« AnteriorContinuar »
All the rules of civilized warfare seemed to have been suspended; even the new members tried their first timid essays upon the Baronet. It consoled me, however, to hear that no man was more prompt to attack others than Sir John. He was evidently disconcerted, but he sustained it with great patience. I afterwards learned that he quitted the Society in consequence of an odd adventure, which really happened to him ; and which, being related with malicious fidelity by one of the wags at the BeefSteaks, raised a shout of laughter at his expense.
Sir John was an intelligent man, though not of the highest rank of intellect. Windham used to say of him, that he was very near being a a clever man. He was fond of business, and, having no employment of his own, was in the habit of entering with warm interest into the affairs of others, which he instinctively considered as his own. His insatiable curiosity led him into several singular perplexities. But his over-ruling passion was that of visiting remarkable criminals, and obtaining their stories from their own lips. A murder had been committed
by one Patch upon a Mr. Bligh, of Deptford; the proofs against him were merely circumstantial, but they cohered so remarkably, that the inference of his guilt was almost irresistible. The case excited considerable attention, but many well-disposed persons remained in that state of doubt concerning it, which is intolerably painful, when the life of a human being is in jeopardy.
Amongst others, Sir John felt much anxiety on the subject, and thought that it could only be relieved by the culprit's confession. For this end, he importuned the poor wretch incessantly, but in vain. Patch persisted in asserting his innocence, till, wearied with Hippisley's applica. tions, he assured the Baronet, that he would reveal to him on the scaffold all that he knew of Mr. Bligh’s death. Flattered with being made the depository of this mysterious communication, Sir John mounted the drop with Patch, and was seen for some minutes in close conference with him. It happened, that a simple old woman from the country was in the crowd assembled at the execution. Her eyes, intent upon the awful scene, were fixed, by an accidental misdirection,
upon Sir John, whom she mistook for the person who was about to be executed; and, not waiting till the criminal was actually turned off, she went away with the impression; the peculiar face, and, above all, the peculiar nose (a most miraculous organ) of Hippisley, being indelibly impressed on her memory. Not many days after, the good lady met Sir John in Cheapside. The certainty that it was Patch, seized her so forcibly, that she screamed loudly out to the passing crowd, “It's Patch, it's Patch; I saw him hanged; Christ deliver me !" and then fainted. When this incident was first related at the Beef-Steaks, a mock inquest was set on foot, to decide whether Sir John was Patch or not, and unanimously decided in the affirmative.
Ferguson of Aberdeen has been already mentioned. He was a singular character, and endued with a peculiar species of dry humour. In the House of Commons he was noted for a faculty, somewhat akin to that of ventriloquism. If a prosing speaker got on his legs about the expected hour of division, and the ordinary means, such as coughing, yawning, banging the green door, proved ineffectual, Ferguson retired to a side gallery, squatted himself on a side bench, so as to be out of the speaker's eye, and sent forth such unearthly sounds, that, while they completely silenced the bore, no one could divine whence they proceeded. Of this Ferguson, they used to tell a characteristic anecdote.—During a debate in the beginning of the French war, he had retired to dine at Bellamy's, with two or three other members. As they were sitting over their wine, a messenger announced that Mr. Pitt was up. Instantly every one hurried down stairs to hear him. Ferguson, unwilling to quit his bottle, pressed the party to stay. Pitt is up," was the answer. ** That's nothing to me," said Ferguson. Let us have some more wine; for I am sure that it is the very thing that Pitt himself would do, if he were here, and they were to tell him that I was speaking."
The memory of this agreeable evening, so much out of the circle of common conviviality, sank deep within me. Ever and anon it visited me, amid the prosaic, dull festivities, we are
doomed to undergo in the common routine of life—those stale, vulgar communions, in which we herd rather than associate—where the mirth is without images, the jest without fancy, and the wine inebriates rather than gladdens. In the year 1812, however, I was honoured with the rare and enviable distinction of becoming a member of the Sublime Society. It was then domiciled, for a short time, at the Bedford, under the Piazza, the beautiful apartments at Arnold's theatre, where it now holds its meetings, not being quite finished. During this interval, I remarked some change of faces, but the heart, the spirit of the Club, is unchanged and the same.
I was, of course, not unmindful of the ordeal I had to undergo; but one thing comforted and re-assured me.-Two or three had found their 'way there, who were far from being prodigies ; one, in particular, put me quite at my ease. I said to myself, under this fellow's gabardine will I crawl when the storm hisses around me. When we are diffident of ourselves, how delightful it is to find somebody whom, in the most benighted state of our faculties, we are