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in London, and elsewhere, where the love and knowledge of letters, wisdom qualified by urbanity, and learning enlivened by the gaiety of social mirth, are to be recognised in their best aspects. One such is in my recollection at this moment; but it was not situated in London; and, I fear, I shall contradict the title of the present work, even by a brief allusion to a country Club. Yet, as a sketch of the one in question would include a few reminiscences of two or three characters of celebrity in literature, I am tempted to proceed, and trust to my reader's pardon for the digression.
Never shall I forget the Hole-in-the-Wall Club, which flourished some twenty-five years ago, at Norwich ; a place, perhaps, of all our country towns, the least corrupted by metropolitan infusions, because it is situated within an angle of the island, and, being no outlet to continental travellers, is not overrun by the crowds, whom London is constantly sending forth on their various schemes of curiosity or pleasure.
Yet, while it is uninfested by cocknies, it has the advantage also of nurturing within its bosom many of the pleasantest groupes and associations with which human life is enlivened. The clergy are a tolerant, enlightened, and agreeable body; and the Close, which is scarcely tenanted but by clerical characters, is a sort of miniature Athens, where, in your morning walks, you may imbibe the wisdom of the Stoa, or indulge in the splendid dreams of the academy; for there is always some lettered and classic companion to be met with, who will be glad to impart to you, though unostentatiously, the fruit of his lucubrations.
Many of the hearty, social usages of our forefathers, have long been hermetically sealed up at Norwich, and kept unmixed with the baser matter, which, in other places, foppery and fashion have infused. The native genuine humour of England flows there, as a living brook, unstained and pure. It is not reluctantly forced to play through artificial pipes and conductors; an advantage in the moral picturesque, not inferior to that which the poet has so delightfully depictured in the natural :
“ Quanto præstantius esset Numen aquæ, viridi si margine cluderet undas, Herba, nec ingenuum violarent marmora tophum.”
At that Club sate Dr. Frank Sayers,* a poet of no mean inspiration, a sound antiquarian, an elegant scholar, and an accomplished gentleman. His accustomed chair was kept every Monday for him, and it would have been a profanation had any other occupant
filled it. In sooth, he was a man of admirable fun; and the characters around him, which no skill of selection could have got together in any other Club, or in any other town, afforded unfailing supplies to his innocent and unwounding pleasantry.
Among these, there was a strange oddity~ a fellow of much local and some municipal importance, an alderman of the city—a most curious specimen of provincial singularity, serving Sayers at once with food for his honest mirth, and materials for philosophical speculation. No lecturer at Guy's, or St. Bartholemew's, could have made more of him, had he been an anatomical preparation. He handed him about, so as to enable every one to enter thoroughly into the most entertaining of living anomalies; and in such a wise, as to amuse and delight the man himself with the good-humoured exhibition of his own absurdities.
* The accomplished author of the Dramatic Sketches from the Ancient Northern Mythology. His life, an invaluable piece of biography, has been lately written by his friend, William Taylor, a member of that Club, who transcribed it from the tablets of his heart.-See Quarterly Review, No. LXIX., for Southey's review of it.
One of these absurdities was this. In middle age, the creature was seized with the strange ambition of studying modern history, and descending the stream of events to his own time. For this purpose, he determined never to look at the newspapers of the day, in order, as he said, to have the complete political concatenation unbroken in his memory. One hour in the day was all that he could devote to his study; but so regular and habitual was it, that twenty years had made him a tolerable proficient in that part of history which preceded the French revolution. He was, however, with all his industry, several years behind the march of events; for, at the breaking out of that revolution, he had got no farther than the seven years war; and, when the attention of all mankind hung fearfully suspended on the progress of Clairfait, and the success of Dumourier, he was lingering in the camp of the great Frederick, and following, with breathless perturbation, the fortunes of the high-minded Maria Theresa. Even so late as the disastrous day of Ulm, when every eye was fixed on the cloud that blackened the horizon of human freedom, all his regrets and sympathies were centered in the disgraceful treaty of Closterseven.
But some undefinable fatality seemed to hang over our worthy citizen's reading—for he unconsciously imbibed the popular passions of the period he was perusing; so that, historically speaking, he was a staunch Whig, and a hot patriot, in the intensity of those designations ; whilst in actual practice, he was the most thoroughgoing of the Church-and-King men of the day, and overflowed with the frothy fervour of the obtrusive and troublesome loyalty, which was then in such fashion. Thus, he was ready for the meanest job to serve the very King, whom he had perhaps reviled and detested in the letters of Junius ; and after raving, in his historical hour, with Wilkes and Beckford against general war