« AnteriorContinuar »
CLUBS OF LONDON.
THERE is not a more pleasing episode in the monotonous tale of fashionable life, than a good club; nor is it national bigotry to maintain that it is exclusively an English association. The word is untranslateably English. In spite of the long standing calumny, that our habits are uncommunicative, an Englishman's club is one of the types of his moral constitution, which is essentially gregarious. It is not easy to describe all that is included in so complex an idea.
Once fetter it with the chains of a definition ;circumscribe its comforts, its enjoyments, its warm communion of heart, within the limits of any precise term,-and it is no longer a club.
Yet how grossly has this word been abused! Jacobins, Feuillans, Whigs, and Pittites have successively usurped it; as if leagues and confederations to keep alive political passions, or to propagate political sympathies, deserved a name, which, but for a gross depravation of language, would have been held sacred to the gentler intercourse, and undisturbed fellowship it originally designated!
A specific purpose pursued in confederation will not make a club; otherwise the Society for the Suppression of Vice, and the Holy Alliance, would be clubs. But in its genuine, unperverted meaning, how much is included in the phrase! what kind-hearted feelings, what a cluster of cheerful sensations and of innocent delights, lie embedded in that homely monosyllable!
We do not, by any means, claim the honours of this venerable title for several modern sub
scription-houses, which, by a colloquial usurpation are called Clubs. They are merely substitutes for the coffee-houses, which they have superseded. It was not the love of pleasant companionship that gave them birth; but a thrifty speculation, that purveys at the cheapest rate for sensual satisfaction, and is intent on nothing more than getting, with Harpagon, bonne chère avec peu d'argent. The social elements of the club-room go for nothing in such a calculation. Negative qualities, merely, are the tests of admission.
Not to be wholly exceptionable; how different is this from being agreeable? Το belong to a respectable class;-how tame is this to forming a class by one's self!In short, the club-feeling does not subsist amongst the selfish and worldly beings of these places. Brought together to-day by no community of sentiment or of enjoyment, they may be dispersed to-morrow without the rupture of a single tie. No one by quitting such an association leaves a place that is felt to be void. Whether he leave it to traverse distant
countries, or descend into the cold grave, he only makes a vacancy that is instantly filled up. This is not fellowship but association; or rather a fortuitous concurrence of human atoms, cemented by no part either of the heart or the understanding.
How remote is all this from a club properly so called! There, mutual esteem, mutual habitude, mutual kindness, first directed the choice, and afterwards strengthened the union. There we find a sort of defensive alliance of all against the ills and perturbations by which each is assailed. It is the mart to which every one comes attired in his holiday feelings, and beaming with his sunshine looks; and where the kindliest commerce of friendship and good-will and gladness is carried on. Its fundamental charter is an unassuming, unenvious equality. There the first pronoun personal is obliged to keep a decent subordination. No self-important coxcomb can dictate as he pleases; no East India Colonel prose by the hour; no huckster in common gossip, ply his dirty traffic.
Yet the harmless, the not unpleasing vani
ties, budding out evermore from our self-love,the trunk from which half of our qualities germinate,-good, bad, or indifferent,―these, when they assume a placid form, and trespass not against the self-love of others, as they cannot be suppressed, so they ought not to be interdicted for they are a part of the human being, and go a great way to make him an individual. To sever them from him, would be a harsh mutilation.
He must be a sour, austere, or, in one word, an unclublike creature, who would grudge a short hearing to the narratives that confer upon us a few moments of dignity, as we recount them; the innocent chronicles of our younger, or of our sunnier, hours, which we live over again almost in their first freshness whilst we are telling them! How cruel to cut off from us that second life, brief and momentary as it is! to exact an arithmetical precision on such an occasion; to lie on the watch, crouching for the slip of a date, then to pounce upon us, and break the whole texture to the last thread, in the wanton exercise of a mere matter-of-fact despotism!