Page images

glass of wine with me, when a bold duchess-looking lady laid hands on the darling Dagon, and carried it away to another part of the table, where she sat down triumphing among judges and other great personages, and expatiated over her prize. Poor Mrs Pringle was confounded, and turned up the white of her eyes like a dying doo with disappointment, and had not the courage to demand back her property, being smitten with a sense, as she afterwards said, of not having come very honestly by it; so the lady carried off the image, as her prize, to her chariot, and a proud woman I trow she was, demonstrating over its beauties to all her acquaintance, as she bore it along in her arms, and on her own great good luck in getting it.

As we were thus employed, Mrs Pringle gave me a nodge on the elbow, and bade me look at an elderly man, about fifty, with a fair gray head, and something of the appearance of a gausey good-humoured country laird.→ "Look at that gentleman," said she. -"Wha is't?" quo' I." That's the Author of Waverley," was her answer; "a most comical novel, that the Doc tor read, and thought was a true history book."

Seeing myself so nigh to that great literary character, and understanding that there was some acquaintance between him and my friends, I sideled gradually up towards him, till he saw the mistress and the doctor, with whom he began to talk in a very conversible manner, saying couthy and kind things, complimenting the Doctor on his talents as a preacher, and sympathizing with Mrs Pringle, whose new gown had suffered great detriment, by reason of the stour and the spiders' webs that had fallen down, as I have rehearsed, from the rafters.

By this time some familiar interchange of the eye had taken place be tween him and me; and when he understood that my name was Duffle, and that I corresponded in a secret manner with Mr Blackwood, the bookseller in Edinburgh; he said that he had been just like to die at some of my writings, which I was very well pleased to hear; and then I speered at him if he was really and truly the author of Waverley." Mr Duffle," said he, "I just hae as little to say to the book as you hae."-To the which I replied, "that if a' tales be true, that could be nae lie." VOL. X.

—“ But we ken," cried Mrs Pringle, "that ye are the author, though ye may have reasons, in black and white, o' your ain, for the concealment.""Na," quoth the Doctor, "that's, Í must say, a hame push; but, no doubt, when a decent man denies a charge o' the kind, it ought to be believed." In this easy manner, we stood conversing for a season, and then we sat down on the steps leading up to the King's throne, and had some jocose talk anent what we had seen, and other sights and shows of regal pageantry, the which, by little and little, led us on to speak of past times, and the doings of Kings and Queens, who have long departed this life, till at last we entered upon the connection and pedigree of his Majesty with the old tyrannical House of Stuart; my new acquaintance, however, did not much relish the observe that I made concerning the prelatic nature of the princes of that line.

After this sederunt we rose, and the disappointment of the golden image was not the only dejection that Mrs Pringle was ordained to meet with that night:-Both the Doctor and her had forgotten to make proper regulations about Captain Sabre's carriage, which was to take them home; so that, after waiting till the Hall was almost skailed, and many of the lights out, we three, in all our finery, were obligated to walk out into the streets, and no hackney was to be seen or heard of. What with the gravel hurting her feet, and the ruin it was of to her satin shoes, Mrs Pringle was at the greeting, and some drops of rain beginning to fall, her new gown was in the very jaws of jeopardy. But she is a managing wo man, and not often at a loss;-seeing the Doctor and me standing overcome with perplexity, and in a manner de mented, she happened to observe a gentleman's carriage at a door, and, without more ado, she begged the ser vants to ask their master to allow them to take her home, which he very rea dily did, and thus extricated us all from a most unspeakable distress, for both the Doctor and me got into the chaise beside her, and arrived safe at Captain Sabre's, where there was a great assemblage of friends, and a wonderful speer and talk about what we had all seen that day at the Coronation.

When we had rested ourselves a

short space of time, and taken some refreshment, the doctor and me (he having put off his gown and bands) went out by ourselves on our feet, it being no length of a walk from Baker-Street to Hyde-Park, to see the fire-works, things which the doctor had never seen, but which were no unco to me, as we have had sic-like at Glasgow, from riders and equestrian troops. But this, at that time of night, was not a very judicious adventure, considering that I was in my sky-blue court-dress, with a cockit-hat and a sword; for it brought the voices of the commonality. I, however, could have put up with them, but just as we got into the crowd, there was a great flight of sky-rockets, with a fearful rushing noise, which so terrified Doctor Pringle, that he thought it was a fiery judgment breaking out of the heavens upon London, for the idolatries of the day-and uttered such a cry of fright, that every body around us roared and shouted with laughter and derision; insomuch, that we were glad to make the best of our way homeward. But our troubles did not then end. Before we were well out of the Park, an even-down thunder-plump came on, that not only drookit the doc

tor to the skin, but made my sky-blue silk clothes cling like wax to my skin; and, in the race from the rain, the sword gaed in between my legs, and coupit me o'er in the glar of the causay with such vehemence, that I thought my very een were dinted out: the knees of my silk breeks were riven in the fall. Some civil folk that saw my misfortune, helped me in with the doctor to an entry mouth, till a hackney could be got to take me home. In short, the sufferings I met with are not to be related, and I had an experience of what it is to be stravaiging after fairlies at the dead hour of the night; for when I reached Mrs Damask's house, she was gone to bed, and nobody to let me in, dripping wet as I was, but an ashypet lassie that helps her for a servant. No such neglect would have happened with Mrs M'Lecket in the Saltmarket. She would have been up to see to me herself, and had the kettle boiling, that I might get a tumbler of warm toddy after my fatigues. But I was needcessitated to speel into my bed as well as I could, shivering with the dread of having got my death of cold, or of being laid up as a betheral for life, with the rheumateese.


In a Letter from JOHN M'INDOE, Esq. to WILLIAM M'ILHOSE, Esq. Manufacturer, Glasgow.


I PROMISED to write you from this boasted city, and my destined route having landed me in it at a most important juncture, I haste to fulfil my engagement. But this letter shall neither be about business, which you detest; nor the appearance of this small eastern metropolis, which you despise. No, sir: this letter, I am resolved, shall be about the men of genius here, the only thing worth notice in this their city, and the only article in which we cannot excel those who are destined to live in it. You are well aware that my attachment to literature, or rather to literary men, is such, that with unwearied perseverance I have procured introductions to all such of them as verged on the circle of my uttermost acquaintance. But perhaps you do not know, that when I could in noways attain such intro

ductions, I made a piece of business with the gentlemen, put on a brazen face, and favoured them with a call. It is a fact, that I waited on Mr J-y with a political French novel in MS. written by a lady. He received me rather haughtily, with his back stretched up at the chimney, and his coat turned to one side; but I held him excused, for I perceived that he was thinking on something else. I made him a present of the work, however, and have been proud to see what use he has made of it. I also waited on Sir W S- with a few Saxon coins, and two Caledonian brass javelins; on Mr C- N- - with a song from Dr Scott; on Mr with a specimen of Glasgow ice, and the Gorbals weaver's theory on the mean temperature of the globe; on P- -Wwith some verses to the moon, said to be written by Finlay; on G with

a German dialogue of Paisley manufacture; and on the E- S- on pretence of buying his wool. But of all the introductions I ever had in my life, the most singular took place here last night, which, as you will see by the post-mark, (should I forget to date this,) was the celebrated 19th of July.

I came from Stirling to this place in the morning, in order to attend at the great public dinner; but being informed by chance, that a club of literary and social friends were to dine together at a celebrated tavern, at which they have been accustomed to meet for many years, I was seized with an indescribable longing to make one of the party, and immediately set all my wits to work in order to accomplish this. Accordingly, I went to the commercial correspondent that was deepest in arrears with our house, and besought his interest. He introduced me to another, and that one to another, who promised, if practicable, to procure me admission; and the manner of this admission being not the least singular part of my adventure, I must describe it to you the more particularly.

This last-mentioned gentleman, (who was a jeweller,) after writing a card of considerable length, gave it me, with a direction where to find his friend, who was a mercantile gentleman whose name I had often heard mentioned: therefore, when I threw my eye on the direction, I was greatly delighted. I soon found his shop, and, the door being open, popped in; where, behold, the first face I saw was that of an elderly reverend-looking divine, a man of the most benevolent aspect. Behind him was a tall dark squinting politician, at a hard argument with an artist whose picture I had seen at an exhibition or two, and knew him at first sight. I do not know his name; but he wears spectacles, has a round quizzical face, and a very little mouth, out at which the words come pouring in flights, like well-ground meal out of a mill. But that meal had some poignancy of taste about it; for it made the politician writhe and wince, and almost drove him beyond all patience. Beyond the counter, at the fire-place, stood two celebrated lawyers, with their fore-fingers laid across, arguing a lost process over again with great volubility. I could see no mercantile-looking person whatever to

whom to deliver my letter, save a young well-favoured lad with a Roman nose, busily engaged at one of the windows with his day-book, and to him I shewed the back of my card; but he only nodded his head, and pointed to an inclosed desk on the opposite side. To that I went; and, shoving aside eight or nine spacious subscription-boards for painters, poets, artificers, and all manner of rare and curious things, I set my nose through the spokes, and perceived the bald head of a man moving with a quick regular motion, from the one side to the other alternately, and soon saw, on gaining a little more room for my face among the subscription cards, that he was writing, and tracing the lines with no common celerity. I named him, and at the same time handed him my letter; on which he cocked up his eyes with a curiosity so intense, that I could scarcely retain my gravity, and thought to myself, as he perused the lines, "This must be an extraordinary fellow!"

When he had finished reading the note, he beckoned me to meet him at an opening in the counter, near the farthest corner of the shop. I obeyed the signal; but as he passed the two lawyers, he could not help pricking up his ears to the attestations of one of them, who was urging the case with more fervency than the matter appeared to require. When he came to a pause, the Merchant of Venice, for so I always felt inclined to denominate him, only said to him, "Well, it may be all very true that you are saying, my dear sir; but, for God's sake, don't get into a passion about it. There can be no occasion at all for that." And having given him this sage advice, he passed on, shook me by the hand, and conducted me down stairs.

"So you are for this private dinner, in place of the great public one, with my Lord Provost, and all the nabbs in the country to preside?" said he.-"I would prefer it a great deal," said I, "and would take it as a particular favour, if you could procure me admission into a company made up of gentlemen, whose characters I hold in the highest admiration." Ay! God bless the mark!" said he, taking a hearty pinch of snuff with one nostril, and quite neglecting the other; so you admire them, do you? I should like, an it be your will, to know what it is for. I

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

hope it is not for their detestable po litical principles? If so, I have done with you, friend; let me tell you that." "I suppose our principles are all much the same in the main," said I; " and I hope you intend to be of the party, for one." "Me? not I-I love the fellows personally, and should certainly have been there; but then one hears such blarney so much syco phantic stuff, it makes one sick, and affects one like an emetic after a good hot dinner. By the bye, I have no great objections to their mode of dining;' (at this part, he took another hearty snuff, still with the same nostril, and gave two or three dry smacks with his lips;) "but the truth is, I do not know if I can be admitted myself.""I thought you and they had been all one," said I." Why, so we are, in some respects," replied he; as I said, I love the blades personally, but as to their political creed, I say, God mend it. But so it is, that I am so often with them, that my own party have almost cut me; and the others, who know my sentiments well, view me with a jealous eye, and would as soon, I fear, want me as have me; so that, at present, I am an alien from both parties. But, I must say this for these luminaries whom you profess to admire, that badness of heart is none of their faults. There will be some more of the artists here immediately. I will speak to them you shall be sure of a ticket of admission."" Shall I likewise have the pleasure of meeting with the Edin burgh artists too?" said I." All of them who pretend to be literary men and 'tories," said he. But, heaven be praised, we have not many of them!"


[ocr errors]

Well, to make a long tale short, to the meeting we both went, where nine and-twenty of us sat down together to dinner; and as I was merely introduced by name to two of the stewards as the friend of this Merchant of Venice, little farther notice was taken of me, so that I had time to note down a few things that passed, which I subjoin for your amusement, and that of Tod and Finlayson, should they meet you at Dugald's to-morrow evening. In the meantime, I shall describe two or three of the leading members of this literary club, that you may have a guess who they are; for I forgot to tell you, that the obliging Merchant bound me by a promise, before undertaking

to introduce me, that whatever I said, wrote, or published, I was to give no names, that having become of late a most dangerous experiment. I gave him my word, which I will not break, though it will cramp me very much in my letters; but the ample field of description is left free and open to me, and to that will I resort, as a general that feels himself cramped in the plain makes his retreat to the mountains.

We shall begin with the president, who was an old man with long grey locks, prominent features, and a great deal of vivacity in his eye; a little lame of both feet, and tottered as he walked, so that I instantly recognized him as one who, of late years, has been, like the cuckoo, often heard of but seldom seen. You will understand well enough who I mean. The gentleman next to the president, on the right hand, was young, sprightly, and whimsical; with hawk's eyes, and dark curled hair. He spoke so quick, and with so short a clipped tongue, that I, who sat at a distance from him, scarcely ever could distinguish a word that he said. He on the president's left hand was a country-looking man, well advanced in life, with red whiskers, strong lightcoloured hair that stood upon his crown like quills upon the fretful porcupine, and a black-silk handkerchief about his neck tied over a white one. These two appeared to be intimate acquaintances, and were constantly conversing across the table. The countryman appeared to be often jealous of the other, and at a great loss to understand the ground of his jokes, but he would not let him have a minute's peace. I shall give you one single instance of the sort of conversation that was passing between them, so much to the amusement of the president, and the friends next to them. The young gentleman had been telling the other some literary anec dote about the author of a book called Marriage, (which I once saw adver tised) but I could not hear distinctly what he said. The other raised his eyes as if in great astonishment, and I heard perfectly what he said, which was as follows: Weel, man, that's extraordinar! I never heard ought like it a' my days afore. Hech, but it wad be a queer job, if ane but kend that it was true!"-" What !" said the president, sure you don't accuse your friend of telling you falsehood, or indeed suppose that he would tell

[ocr errors]


you aught that is not strictly true?""Whisht, callant. It as a' that ye ken about the matter," said the countryman. "I am only speaking for mysel'. Let every man ride the ford as he finds it. He may have always told the truth to you, and every body else. I'll never dispute that. But let me think; as far as I min', he never in a' his life tauld me the truth but ance, and that was by mere chance, and no in the least intentional." I was petrified, but those who knew the two only laughed, and the accused party laughed the most heartily of any.

The croupier was likewise a young gentleman, tall, fair, and athletic; and had a particular mode of always turning up his face like a cock drinking out of a well when he began to speak. Though rather fluent after he began talking, he seemed always to commence either with pain or difficulty, and often in the middle of a dispute between others, when he disapproved of a sentiment on either side, then he held up his face, and made his mouth like a round hole, without engaging any farther in the debate. I could not help observing, however, that one very ingenious gentleman, with whom I was peculiarly happy to meet, but who is now so publicly known, that I dare not even describe him, kept his eye ever and anon upon the croupier's motions; and though he sometimes laughed at them, if ever the said croupier turned up his face, he held it as good as if he had sworn that the speaker was wrong. And this celebrated character restrained himself, or rose into double energy exactly in proportion to the attitude of the croupier's nose, which he failed not to consult as minutely as a farmer does the state of his barometer.

There were also two, who, by way of precedency, sat opposite to each other in armed chairs at the middle of the table; the one a facetious little gentleman, with an Irish accent; the drollest being, without effort or premeditation, that I ever heard open a mouth. Indeed one would have thought that he often opened his, and let it say what it liked. I was a grieved man when he got so drunk at an early hour that he fell under the table.. His fellow was nothing behind him in either good humour or fun, but I thought they were sometimes trying who could speak the greatest nonsense.

This last I do not know, for some call. ed him by one name, and some another. He is a stout boardly gentleman, with a large round whitish face, -a great deal of white round the pupil of the eye, and thin curled hair. A most choice spirit; and you must either have known or heard of him when you were in Campbell's house here. I took him at first for a well educated substantial merchant; afterwards for a sea-captain; but I now suspect that he may move in a higher circle than either of these would do.

The next most remarkable man of the party in my eyes was a little fat Gibbon-faced scholar, with a treble voice, and little grey eyes. He is indeed a fellow of infinite wit and humour, but of what profession I could not devise. He may be a doctor of physic, a dominie, a divine, a co◄ median, or something more extraor dinary than any of these; but I am sure his is an artless and a good heart, and that he is not aware of the pow ers of his own mind in the delineation of human characters, perhaps (and it is a pity) too careless of what he says, and too much addicted to the ludi


There was also a tall elegant old gentleman, from whom I expected something highly original. There were two or three attitudes of body, and expressions of countenance, that he assumed in confuting a young impertinent advocate, that were quite inimitable; but he was placed by some individuals that he seemed not to like, and in a short time drew himself up. I hope I shall have an opportunity of describing some more of them by and by; in the mean time I must proceed with regularity, which leads me at present to something by no means unsubstantial, namely the dinner, a thing which I have always accounted an excellent contrivance wherewith to begin the commemoration of any great event.

The dishes were exclusively Scottish. There was the balmy Scots kail, and the hodge-podge, at the two ends of the table to begin with; and both of these backed by a luxurious healthylooking haggies, somewhat like a rolled up hedgehog. Then there were two pairs of singed sheep heads, smiling on one another at the sides, all of them surrounded by well scraped trotters, laid at right angles, in the same

« PreviousContinue »