyn, old and morose, growled for a while; but ultimately the wit of Sheridan prevailed, and before the evening expired he bade him cordially welcome.
The bon mots recorded of Sheridan at Brookes's are almost innumerVOL. IV.NO. XIX.
able. He had scarcely been installed when Whitbread was one evening declaiming against ministers for imposing the war tax on malt; and Sheridan, though he concurred in opinion, could not resist the temptation of having a hit at the brewer, as Mr. W mtbread was named. Taking out his pencil, therefore, he wrote the following uistich on a slip of papera proof that his humour was not, as Moore would lead us to infer, always previously prepared :
"They 've raised the price of table drink;
But what has malt to do with beer?"
Neither high nor humble were at this time spared by his effervescence. Meeting the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York one day in St. James's street, as he was leaving the portico: "We've just been discussing, Sherry, said the Duke, "whether you are rogue or fool." "I am between both, your Royal Highness," he replied, taking an arm of each before passing on.
Between Selwyn and Sheridan there was kept up a perpetual banter. In his later days George had become attached to "the gentlemanly vice of avarice," but still retained a passion for personal decoration, "Can anything be more reasonable? Can you conceive how they could have let me have it so cheap," said he in his dotage; displaying a waistcoat he had purchased at Charing cross. "Very easily," replied Sheridan; "they took you for one of the trade, and sold it you wholesale."
A friend of Selwyn's had sent a manuscript tragedy to the manager, intimating that Cumberland the dramatist had offered to contribute a prologue, and expressing hope that Sheridan himself would supply the epilogue: "It will never come to that, my dear sir; trust me, you may depend on 't," was Richard Brinsley's flattering reply.
Yet he was sometimes mortified on the score of his own plays. Lord Kenyon, especially, fell fast asleep in the middle of the high-sounding speech which Rolla addresses to his followers in Pizarro. Sheridan, who piqued himself much on its inflated sentiment, was somewhat mortified on first learning his lordship's drowsiness; but he soon recovered his usual good humour; adding, "Ah, poor man! I dare say he thought he was on the bench."
Yet sometimes he received a hit himself. Selwyn, in revenge for the waistcoat rub, used to narrate an anecdote of Sheridan's attempting to bamboozle a city tailor out of a suit of clothes. "You 're an excellent cut; you beat our West-End snips hollow, my friend." was George's reported speech; "why don't you push your thimble among us- -I'll recommend you everywhere-Your work does you infinite credit," &c. &c., were amongst others of Sheridan's argument; but all to no avail; the city man drily remarking: "Yes, my work brings me credit, and the wearers ready money; on hearing which the intended patron beat an immediate retreat. It was when returning from some city excursion, that Sheridan encountered the celebrated Brummel in Fleet Street, who loudly expressed his horror on being discovered east of Temple Bar! Sheridan, too, at first was incredulous on beholding him in such a latitude! "You! come from the east," he said; "impossible?" "Why, my de-ar Sa-ar," drawled the Beau. "Because the wise men come from the east," was Sheridan's reply. "So then, sa-ar, you think me a fool ?" demanded Brummel, with mor
energy than usual. know you to be one!" Poor Sheridan himself, however, sometimes got fearful rubs. He unwittingly on one occasion, addressing Horne Tooke, who had shortly before published his celebrated "Portraits of Two Fathers and Two Sons" (the Earl of Chatham, Mr. Pitt, Lord Holland, and Mr. Fox) said: "So, sir! you are the reverend gentleman who I am told draws portraits for amusement."' "Yes, sir," replied the stern democrat, "and if you 'll do me the favour of sitting for yours, I'll draw it so faithfully that even you yourself will
"By no means," replied Sheridan, moving off, "I
In the house, too, he was beginning to be received with inattention. Entering a committee room one day, not even a chair was offered him; and he vainly attempted to conceal his mortification by exclaiming, "Will no gentlemen move that I may take the chair?" Gifford of the Quarterly shortly afterwards began to press him hard; though Sheridan, in return, struck pretty keenly when, in reference to the editor's boasted power of distributing literary reputation, he remarked, "he has done it so profusely as to have left none for himself." It was in vain that he attempted to raise a laugh when an Irish member, somewhat elevated, was one day called to order for addressing the Speaker, "My dear Mr. Speaker," by explaining that "the honourable member was perfectly in order, as, thanks to the ministers, everything now-a-days was dear." Lord Henry Petty (the Marquis of Lansdowne) shortly afterwards proposed his celebrated tax upon iron, in allusion to which another member at Brookes's said it would have been better to impose it on coals: “ Hold, my dear fellow," exclaimed Sheridan, "that would have been out of the frying-pan into the fire: " and the Whigs being soon ejected subsequently, in consequence of their contemplated removal of the Catholic disabilities, he made his noted remark of their having" raised up a wall for the purpose of running their heads against," in the bitterness of his disappointment on being compelled to follow them from office. The rejection from Stafford followed, giving rise to some severe but doggrel impromptus, which he keenly felt; and the last sad scene of all quickly succeeded, but into this we have no inclination at present to follow him.
The celebrated, or rather notorious, "Fighting Fitzgerald" was also a member of Brookes's; yet only for a night, and that solely in consequence of having forced his way into the club after having been unanimously blackballed. But into his eventful history we have not space to enter.
With this we shall conclude our notice of Brookes's, adding, however, that the materials afforded by its twelve or fifteen hundred members are almost inexhaustible. We have said fifteen hundred, because the club a few years ago consisted of this number; but now, in consequence of the many modern establishments that have sprung up in the neighbourhood, it has possibly become less numerous. It is still, however, one of the most recherché of all; the Liberal members of both
* One of these, which annoyed him, was the following:
"Since none with a pen will trust me but a goose,
And paper of all kinds I've little now to use,
To the verses writ by me, you may swear if you will,