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at arms, to congratulate me upon my new rank of a Vavasour, and to know whether I should chuse to bear the dexter base points of the lady Isabel's saltire in chief, or only her sinister corners; she being one of the seventeen co-heiresses of my great great great great great grand-father's fourth wife Dorothy, the daughter and sole heiress of Simon de la Frogpool of Croakham in Suffolk. This unexpected visit must have disconcerted me to an invincible degree, if upon recollection I had not only remembered Mr. Rouge Dragon as a constant companion to my late brother, but as a kind of tutor in initiating him into the science of heraldry, and the civil and military achievements, to which our nobility and gentry are entitled. As soon, therefore, as I could recover myself from my first surprize in hearing an unknown English lan guage, I humbly thanked Mr. Dragon for the pains he had taken in considering my coat of arms so minutely, but hoped he would give himself no farther trouble upon my account; because I was fully deter mined to bear the plain shield of my grandfather Peter, without taking the least notice of Isabel's saltfre in chief, or even of her sinister corners.
Be it to my shame or not, I must confess that heraldry is a science, which I have never much cultivated: nor do I find it very prevalent among the fashionable studies of the age. Arms and armorial tokens, may, I suppose, be regularly distinguished, and properly emblazoned, upon the family plate to which they belong: but I have observed of late, that these honourable ensigns are not confined entirely to their proper owners, but are usurped by every body, who thinks fit to take them; insomuch that there is scarce an hackney coach in London, which is not in possession of a ducal crest, an earl's coronet, or a baronet's bloody hand. This, indeed, has often given me great offence, as it reflects a scandal on our nobility
and gentry; and I cannot but think it very indecent for a duke's coach to be seen waiting at a night-cellar, or for a countess's landau to set down ladies at the door of a common bawdy-house. I remember I was one morning disturbed at my breakfast by a fashionable rap at my door; when looking out of my window, I saw the coach of the lady dowager drawn up before it. I was extremely surprized at so early and unexpected a visit from her ladyship; and while I was preparing to receive her, I overheard her ladyship at high words with her coachman in my entry; when stepping to the stair-case, I found that the coachman, and her ladyship, represented in the person of one of my housemaids, were squabbling together about sixpence. This badge of nobility, assumed at random according to the fancy of the coach-painter, I have found inconvenient on other occasions: for I once travelled from London to Derby in an hired chariot finely ornamented with a viscount's cypher and coronet; by which noble circumstance I was compelled in every inn to pay as a lord, though I was not at that time even a simple baronet, or (in the language of my friend Mr. Dragon) arrived to the dignity of a Vava
I have sometimes doubted, whether nobility and high rank are of that real advantage, which they are generally esteemed to be: and I am almost inclined to think, that they answer no desirable end, but as far as they indulge our vanity and ostentation. A long roll of ennobled ancestors makes, I confess, a very alluring appearance. To see coronet after coronet passing before our view in an uninterrupted succession, is the most soothing prospect, that perhaps can present itself to the eye of human pride: the exultation that we feel upon such a review, takes rise in a visionary and secret piece of flattery, that as glorious, and as long or even a longer line of future coronets may
spring from ourselves, as have descended from our ancestors. We read in Virgil, that Anchises, to inspire his son with the properest incitement to virtue, shews him a long race of kings, emperors, and heroes, to whom Æneas is fore-doomed to give their origin; and the misery of Macbeth is made by Shakspeare to proceed, less from the consciousness of guilt, than from the disappointed pride, that none of his own race shall succeed him in the throne.
The pride of ancestry, and the desire of continuing our lineage, when they tend to an incitement of virtuous and noble actions, are undoubtedly laudable; and I should perhaps have indulged myself in the pleasing reflection, had not a particular story in a French novel, which I lately met with, put a stop to all vain glories, that can possibly be deduced from a long race of progenitors.
"A nobleman of an ancient house, of very high "rank and great fortune, (says the novelist) died "suddenly, and without being permitted to stop at (6 purgatory, was sent down immediately into hell. "He had not been long there, before he met with his "coachman Thomas, who like his noble master, was "gnashing his teeth among the damned. Thomas, "surprized to behold his lordship amidst the sharpers, "thieves, pick-pockets, and all the canaille of hell, "started and cried out in a tone of admiration, Is it "possible, that I see my late master among Lucifer's "tribe of beggars, rogues, and pilferers! How much 66 am I astonished to find your lordship in this place! "Your lordship! whose generosity was so great, "whose affluent house-keeping drew such crowds of "nobility, gentry, and friends to your table, and "within your gates, and whose fine taste employed "such numbers of poor in your gardens, by building "temples and obelisks, and by forming lakes of wa❝ter, that seemed to vie with the largest oceans of
"the creation! Pray, my lord, if I may be so bold, "what crime has brought your lordship into this "cursed assembly?.......Ah, Thomas, (replied his "lordship, with his usual condescension) I have been "sent hither for having defrauded my royal master, "and cheating the widows and fatherless, solely to "enrich, and purchase titles, honours, and estates for "that ungrateful rascal, my only son. But prithee, "Thomas, tell me, as thou didst always seem to be “an honest, careful, sober servant, what brought thee "hither? Alas! my noble lord, replied Thomas, I "was sent hither for begetting that son."
I am, Sir, your most humble servant,
I must agree, with my correspondent, that the study of heraldry is at present in very little repute among us and our nobility are more anxious about preserving the genealogy of their horses, than of their own family. Whatever value their progenitors may have formerly set upon their blood, it is now found to be of no value, when put into the scale and weighed against solid plebeian gold: nor would the most illustrious descendant from Cadwallader, or the Irish kings, scruple to debase his lineage by an alliance with the daughter of a city-plumb, though all her ancestors were yeomen, and none of her family ever bore arms. Titles of quality, when the owners have no other merit to recommend them, are of no more estimation, than those which the courtesy of the vulgar have bestowed on the deformed: and when I look over a long tree of descent, I sometimes fancy I can discover the real characters of sharpers, reprobates, and plunderers of their country, concealed under the titles of dukes, earls, and viscounts.
It is well known, that the very servants, in the absence of their masters, assume the same titles; and
Tom or Harry, the footman or groom of his grace, is always my lord duke in the kitchen or stables. For this reason, I have thought proper to present my reader with the pedigree of a footman, drawn up in the same sounding titles, as are so pompously displayed on these occasions: and I dare say, it will appear no less illustrious, than the pedigrees of many families, which are neither celebrated for their actions, nor distinguished by their virtues.
The family of the Skips, or Skipkennels, is very ancient and noble. The founder of it, Maitre Jacques, came into England with the duchess of Mazarine. He was son of a prince of the blood, his mother one of the mesdames of France: this family is therefore related to the most illustrious maitres d'hotel and valets de chambre of that kingdom. Jacques had issue two sons, viz. Robert and Paul; of whom Paul, the youngest, was invested with the purple before he was eighteen, and made a bishop, and soon after became an archbishop. Robert, the elder, came to be a duke, but died without issue: Paul, the archbishop, left behind him an only daughter, Barbara, base born, who was afterwards maid of honour; and intermarrying with a lord of the bedchamber, had a very numerous issue by him; viz. Rebecca, born a week after their marriage, and died young; Joseph, first a squire, afterwards knighted, high sheriff of a county, and colonel of the militia; Peter, raised from a cabin boy, to a lord of the admiralty; William, a faggot in the first regiment of guards, and a brigadier; Thomas, at first an earl's eldest son, and afterwards a brewer, and lord mayor of the city of London. The several branches of this family were no less distinguished for their illustrious progeny. Jacques the founder, first quartered lace on his coat, and Robert added the shoulder-knot. Some of them, indeed, met with great trouble: archbishop Paul lost his see for getting a cook-maid with