Obrázky na stránke

use a French phrase, “germain to the matter”) found their assiette in society ; but to him who is not yet placed, it is a source of bitter disappointment. Shortly after leaving the university, on my arrival in London, I was asked to dine at the house of one of our country neighbours, who, having been nominated M. P., had moved to town. This struck me as an eligible opening for making my way in good company, and I accepted the invitation with eagerness. Upon entering the drawing room, I soon found that I was the only person not of "the house." Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Mons. Say, would have been mere fourth-form boys to this quintessential selection of the collective wisdom.” The conversation was wholly of “ the shop;” but though I do sometimes read the papers,

I was very soon completely nonplused, and at once made up my mind to bound my ambition to acquiring the reputation of a good listener.

Sauntering down the street, something out of spirits at this discomfiture, I was attracted by the lights in my aunt Lady Mary Mildew's drawing room; and, arriving at the door, just as Mr. —, the bookseller, was "bundling out” a coach-load of literary lions for her Ladyship’s inspection, I determined to step in, and see “what was going on." I had not been long in the room, when my aunt introduced me to a good-looking, but rather prim young lady, as newly arrived from Cambridge. Being a tolerably good French and Italian scholar, and having a bowing acquaintance with our best English writers, I thought I should find myself pretty much au fait to the young lady's indigo; and I entered the list with some spirit, in the determination to make good my claim to a place among the blues, and to set myself off to advantage. But here again I was utterly thrown out : I could not tell my fair questioner, whether Lady Iodina Crucible was « intellectual,I had omitted to attend Mr. Sapphie's Lecture, at the institution, I mistook the author of the Fall of Jerusalem, for the American Addison, I was two novels behind-hand with the “ Great Unknown, Sydney Sm—th passed without returning my bow, and I totally failed in naming the authors of thetwo" crack” articles of the current Quarterly. Need I add, that I was, after five minutes effort at conversation, deserted by my companion, whose contemptuous dejection of countenance, as she whispered her next neighbour, and glanced her eye hastily at my person, convinced me that I was already black-balled, at least, by this member of Lady Mary's squad of selects.

Hurrying down stairs with the speed of a detected pick-pocket, I stumbled upon Tom Headlong, of Jesus, the squire's nephew of Headlong Hall, who found much favour in my sight, by voting my aunt a quiz, and her party, the blue devils, and, on this account, he had the less difficulty in carrying me to the club, of which I had just been elected a member. There, I thought I should, at least, be welcome; for my credit is good, and my money as acceptable as another's. But all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Notwithstanding that Newmarket is within fourteen miles of Cambridge, my ignorance of the technicalities of a horserace was sufficient to exclude me from the conversation of the night, which ran exclusively upon Epsom. My ominous silence on this interesting topic, boded

me no good. Then I could not name the odds at some point of the game, when asked; I mistook the round in which Gas had his “ lights doused;" was totally out about his opponent's head being “in chancery.In short, I shewed myself up as complete as a Spooney, fell out of the conversation, and was left to eat my supper in silence, with what appetite I might.

The next disappointment I encountered was at the house of a maiden relation, whom I had not seen for some years. The memory of her good-natured and unpretending simplicity, of her moderate endowments, and still more moderate acquirements, assured me that I might make myself “ quite at home”. wiih her. On arriving at her house, I found a formidable circle of Quaker-looking ladies, in the midst of which, stood a spruce and punctiliously-dressed gentle'man in black, who, somehow or other, brought to my mind a certain necessary personage in a sabbath of witches. My entrance interrupted the reading of some book, and as my fair relation came forward to greet me, I could not but observe, that though her reception was friendly, it was more measured and subdued than childish recollections induced me to expect. After the customary inquiries after absent friends, &c. the conversation seemed to lapse into a train of ideas, inspired by the now suspended “ readings.” Its subject seemed to be religious ; but it was so wrapped up in something between technical jargon and cant, as to be nearly unintelligible, and I sunk by degrees into a reverie, in which my unfitness for society, and very imperfect education, formed a prominent and a painful part. Mortified by such repeated failures, I began to


this «

lower my expectations, and to look no higher than the forming one amongst those cyphers which swell the sum total of a “ squeeze," fill up door-ways and staircases, and obstruct the King's highway, by their attendant carriages. But, "non cuivis homini," it is not eyery one's lot to enter at once, even this numerous corps. In order to be asked every where one must be seen every where, and known to every body; and there are those who, after spending a fortune in ices and wax-lights, are, at the end of twenty years' struggle, only just creeping on. To be distinguished in

genre," and to carry the place by a coup de main, is morally impossible; because, where nothing is expected, where no qualification is required, there is no advantage ground afforded for attracting the attention of an “admiring public.” ”

As a last resource I determined to advance myself by the merits of my dancing master, to ride into society on a “dimiqueue de chat," and to wind myself round the hearts of my friends by a chaine Anglaise." But this also is not to be done at will, for it requires much patience and more intrigue to get enlisted into a set, or to be received in morning practising parties. As, however, I am an eldest son and the family estate is unembarrassed, my probation in this particular, was considerably shortened. The sort of society to which I was thus introduced was not altogether “Le bon genre.” It was made up, for the most part, of what are called “respectable families ;" i. e. families whose easy circumstances, heaven knows how acquired, prevent their ranking absolutely as nobody, without very distinctly proving that they are any body :-East India baronets, military

and civic knights, the small fry of country gentlemen, (who spend a year's revenue in a two months' visit to London, or to some fashionable watering-place, living all the rest of the year in their lair at Clodpole-hall, as Cobbett would call it) together with those successful mercantile families and speculators, who, according to the same authority, are elbowing the said country gentlemen out of their estates. Though pleasure and dissipation are the objects of some of these personages in mixing with the world, and seem to be so with all, yet the fonde of the society consists of a class who unite business with amusement ; or rather, under the guise of pleasure, carry on an unremitting effort to strike a great stroke in life. These are the mothers who have marriageable daughters to dispose of, and whose views upon the persons of bachelors are any thing but disinterested.

Being myself, as I have already hinted, one of those enviable young men who have “ cvery qualification for making the married state happy,” I was eagerly seized on as a proper victim of this systematic conspiracy of mothers to get off their daughters, and I soon got a pretty near insight into the whole affair. Very few houses indeed are open to a regular ball, or even to an “ early dance" in which there is not a daughter or a niece to be disposed of. The money lavished on gaudy decorations, soups, wild fowl, ices, and champaign, is, therefore, merely put out at usance to be returned in a good settlement; insomuch that the more apparently wanton the profusion, the closer may be deemed the calculation, seeming hospitality being nothing on earth but a well-baited trap.

« PredošláPokračovať »