“I REMEMBER,” says “The Spectator,” “ upon Mr. Baxter’s death, there was published a sheet of very good sayings, inscribed, ‘ The Last Words of Mr. Baxter.’ The title sold so great a number of these papers that about a week after there came out a second sheet, inscribed, ' More Last Words of Mr. Baxter.’ ” And so kindly and gladly did the public—or at least that portion of the public that read the “ Atlantic Monthly ” — receive the specimens of Charles Lamb’s uncollected writings, published somewhile since in these pages, that I am induced to print another paper on the same pleasant and entertaining subject.
The success of that piece of “ ingenious nonsense,” that gem of biographical literature, the unique and veracious “ Memoir of Liston,” over which the lovers of wit and the lovers of Charles Lamb have had many a good laugh, was so great that Lamb was encouraged to try his hand at another theatrical memoir, and produced a mock and mirthful autobiography of his old friend and favorite comedian, Munden, whom he had previously immortalized in one ol the best and most admired of the “ Essays of Elia.”
Those who enjoyed the biography of Liston will chuckle over the autobiography of Munden. It was certainly a happy idea to represent Munden as writing a sketch of his life, — not to gratify his own vanity, or for the pleasure and entertainment of the public, but solely and purposely to prevent the truthful and matter-of-fact biographer of Liston from making the old player the subject of a biographical work. The veteran actor’s vehement protests against being represented as a Presbyterian or Anabaptist, and his brief, but pungent comments on certain passages in the Liston biography, are delightful. Methinks I see the old man, —
the great and wonderful impersonator of the “ Cobbler of Preston ” and “ Old Dozey,”—methinks I see this fine actor, this genial and jovial comedian, and his son, gravely and carefully examining the great map of Kent in search of Lupton Magna!
Leigh Hunt, in his Autobiography, speaking of some of Elia’s contributions to the “ London Magazine,” thus mentions these two “ lie-children ” of Lamb’s : —
“ He wrote in the same magazine two lives of Liston and Munden, which the public took for serious, and which exhibit an extraordinary jumble of imaginary facts and truth of by-painting. Munden he made born at “ Stoke Pogis ” ; the very sound of which was like the actor speaking and digging his words.”
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MR. MUNDEN.
In a Letter to the Editor of the “ London Magazine.”
HARK’EE, Mr. Editor. A word in your ear. They tell me you are going to put me in print, — in print, Sir; to publish my life. What, is my life to you, Sir? What is it to you whether I ever lived at all ? My life is a very good life, Sir. I am insured at the Pelican, Sir. I am threescore years and six, — six; mark me, Sir : but I can play Polonius, which, I believe, few of your corre— correspondents can do, Sir. I suspect tricks, Sir; I smell a rat: I do, I do. You would cog the die upon us: you would, you would, Sir. But I will forestall you, Sir. You would be deriving me from William the Conqueror, with a murrain to you. It is no such thing, Sir. The town shall know better, Sir. They begin to smoke your flams, Sir. Mr, Liston may be born where he pleases, Sir; but I will not be born at Lup— Lupton Magna for anybody’s pleasure, Sir. My son and I have looked over the great map of Kent together, and we can find no such place as you would palm upon us, Sir,—palm upon us, I say. Neither Magna nor Parva, as my son says; and he knows Latin, Sir,—Latin. If you write my life true, Sir, you must set down, that I, Joseph Munden, comedian, came into the world upon Allhallows Day, Anno Domini 1759, — 1759; no sooner nor later, Sir: and I saw the first light— the first light, remember, Sir—at Stoke Pogis,—Stoke Pogis, comitatu Bucks, and not at Lup— Lup Magna, which I believe to be no better than moonshine, — moonshine ; do you mark me, Sir ? I wonder you can put such flim-flams upon us, Sir : I do, I do. It does not become you, Sir : I say it, — I say it. And my father was an honest tradesman, Sir: he dealt in malt and hops, Sir; and was a Corporation-man, Sir; and of the Church of England, Sir; and no Presbyterian, nor Ana— Anabaptist, Sir ; however you may be disposed to make honest people believe to the contrary, Sir. Your bams are found out, Sir. The town will be your stale puts no longer, Sir; and you must not send us jolly fellows, Sir, — we that are comedians, Sir, — you must not send us into groves and Charn— Charnwoods a-moping, Sir. Neither Charns, nor charnel-houses, Sir. It is not our constitutions, Sir: I tell it you,—I tell it you. I was a droll dog from my cradle. I came into the world tittering, and the midwife tittered, and the gossips spilt their caudle with tittering; and when I was brought to the font, the parson could not christen me for tittering. So I was never more than half baptized. And when I was little Joey, I made ’em all titter; there was not a melancholy face to be seen in Pogis. Pure nature, Sir. I was born a comedian. Old Screwup, the undertaker, could tell you, Sir, if he were living. Why, I was obliged to be locked up every time there was to be a funeral at Pogis. I was, I was, Sir. I used to grimace at the mutes, as he called it, and put ’em out with my inops and my mows, till they could n’t stand at a door for me. And when I was locked up, with nothing but a cat in my company, I followed my bent with trying to make her laugh; and sometimes she would, and sometimes she would not. And my schoolmaster could make nothing of me: I had only to thrust my tongue in my cheek,—in my cheek, Sir, — and the rod dropped from his fingers; and so my education was limited, Sir. And I grew up a young fellow, and it was thought convenient to enter me upon some course of life that should make me serious; but it would n’t do, Sir. And I was articled to a dry-salter. My father gave forty pounds premium with me, Sir. I can show the indent— dentdentures, Sir, But I was born to be a comedian, Sir: so I ran away, and listed with the players, Sir ; and I topt my parts at Amersham and Gerrard’s Cross, and played my own father to his face, in his own town of Pogis, in the part of Gripe, when I was not full seventeen years of age; and he did not know me again, but he knew me afterwards; and then he laughed, and I laughed, and, what is better, the dry-salter laughed, and gave me up my articles for the joke’s sake : so that I came into court afterwards with clean hands, — with clean hands; do yon see, Sir?
[ Here the manuscript becomes illegible for two or three sheets onwards, which we presume to be occasioned by the absence of Mr. Munden, jun., who clearly transcribed it for the press thus far. The rest (with the exception of the concluding paragraph, which seemingly is resumed in the first handwriting) appears to contain a confused account of some lawsuit in which the elder Munden was engaged; with a circumstantial history of the proceedings on a case of breach of promise of marriage, made to or by (we cannot pick out which) Jemima Munden, spinster, probably the comedian’s cousin, for it does not appear he had any sister; with a few dates, rather better preserved, of this great actor’s engagements, — as “ Cheltenham, [spelt Cheltnam,] 1776,” “ Bath, 1 779,” “ London, 1789,” —together with stage-anecdotes of Messrs. Edwin, Wilson, Lee, Lewis, etc.; over which we have strained our eyes to no purpose, in the hope of presenting something amusing to the public. Towards the end, the manuscript brightens up a little, as we have said, and concludes in the following manner.]
———stood before them for six-andthirty years, [we suspect that Mr. Munden is here speaking of his final leavetaking of the stage,] and to be dismissed at last. But I was heart-whole,—heartwhole to the last, Sir. What though a few drops did course themselves down the old veteran’s cheeks ? who could help it, Sir ? I was a giant that night, Sir, and could have played fifty parts, each as arduous as Dozey. My faculties were never better, Sir. But I was to be laid upon the shelf. It did not suit the public to laugh with their old servant any longer, Sir. [Here some moisture has blotted a sentence or two.] But I can play Polonius still, Sir: I can, I can.
Your servant, Sir,
In the “ Reflector,” a short-lived periodical set up by Leigh Hunt, and in which Lamb’s quaint and beautiful poem, “A Farewell to Tobacco,” and his masterly critical essays on “ The Tragedies of Shakspeare,” and on ‘‘The Genius of Hogarth,” and other of his early writings, appeared, I find the following characteristic article from Elia’s pen.
The reader will observe (and smile as he observes) that there is a great difference between the “good clerk” of fifty years ago and the “ good clerk ” of today. He of yesterday is a wonderfully simple, humble, automaton - like person, in comparison with the brisk, dashing, independent “ votaries of the desk ” of the year eighteen hundred and sixtyfour.
THE GOOD CLERK : A CHARACTER.
THE GOOD CLERK. — He writeth a fair and swift hand, and is competently versed in the four first rules of arithmetic, in the Rule of Three, (which is sometimes called the Golden Rule,) and in Practice. We mention these things that we may leave no room for cavillers to say that anything essential hath been omitted in our definition ; else, to speak the truth, these are but ordinary accomplishments, and such as every understrapper at a desk is commonly furnished with. The character we treat of soaretli higher.
He is clean and neat in his person, not from a vainglorious desire of setting himself forth to advantage in the eyes of the other sex,—with which vanity too many of our young sparks nowadays are infected,—but to do credit, as we say, to the office. For this reason, he evermore taketh care that his desk or his books receive no soil; the which things he is commonly as solicitous to have fair and unblemished as the owner of a fine horse is to have him appear in good keep.
He riseth early in the morning, — not because early rising conduceth to health, (though he doth not altogether despise that consideration,) but chiefly to the intent that he may be first at the desk. There is his post, there he delighteth to be, unless when his meals or necessity calleth him away; which time he alway esteemeth as lost, and maketh as short as possible.
He is temperate in eating and drinking, that he may preserve a clear head and steady hand for his master’s service. He is also partly induced to this observation of the rules of temperance by his respect for religion and the laws of his country; which things, it may once for all be noted, do add especial assistances to his actions, but do not and cannot furnish the main spring or motive thereto. His first ambition, as appeareth all along, is to be a good clerk; his next, a good Christian, a good patriot, etc.
Correspondent to this, he keepeth himself honest, not for fear of the laws, but because be hath observed how unseemly an article it maketh in the day-book or ledger when a sum is set down lost or missing; it being his pride to make these books to agree and to tally, the one side with the other, with a sort of architectural symmetry and correspondence.
He marrieth, or marrieth not, as best suiteth with his employer’s views. Some merchants do the rather desire to have married men in their counting-houses, because they think the married state a pledge for their servants’ integrity, and an incitement to them to be industrious; and it was an observation of a late LordMayor of London, that the sons of clerks do generally prove clerks themselves, and that merchants encouraging persons in their employ to marry, and to have families, was the best method of securing a breed of sober, industrious young men attached to the mercantile interest. Be this as it may, such a character as we have been describing will wait till the pleasure of his employer is known on this point, and regulateth his desires by the custom of the house or firm to which he belongeth.
He avoideth profane oaths and jesting, as so much time lost from his employ. What spare time he hath for conversation, which in a counting - house such as we have been supposing can be but small, he spendeth in putting seasonable questions to such of his fellows (and sometimes respectfully to the master himself) who can give him information respecting the price and quality of goods, the state of exchange, or the latest improvements in book-keeping; thus making the motion of his lips, as well as of his fingers, subservient to his master’s interest. Not that he refuseth a brisk saying, or a cheerful sally of wit, when it comes unforced, is free of offence, and hath a convenient brevity. For this reason, he hath commonly some such phrase as this in his mouth, —
To blot your book.”
The best of things are open to abuse.”
So upon the eve of any great holiday, of which he keepeth one or two at least every year, he will merrily say, in the hearing of a confidential friend, but to none other, —
Makes Jack a dull boy.”
But then this must always be understood to be spoken confidentially, and, as we say, under the rose.
Lastly, his dress is plain, without singularity, — with no other ornament than the quill, which is the badge of his function, stuck behind the dexter ear, and this rather for convenience of having it at hand, when he hath been called away from his desk, and expecteth to resume his seat there again shortly, than from any delight which he taketh in foppery or ostentation. The color of his clothes is generally noted to be black rather than brown, brown rather than blue or green. His whole deportment is staid, modest, and civil. His motto is “ Regularity.”
This character was sketched in an interval of business, to divert some of the melancholy hours of a counting-house. It is so little a creature of fancy, that it is scarce anything more than a recollection of some of those frugal and economical maxims which about the beginning of the last century (England’s meanest period) were endeavored to be inculcated and instilled into the breasts of the London apprentices 1 by a class of instructors who might not inaptly be termed “ The Masters of Mean Morals.” The astonishing narrowness and illiberality of the lessons contained in some of those books is inconceivable by those whose studies have not led them that way, and would almost induce one to subscribe to the hard censure which Drayton has passed upon the mercantile spirit, —
In the laudable endeavor to eke out “ a something contracted income,” Lamb, in his younger days, essayed to write lottery-puffs, — (Byron, we know, was accused of writing lottery-puffs,) — but he did not succeed very well in the task. His samples were returned on his hands, as “ done in too severe and terse a style.” Some Grub-Street hack —a nineteenthcentury Tom Brown or Mr. Dash — succeeded in composing these popular and ingenious productions ; but the man who wrote the Essays of Elia could not write a successful lottery-puff. At this exult, O mediocrity! and take courage, man of genius!
Although Elia was an unsuccessful lottery-puffer, he always took special interest in lotteries, and was present at the drawing of many of them.
Mr. Bickerstaff, we remember,—though I fear that in these days the pleasant and profitable pages of “The Father” are hardly more known to the generality of readers than the lost books of Livy or the missing cantos ot the “ Faërie
And albeit I do not believe that Lamb, in his poorest and most needy days, was ever tempted by any Alnaschar-dreams of wealth to exchange the raggedest and least valuable of his “ midnight darlings” for the wherewithal to purchase lottery-tickets, I dare say the money which Elia had saved for the purchase of some choice and long-coveted old folio or other went into the coffers of the lottery-dealers. Though Lamb drew nothing but blanks, “ or those more vexatious tantalizers of the spirit, denominated small prizes,” yet he held himself largely indebted to the Lottery, and, upon its abolition in England in 1825, he wrote a long, eloquent, pathetic discourse on the great departed. It appeared in Colburn’s “New Monthly Magazine,” and is, I think, a very pleasant, entertaining paper, worthy of its subject, and not unworthy of the pen of Charles Lamb. I take great pleasure in introducing the article to the readers of the “Atlantic.’'
THE ILLUSTRIOUS DEFUNCT.2
A step of life that promised such a race.”
NAPOLEON has now sent us back from the grave sufficient echoes of his living renown : the twilight of posthumous fame has lingered long enough over the spot where the sun of his glory set; and his name must at length repose in the silence, if not in the darkness of night. In this busy and evanescent scene, other spirits of the age are rapidly snatched away, claiming our undivided sympathies and regrets, until in turn they yield to some newer and more absorbing grief. Another name is now added to the list of the mighty departed, — a name whose influence upon the hopes and fears, the fetes and fortunes of our countrymen, has rivalled, and perhaps eclipsed, that of the defunct “ child and champion of Jacobinism,” while it is associated with all the sanctions of legitimate government, all the sacred authorities of social order and our most holy religion. We speak of one, indeed, under whose warrant heavy and incessant contributions were imposed upon our fellow-citizens, but who exacted nothing without the signet and the sign - manual of most devout Chancellors of the Exchequer. Not to daily longer with the sympathies of our readers, we think it right to premonish them that we are composing an epicedium upon no less distinguished a personage than the Lottery, whose last breath, after many penultimate puffs, has been sobbed forth by sorrowing contractors, as if the world itself were about to be converted into a blank. There is a fashion of eulogy, as well as of vituperation, and, though the Lottery stood for some time in the latter predicament, we hesitate not to assert that “ multis ille bonis flebilis occidit.” Never have we joined in the senseless clamor which condemned the only tax whereto we became voluntary contributors, the only So much the better: we shall have an opportunity of granting the request made to Walter by one of the children in the wood, and “ kill him two times.” The Abbé de Vertot, having a siege to write, and not receiving the materials in time, composed the whole from his invention. Shortly after its completion, the expected documents arrived, when he threw them aside, exclaiming, “ You are of no use to me now: I have carried the town.” resource which gave the stimulus 'without the danger or infatuation of gambling, the only alembic which in these plodding days sublimized our imaginations, and filled them with more delicious dreams than ever flitted athwart the seneorium of Alnaschar.
Never can the writer forget, when, as a child, he was hoisted upon a servant’s shoulder in Guildhall, and looked down upon the installed and solemn pomp of the then drawing Lottery. The two awful cabinets of iron, upon whose massy and mysterious portals the royal initials were gorgeously emblazoned, as if, after having deposited the unfulfilled prophecies within, the King himself had turned the lock, and still retained the key in his pocket, — the blue-coat boy, with his naked arm, first converting the invisible wheel, and then diving into the dark recess for a ticket, — the grave and reverend faces of the commissioners eying the announced number, — the scribes below calmly committing it to their huge books, — the anxious countenances of the surrounding populace,—while the giant figures of Gog and Magog, like presiding deities, looked down with a grim silence upon the whole proceeding, — constituted altogether a scene which, combined with the sudden wealth supposed to be lavished from those inscrutable wheels, was well calculated to impress the imagination of a boy with reverence and amazement. Jupiter, seated between the two fatal urns of good and evil, the blind goddess with her cornucopia, the Paræm wielding the distaff, the thread of life, and the abhorred shears, seemed but dim and shadowy abstractions of mythology, when I had gazed upon an assemblage exercising, as I dreamt, a not less eventful power, and all presented to me in palpable and living operation. Reason and experience, ever at their old spiteful work of catching and destroying the bubbles which youth delighted to follow, have indeed dissipated much of this illusion; but my mind so far retained the influence of that early impression, that I have ever since continued to deposit my humble offerings at its shrine, whenever the ministers of the Lottery went forth with type and trumpet to announce its periodical dispensations; and though nothing has been doled out to me from its undiscerning coffers but blanks, or those more vexatious tantalizers of the spirit denominated small prizes, yet do I hold myself largely indebted to this most generous diffuser of universal happiness. Ingrates that we are, are we to be thankful for no benefits that are not palpable to sense, to recognize no favors that are not of marketable value, to acknowledge no wealth unless it can be counted with the five fingers ? If we admit the mind to be the sole depositary of genuine, joy, where is the bosom that has not been elevated into a temporary Elysium by the magic of the Lottery? Which of us has not converted his ticket, or even his sixteenth share of one, into a nest-egg of Hope, upon which he has sat brooding in the secret roosting-places of his heart, and hatched it into a thousand fantastical apparitions ?
What a startling revelation of the passions, if all the aspirations engendered by the Lottery could be made manifest! Many an impecuniary epicure has gloated over his locked-up warrant for future wealth, as a means of realizing the dream of his namesake in the “ Alchemist” : —
Dishes of agate set in gold, and studded
With emeralds, sapphires, hyacinths, and rubies ;
The tongues of carps, dormice, and camels’ heels,
Boiled i’ the spirit of Sol, and dissolved in
(Apicius’ diet ’gainst the epilepsy);
And I will eat these broths with spoons of
Headed with diamant and carbuncle.
My footboy shall eat pheasants, calvered
Knots, goodwits, lampreys. I myself will
The beards of barbels served; instead of salads,
Oiled mushrooms, and the swelling unctuous paps
Of a fat pregnant sow, newly cut off,
Dressed with, au exquisite and poignant sauce,
For which I ’ll say unto my cook, ' There’s gold:
Go forth, and be a knight.’ ”
Many a doting lover has kissed the scrap of paper whose promissory shower of gold was to give up to him his otherwise unattainable Danaë ; Nimrods have transformed the same narrow symbol into a saddle by which they have been enabled to bestride the backs of peerless hunters; while nymphs have metamorphosed its Protean form into
Knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweetmeats,”
and all the braveries of dress, to say nothing of the obsequious husband, the two-footmaned carriage, and the operabox. By the simple charm of this numbered and printed rag, gamesters have, for a time at least, recovered their losses, spendthrifts have cleared off mortgages from their estates, the imprisoned debtor has leaped over his lofty boundary of circumscription and restraint and revelled in all the joys of liberty and fortune, the cottage-walls have swelled out into more goodly proportion than those of Baucis and Philemon, poverty has tasted the luxuries of competence, labor has lolled at ease in a perpetual armchair of idleness, sickness has been bribed into banishment, life has been invested with new charms, and death deprived of its former terrors. Nor have the affections been less gratified than the wants, appetites, and ambitions of mankind. By the conjurations of the same potent spell, kindred have lavished anticipated benefits upon one another, and charity upon all. Let it be termed a delusion, — a fool’s Paradise is better than the wise man’s Tartarus; be it branded as an ignis-fatuus, — it was at least a benevolent one, which, instead of beguiling its followers into swamps, caverns, and pitfalls, allured them on with all the blandishments of enchantment to a garden of Eden, an ever-blooming Elysium of delight. True, the pleasures it bestowed were evanescent: but which of our joys are permanent ? and who so inexperienced as not to know that anticipation is always of higher relish than reality, which strikes a balance both in our sufferings and enjoyments? “The fear of ill exceeds the ill we fear ”; and fruition, in the same proportion, invariably falls short of hope. “ Men are but children of a larger growth,” who may amuse themselves for a long time in gazing at the reflection of the moon in the water; but, if they jump in to grasp it, they may grope forever, and only get the farther from their object. He is the wisest who keeps feeding upon the future, and refrains as long as possible from undeceiving himself by converting his pleasant speculations into disagreeable certainties.
The true mental epicure always purchased his ticket early, and postponed inquiry into its fate to the last possible moment, during the whole of which intervening period lie had an imaginary twenty thousand locked up in his desk: and was not this well worth all the money ? Who would scruple to give twenty pounds interest for even the ideal enjoyment of as many thousands during two or three months ? “ Crede quod habes, et habes ” ; and the usufruct of such a capital is surely not dear at such a price. Some years ago, a gentleman, in passing along Cheapside, saw the figures 1,069, of which number he was the sole proprietor, flaming on the window of a lotteryoffice as a capital prize. Somewhat flurried by this discovery, not less welcome than unexpected, he resolved to walk round St. Paul’s that he might consider in what way to communicate the happy tidings to his wife and family; but, upon repassing the shop, he observed that the number was altered to 10,069, and, upon inquiry, had the mortification to learn that his ticket was a blank, and had only been stuck up in the window by a mistake of the clerk. This effectually calmed his agitation; but he always speaks of himself as having once possessed twenty thousand pounds, and maintains that his ten-minutes’ walk round St. Paul’s was worth ten times the purchase-money of the ticket. A prize thus obtained has, moreover, this special advantage : it is beyond the reach of fate; it cannot be squandered; bankruptcy cannot lay siege to it; friends cannot pull it down, nor enemies blow it up; it bears a charmed life, and none of woman born can break its integrity, even by the dissipation of a single fraction. Show me the property in these perilous times that is equally compact and impregnable. We can no longer become enriched for a quarter of an hour; we can no longer succeed in such splendid failures: all our chances of making such a miss have vanished with the last of the Lotteries.
Life will now become a flat, prosaic routine of matter-of-fact; and sleep itself, erst so prolific of numerical configurations and mysterious stimulants to lottery - adventure, will be disfurnished of its figures and figments. People will cease to harp upon the one lucky number suggested in a dream, and which forms the exception, while they are scrupulously silent upon the ten thousand falsified dreams which constitute the rule. Morpheus will stifle Cocker with a handful of poppies, and our pillows will be no longer haunted by the book of numbers.
And who, too, shall maintain the art and mystery of puffing in all its pristine glory, when the lottery-professors shall have abandoned its cultivation? They were the first, as they will assuredly be the last, who fully developed the resources of that ingenious art,—who cajoled and decoyed the most suspicious and wary reader into a perusal of their advertisements by devices of endless variety and cunning, — who baited their lurking schemes with midnight murders, ghost-stories, crim-cons, bon-mots, balloons, dreadful catastrophes, and every diversity of joy and sorrow, to catch newspaper - gudgeons. Ought not such talents to be encouraged ? Verily the abolitionists have much to answer for !
And now, having established the felicity of all those who gained imaginary prizes, let us proceed to show that the equally numerous class who were presented with real blanks have not less reason to consider themselves happy. Most of us have cause to be thankful for that which is bestowed; but we have all, probably, reason to be still more grateful for that which is withheld, and more especially for our being denied the sudden possession of riches. In the Litany, indeed, we call upon the Lord to deliver us “ in all time of our wealth ”; but how few of us are sincere in deprecating such a calamity! Massinger’s Luke, and Ben Jonson’s Sir Epicure Mammon, and Pope’s Sir Balaam, and our own daily observation, might convince us that the Devil “now tempts by making rich, not making poor.” We may read in the “Guardian” a circumstantial account of a man who was utterly ruined by gaining a capital prize; we may recollect what Dr. Johnson said to Garrick, when the latter was making a display of his wealth at Hampton Court, — “ Ah, David ! David ! these are. the things that make a death-bed terrible”; we may recall the Scripture declaration as to the difficulty a rich man finds in entering into the kingdom of heaven ; and, combining all these denunciations against opulence, let us heartily congratulate one another upon our lucky escape from the calamity of a twenty or thirty thousand pound prize ! The fox in the fable, who accused the unattainable grapes of sourness, was more of a philosopher than we are generally willing to allow. He was an adept in that species of moral alchemy which turns everything to gold, and converts disappointment itself into a ground of resignation and content. Such we have shown to be the great lesson inculcated by the Lottery, when rightly contemplated; and if we might parody M. de Châteaubriand’s jingling expression, “ Le Roi est mort: vive le Roi! ” we should be tempted to exclaim, “ The Lottery is no more : long live the Lottery! ”
The foregoing article, as the reader may possibly remember, was not Lamb’s only contribution to the “ New Monthly Magazine.” Indeed, it was in that pleasant and popular periodical,—then at the height of its popularity, with many of the most admired writers in Great Britain among its contributors, and edited by the elegant and polished poet who sang the “ Pleasures of Hope,”—it was in this magazine that Elia’s admirable “ Popular Fallacies” were first given to the world. ( I fear, however, that the exquisite grace, beauty, and polish of these delightful papers were hardly appreciated by the readers of the “ New Monthly.”) And it was for this publication that he undertook to write a novel. Although Elia had but little fancy for novels himself, and in the writing of them would not have done justice, perhaps, to his rare genius, yet, nevertheless, I suspect that all admirers of “ Rosamund Gray,” if not all readers of novels, regret that he did not complete the work of fiction he began for the “ New Monthly Magazine,” Judging from the specimen that was published, it would have been, had the author seen fit to finish it, quite an original and very characteristic production. Here is the first chapter of the story. Though advertised to he continued, this is all of it that ever appeared.
REMINISCENCES OF JUKE JUDKINS, ESQ., OF BIRMINGHAM.
I AM the only son of a considerable brazier in Birmingham, who, dying in 1803, left me successor to the business, with no other incumbrance than a sort of rent-charge, which I am enjoined to pay out of it, of ninety-three pounds sterling per annum, to his widow, my mother, and which the improving state of the concern, I bless God, has hitherto enabled me to discharge with punctuality. (I say, I am enjoined to pay the said sum, but not strictly obligated: that is to say, as the will is worded, I believe the law would relieve me from the payment of it; but the wishes of a dying parent should in some sort have the effect of law.) So that, though the annual profits of my business, on an average of the last three or four years, would appear to an indifferent observer, who should inspect my shop-books, to amount to the sum of one thousand three hundred and three pounds, odd shillings, the real proceeds in that time have fallen short of that sum to the amount of the aforesaid payment of ninety-three pounds sterling annually.
I was always my father’s favorite. He took a delight, to the very last, in recounting the little sagacious tricks and innocent artifices of my childhood. One manifestation thereof I never heard him repeat without tears of joy trickling down his cheeks. It seems, that, when I quitted the parental roof, (August 27th, 1788,) being then six years and not quite a month old, to proceed to the Free School at Warwick, where my father was a sort of trustee, my mother — as mothers are usually provident on these occasions— had stuffed the pockets of the coach, which was to convey me and six more children of my own growth that were going to be entered along with me at the same seminary, with, a prodigious quantity of gingerbread, which I remember my father said was more than was needed: and so, indeed, it was ; for, if I had been to eat it all myself, it would have got stale and mouldly before it had been half spent. The consideration whereof set me upon my contrivances how I might secure to myself as much of the gingerbread as would keep good for the next two or three days, and yet none of the rest in a manner be wasted. I had a little pair of pocket-compasses, which I usually carried about me for the purpose of making draughts and measurements, at which I was always very ingenious, of the various engines and mechanical inventions in which such a town as Birmingham abounded. By the means of these, and a small penknife which my father had given me, I cut out the one half of the cake, calculating that the remainder would reasonably serve my turn ; and subdividing it into many little slices, which were curious to see for the neatness and niceness of their proportion, I sold it out in so many pennyworths to my young companions as served us all the way to Warwick, which is a distance of some twenty miles from this town : and very merry, I assure you, we made ourselves with it, feasting all the way. By this honest stratagem, I put double the prime cost of the gingerbread into my purse, and secured as much as I thought would keep good and moist for my next two or three days’ eating. ’When I told this to my parents, on their first visit to me at Warwick, my father (good man) patted me on the cheek, and stroked my head, and seemed as if he could never make enough of me; but my mother unaccountably burst into tears, and said “ it was a very niggardly action,” or some such expression, and that “ she would rather it would please God to take me” —meaning, God help me, that I should die—“than that she should live to see me grow up a mean man ”: which shows the difference of parent from parent, and how some mothers are more harsh and intolerant to their children than some fathers, — when we might expect quite the contrary. My father, however, loaded me with presents from that time, which made me the envy of my school-fellows. As I felt this growing disposition in them, I naturally sought to avert it by all the means in my power; and from that time I used to eat my little packages of fruit and other nice things in a corner, so privately that I was never found out. Once, I remember, I had a huge apple sent me, of that sort which they call cats’-heads. I concealed this all day under my pillow ; and at night, but not before I had ascertained that my bed-fellow was sound asleep, — which I did by pinching him rather smartly two or three times, which he seemed to perceive no more than a dead person, though once or twice he made a motion as if he would turn, which frightened me,— I say, when I had made all sure, I fell to work upon my apple; and though it was as big as an ordinary man’s two fists, I made shift to get through it before it was time to get up. And a more delicious feast I never made, — thinking all night what a good parent I had (I mean my father) to send me so many nice things, when the poor lad that lay by me had no parent or friend in the world to send him anything nice ; and thinking of his desolate condition, I munched and munched as silently as I could, that I might not set him a-longing, if he overheard me. And yet, for all this considerateness and attention to other people’s feelings, I was never much a favorite with my school - fellows; which I have often, wondered at, seeing that I never defrauded any one of them of the value of a halfpenny, or told stories of them to their master, as some little lying hoys would do, but was ready to do any of them all the services in my power that were consistent with my own well-doing. I think nobody can he expected to go further than that. —But I am detaining my reader too long in the recording of my juvenile days. It is time that I should go forward to a season when it became natural that I should have some thoughts of marrying, and, as they say, settling in the world. Nevertheless, my reflections on what I may call the boyish period of my life may have their use to some readers. It is pleasant to trace the man in the boy, to observe shoots of generosity in those young years, and to watch the progress of liberal sentiments, and what I may call a genteel way of thinking, which is discernible in some children at a very early age, and usually lays the foundation of all that is praiseworthy in the manly character afterwards.
With the warmest inclinations towards that way of life, and a serious conviction of its superior advantages over a single one, it has been the strange infelicity of my lot never to have entered into the respectable estate of matrimony. Yet I was once very near it. I courted a young woman in my twenty-seventh year,—for so early I began to feel symptoms of the tender passion ! She was well to do in the world, as they call it, but yet not such a fortune as, all things considered, perhaps I might have pretended to. It was not my own choice altogether; but my mother very strongly pressed me to it. She was always putting it to me, that I “ had comings-in sufficient, — that I need not stand upon a portion ”; though the young woman, to do her justice, had considerable expectations, which yet did not quite come up to my mark, as I told you before. She had this saying always in her mouth: that 1 “ had money enough ; that it was time I enlarged my housekeeping, and to show a spirit befitting my circumstances.” In short, what with her importunities, and my own desires in part coöperating,—for, as I said, I was not yet quite twenty-seven, a time when the youthful feelings may be pardoned, if they show a little impetuosity, — 1 resolved, I say, upon all these considerations, to set about the business of courting in right earnest. I was a young man then, and having a spice of romance in my character, (as the reader doubtless has observed long ago,) such as that sex is apt to be taken with, I had reason in no long time to think my addresses were anything but disagreeable.
Certainly the happiest part of a young man’s life is the time when he is going a-courting. All the generous impulses are then awake, and he feels a double existence in participating his hopes and wishes with another being. Return yet again for a brief moment, ye visionary views, transient enchantments bye moonlight rambles with Cleora in the Silent Walk at Vauxhall, — ( N. B. — About a mile from Birmingham, and resembling the gardens of that name near London, only that the price of admission is lower,) — when the nightingale has suspended her notes in June to listen to our loving discourses, while the moon was overhead! (for we generally used to take our tea at Cleora’s mother’s before we set out, not so much to save expenses as to avoid the publicity of a repast in the gardens,—coming in much about the time of half-price, as they call it) —ye soft intercommunions of soul, when, exchanging mutual vows, we prattled of coming felicities ! The loving disputes we have had under those trees, when this house (planning our future settlement) was rejected, because, though cheap, it was dull, and the other house was given up, because, though agreeably situated, it was too high-rented, — one was too much in the heart of the town, another was too far from business. These minutiæ will seem impertinent to the aged and the prudent. I write them only to the young. Young lovers, and passionate as being young, (such were Cleora and I then,) alone can understand me. After some weeks wasted, as I may now call it, in this sort of amorous colloquy, we at length fixed upon the house in the High Street, No. 203, just vacated by the death of Mr. Hutton of this town, for our future residence. I had till that time lived in lodgings (only renting a shop for business) to be near to my mother,—near, I say : not in the same house with her, for that would have been to introduce confusion into our housekeeping, which it was desirable to keep separate. Oh, the loving wrangles, the endearing differences I had with Cleora, before we could quite make up our minds to the house that was to receive us ! — I pretending, for argument’s sake, that the rent was too high, and she insisting that the taxes were moderate in proportion, and love at last reconciling us in the same choice. I think at that time, moderately speaking, she might have had anything out of me for asking. I do not, nor shall ever, regret that my character at that time was marked with a tinge of prodigality. Age comes fast enough upon us, and, in its good time, will prune away all that is inconvenient in these excesses. Perhaps it is right that it should do so. Matters, as I said, were ripening to a conclusion between us, only the house was yet not absolutely taken. Some necessary arrangements, which the ardor of my youthful impetuosity could hardly brook at that time (love and youth will be precipitate) — some preliminary arrangements, I say, with the landlord, respecting fixtures,—very necessary things to be considered in a young man about to settle in the world, though not very accordant with the impatient state of my then passions,—some obstacles about the valuation of the fixtures, — had hitherto precluded (and I shall always think providentially) my final closes with his offer, when one of those accidents, which, unimportant in themselves, often arise to give a turn to the most serious intentions of our life, intervened, and put an end at once to my projects of wiving and of housekeeping.
I was never much given to theatrical entertainments, — that is, at no time of my life was I ever what they call a regular play-goer ; but on some occasion of a benefit-night., which was expected to be very productive, and indeed turned out so, Cleora expressing a desire to be present, I could do no less than offer, as I did very willingly, to squire her and her mother to the pit. At that time it was not customary in our town for tradesfolk, except some of the very topping ones, to sit, as they now do, in the boxes. At the time appointed I waited upon the ladies, who had brought with them a young man, a distant relation, whom it seems they had invited to be of the party. This a little disconcerted me, as I had about, me barely silver enough to pay for our three selves at the door, and did not at first know that their relation had proposed paying for himself. However, to do the young man justice, he not only paid for himself, but for the old lady besides,—leaving me only to pay for two, as it were. In our passage to the theatre, the notice of Cleora was attracted to some orange - wenches that stood about the doors vending their commodities. She was leaning on my arm ; and I could feel her every now and then giving me a nudge, as it is called, which I afterwards discovered were hints that I should buy some oranges. It seems, it is a custom at Birmingham, and perhaps in other places, when a gentleman treats ladies to the play, especially when a full night is expected, and that the house will be inconveniently warm, to provide them with this kind of fruit, oranges being esteemed for their cooling property. But how could I guess at that, never having treated ladies to a play before, and being, as I said, quite a novice at these kind of entertainments ? At last she spoke plain out, and begged that I would buy some of “ those oranges,” pointing to a particular barrow. But when I came to examine the fruit, I did not think that the quality of it was answerable to the price. In this way I handled several baskets of them; but something in them all displeased me. Some had thin rinds, and some were plainly over-ripe, which is as great a fault as not being ripe enough; and I could not (what they call) make a bargain. While I stood haggling with the women, secretly determining to put off my purchase till I should get within the theatre, where I expected we should have better choice, the young man, the cousin, (who, it. seems, had left us without my missing him,) came running to us with his pockets stuffed out with oranges, inside and out, as they say. It seems, not liking the look of the barrow-fruit any more than myself, he had slipped away to an eminent fruiterer’s, about three doors distant, which I never had the sense to think of, and had laid out a matter of two shillings in some of the best St. Michael’s, I think, I ever tasted. What a little hinge, as I said before, the most important affairs in life may turn upon ! The mere inadvertence to the fact that there was an eminent fruiterer’s within three doors of us, though we had just passed it without the thought once occurring to me, which he had taken advantage of, lost me the affections of my Cleora. From that time she visibly cooled towards me, and her partiality was as visibly transferred to this cousin. I was long unable to account for this change in her behavior; when one day, accidentally discoursing of oranges to my mother, alone, she let drop a sort of reproach to me, as if I had offended Cleora by my nearness, as she called it, that evening. Even now, when Cleora has been wedded some years to that same officious relation, as I may call him, I can hardly be persuaded that such a trifle could have been the motive to her inconstancy ; for could she suppose that I would sacrifice my dearest hopes in her to the paltry sum of two shillings, when I was going to treat her to the play, and her mother too, (an expense of more than four times that amount,) if the young man had not interfered to pay for the latter, as I mentioned ? But the caprices of the sex are past finding out: and I begin to think my mother was in the right; for doubtless women know women better than we can pretend to know them.
- This term designated a larger class of young men than that to which it is now con tilled. It took in the articled clerks of merchants and bankers, the George Barnwells of the day. Queene,” — possibly we may remember, I say, that the wise, witty, learned, eloquent, delightful Mr. Biekerstaff, in order to raise the requisite sum to purchase a ticket in the (then) newly erected lottery, sold off a couple of globes and a telescope (the venerable Isaac was a Professor of Palmistry and Astrology, as well as Censor of Great Britain) ; and finding by a learned calculation that it was but a hundred and fifty thousand to one against his being worth one thousand pounds for thirty - two years, he spent many days and nights in preparing his mind for this change of fortune.↩
- Since writing this article, we have been informed that the object of our funeral oration is not definitively dead, but only moribund.↩