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than some of these. “Such a man ought not to be spoken to,” says Gobemouche, narrating the story - and such a story! “And I am surprised he is admitted into society at all.” Yes, dear Gobemouche, but the story wasn't true; and I had no more done the wicked deed in question than I had run away with the Queen of Sheba.
I have always longed to know what that story was (or what collection of histories), which a lady had in her mind to whom a servant of mine applied for a place, when I was breaking up my establishment once and going abroad. Brown went with a very good character from us, which, indeed, she fully deserved after several years' faithful service. But when Mrs. Jones read the name of the person out of whose employment Brown came, 6. That is quite sufficient,” says Mrs. Jones. - You may go. I will never take a servant out of that house.” Ah, Mrs. Jones, how I should like to know what that crime was, or what that series of villanies, which made you determine never to take a servant out of my house. Do you believe in the story of the little boy and the sausages? Have you swallowed that little minced infant? Have you devoured that young Polonius? Upon my word you have maw enough. We somehow greedily gobble down all stories in which the characters of our friends are chopped up, and believe wrong of them without inquiry. In a late serial work written by this hand, I remember making some pathetic remarks about our propensity to believe ill of our neighbors — and I remember the remarks, not because they were valuable, or novel, or ingenious, but because, within three days after they had appeared in print, the moralist who wrote them, walking home with a friend, heard a story about another friend, which story he straightway believed, and which story was scarcely more true than that sausage fable which is here set down. O mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! But though the preacher trips, shall not the doctrine be good? Yea, brethren! Here be the rods. Look you, here are the scourges. Choose me a nice long, swishing, buddy one, light and well-poised in the handle, thick and bushy at the tail. Pick me out a whipcord thong with some dainty knots in it — and now deserve it - whish, whish, whish! Let us cut into each other all round.
A favorite liar and servant of mine was a man I once had to drive a brougham. He never came to my house, except for orders, and once when he helped to wait at dinner so clumsily that it was agreed we would dispense with his further efforts. The (job) brougham horse used to look dreadfully lean and
tired, and the livery-stable keeper complained that we worked him too hard. Now, it turned out that there was a neighboring butcher's lady who liked to ride in a brougham; and Tomkins lent her ours, drove her cheerfully to Richmond and Putney, and, I suppose, took out a payment in mutton-chops. We gave this good Tomkins wine and medicine for his family when sick
we supplied him with little comforts and extras which need not now be remembered - and the grateful creature rewarded us by informing some of our tradesmen whom he honored with his custom, “Mr. Roundabout? Lor' bless you! I carry him up to bed drunk every night in the week.” He, Tomkins, being a man of seven stone weight and five feet high ; whereas his employer was — but here modesty interferes, and I decline to enter into the avoirdupois question.
Now, what was Tomkins's motive for the utterance and dissemination of these lies? They could further no conceivable end or interest of his own. Had they been true stories, Tomkins's master would still, and reasonably, have been more angry than at the fables. It was but suicidal slander on the part of Tomkins ment. The poor wretch had got his place under, as it turned out, a fictitious character. He might have stayed in it, for of course Tomkins had a wife and poor innocent children. He might have had bread, beer, bed, character, coats, coals. He might have nestled in our little island, comfortably sheltered from the storms of life ; but we were compelled to cast him out, and send him driving, lonely, perishing, tossing, starving, to
- to drown. To drown? There be other modes of death whereby rogues die. Good-by, Tomkins. And so the nightcap is put on, and the bolt is drawn for poor T.
Suppose we were to invite volunteers amongst our respected readers to send in little statements of the lies which they know have been told about themselves; what a heap of correspondence, what an exaggeration of malignities, what a crackling bonfire of incendiary falsehoods, might we not gather together! And a lie once set going, having the breath of life breathed into it by the father of lying, and ordered to run its diabolical little course, lives with a prodigious vitality. You say, “ Magna est veritas et prævalebit.” Psha! Great lies are as great as great truths, and prevail constantly, and day after day. Take an instance or two out of my own little budget. I sit near a gentleman at dinner, and the conversation turns upon a certain anonymous literary performance which at the time is amusing the town. “Oh," says the gentleman, “everybody knows
who wrote that paper: it is Momus's.” I was a young author at the time, perhaps proud of my bantling: “I beg your pardon," I say, 6 it was written by your humble servant.”. 6. Indeed !” was all that the man replied, and he shrugged his shoulders, turned his back, and talked to his other neighbor. I never heard sarcastic incredulity more finely conveyed than by that “indeed.” “Impudent liar," the gentleman's face said, as clear as face could speak. Where was Magna Veritas, and how did she prevail then? She lifted up her voice, she made her appeal, and she was kicked out of court. In New York I read a newspaper criticism one day (by an exile from our shores who has taken up his abode in the Western Republic), comnienting upon a letter of mine which had appeared in a contemporary volume, and wherein it was stated that the writer was a lad in such and such a year, and, in point of fact, I was, at the period spoken of, nineteen years of age. Falsehood, Mr. Roundabout,” says the noble critic: “ You were then not a lad ; you were then six-and-twenty years of age.” You see he knew better than papa and mamma and parish register. It was easier for him to think and say I lied, on a twopenny matter connected with my own affairs, than to imagine he was mistaken. Years ago, in a time when we were very mad wags, Arcturus and myself met a gentleman from China who knew the language. We began to speak Chinese against him. We said we were born in China. We were two to one. We spoke the mandarin dialect with perfect fluency. We had the company with us; as in the old, old days, the squeak of the real pig was voted not to be so natural as the squeak of the sham pig. O Arcturus, the sham pig squeaks in our streets now to the applause of multitudes, and the real porker grunts unheeded in his sty!
I once talked for some little time with an amiable lady: it was for the first time; and I saw an expression of surprise on her kind face, which said as plainly as face could say,
Sir, do you know that up to this moment I have had a certain opinion of you, and that I begin to think I have been mistaken or misled?” I not only know that she had heard evil reports of me, but I know who told her — one of those acute fellows, my dear brethren, of whom we spoke in a previous sermon, who has found me out — found out actions which I never did, found out thoughts and sayings which I never spoke, and judged me accordingly. Ah, my lad ! have I found you out? O risum teneatis. Perhaps the person I am accusing is no more guilty than I.
How comes it that the evil which men say spreads so widely
and lasts so long, whilst our good, kind words don't seem somehow to take root and bear blossom? Is it that in the stony hearts of mankind these pretty flowers can't find a place to grow? Certain it is that scandal is good, brisk talk, whereas praise of one's neighbor is by no means lively hearing. An acquaintance grilled, scored, devilled, and served with mustard and cayenne pepper, excites the appetite ; whereas a slice of cold friend with currant jelly is but a sickly, unrelishing meat.
Now, such being the case, my dear worthy Mrs. Candor, in whom I know there are a hundred good and generous qualities : it being perfectly clear that the good things which we say of our neighbors don't fructify, but somehow perish in the ground where they are dropped, whilst the evil words are wafted by all the winds of scandal, take root in all soils, and flourish amazingly — seeing, I say, that this conversation does not give us a fair chance, suppose we give up censoriousness altogether, and decline uttering our opinions about Brown, Jones, and Robinson (and Mesdames B., J., and R.) at all.
We may be mistaken about every one of them, as, please goodness, those anecdote-mongers against whom I have uttered my meek protest have been mistaken about me. We need not go to the extent of saying that Mrs. Manning was an amiable creature, much misunderstood; and Jack Thurtell a gallant, unfortunate fellow, not near so black as he was painted ; but we will try and avoid personalities altogether in talk, won't we? We will range the fields of science, dear madam, and communicate to each other the pleasing results of our studies. We will, if you please, examine the infinitesimal wonders of nature through the microscope. We will cultivate entomology. We will sit with our arms round each other's waists on the pons asinorum, and see the stream of mathematics flow beneath. We will take refuge in cards, and play at “ beggar my neighbor,” not abuse my neighbor. We will go to the Zoological Gardens and talk freely about the gorilla and his kindred, but not talk about people who can talk in their turn. Suppose we praise the High Church? we offend the Low Church. The Broad Church? High and Low are both offended. What do you think of Lord Derby as a politician? And what is your opinion of Lord Palmerston ?
If you please, will you play me those lovely variations of “ In my cottage near a wood?” It is a charming air (you know it in French, I suppose? Ah! te dirai-je, maman !) and was a favorite with poor Marie Antoinette. I say“ poor,' because I have a right to speak with pity of a sovereign who
was renowned for so much beauty and so much misfortune. But as for giving any opinion on her conduct, saying that she was good or bad, or indifferent, goodness forbid ! We have agreed we will not be censorious. Let us have a game at cards
at écarté, if you please. You deal. I ask for cards. I lead the deuce of clubs.
What? there is no deuce! Deuce take it! What? People will go on talking about their neighbors, and won't have their mouths stopped by cards, or ever so much microscopes and aquariums? Ah, my poor dear Mrs. Candor, I agree with you. By the way, did you ever see anything like Lady Godiva Trotter's dress last night? People will go on chattering, although we hold our tongues; and, after all, my good soul, what will their scandal matter a hundred years hence?
Nor long since, at a certain banquet, I had the good fortune to sit by Doctor Polymathesis, who knows everything, and who, about the time when the claret made its appearance, mentioned that old dictum of the grumbling Oxford Don, that “ ALL CLARET would be port if it could !” Imbibing a bumper of one or the other not ungratefully, I thought to myself, “ Here surely, Mr. Roundabout, is a good text for one of your reverence's sermons.” Let us apply to the human race, dear brethren, what is here said of the vintages of Portugal and Gascony, and we shall have no difficulty in perceiving how many clarets aspire to be ports in their way; how most men and women of our acquaintance, how we ourselves, are Aquitanians giving ourselves Lusitanian airs ; how we wish to have credit for being stronger, braver, more beautiful, more worthy than we really are.
Nay, the beginning of this hypocrisy — a desire to excel, a desire to be hearty, fruity, generous, strength-imparting is a virtuous and noble ambition ; and it is most difficult for a man in his own case, or his neighbor's, to say at what point this ambition transgresses the boundary of virtue, and becomes vanity, pretence, and self-seeking. You are a poor man, let us say, showing a bold face to adverse fortune, and wearing a confident aspect. Your purse is very narrow, but you owe no man a penny; your means are scanty, your