Imágenes de páginas

It is the universal complaint, that the occupation of the dramatic writer is gone; and, as we are loth to admit a decline of genius as a cause for any thing in the present day, we accuse the uniformity of modern manners, and the levelling influences of fashion, of making one man merely a counterpart to his neighbour, and of leaving the comic poet classes instead of individuals for his materials. Nothing, it is said, stands out sufficiently in relief. Human society being compared to a gallery of portraits, with one invariable family simper, and as much alike, as if they had all been painted by Kneller,—the humourists, once the staple commodity of the drama, are said to have become extinct. Yet, we will venture to say, that these personages are still to be found at a club truly English, and founded on genuine club-principles. For it is there that every one gives vent to feelings which he suppresses in the artificial intercourses of life. It is there that his qualities stand out undisguised and unrestrained; that affectation and false pretence are immediately detected, and

the whole man brought forward in his just and unborrowed proportions.

In that club, the beau-ideal of clubs, "the club" par-excellence, (and can we mean any other than that of the Spectator?) how admirably, and by what exact and harmonious clock-work, do the humours and eccentricities of each member strike at their appointed seasons! How exquisitely modified, how tempered into a bland assimilation, is each man's especial vanity,—if that be the proper term for any thing so unoffending! Whatever the thing may be, how kindly does it tolerate the little outbreakings of it in others! There is no surly cognizance taken of the little amplifications with which our natural good-will to our own stories occasionally embellishes them; no cold, icy sneer at those half-fictions, which fancy, without our consent, sometimes entangles in the frail web of our reminiscence. The amiable and benignant Sir Roger, with his bundle of goodnatured whims and prejudices, diffuses himself over the freaks of his youth, and listens in his

turn, with placid respect,-spite of their difference in politics,-to the mercantile sententiousness of Sir Andrew Freeport, the modest narrations of Captain Sentry, and the selfcomplacent gallantries of that battered beau, Will Honeycombe.

The age of such clubs is, alas! gone by; but Addison's, will always remain the ideal model of a perfect club, though only a shadowing froth of his fancy. In those days, however, there were real clubs, equal in every respect to that ingenious portraiture, but to which nothing now offers a parallel.

There was the Kit-Kat, where heroes and patriots, the pride and glory of the realm, soothed their grave and dignified cares, in easy, tranquil communion, within the "warm precincts" of a tavern-parlour. When that club lost its snugness, as it did when it became a mere political association, it soon expired.-Then flourished also the Scriblerus-club, where Swift, Harley, Arbuthnot, Pope, Gay, and Craggs the younger, mingled in nightly converse.

Nearer to our own days, was the club ori


ginally held at the Essex-head, where the genius of Samuel Johnson, Burke, Reynolds, Goldsmith, Windham, and Fox, threw out its milder, -its evening radiance, over their easy and unrestrained communications of heart and intellect. -Noctes, cænæque Deorum!. The conversation in this delightful society was always unforced and natural, and ran smoothly and gently along, touching upon every topic that occurred, like Shakspeare's current, giving a kiss to every stone it overtaketh in its pilgrimage." Even Johnson's growl was softened into something that resembled amenity; and if you examine closely the composition of that club, you will see the felicity of its contexture; and how cunningly its tints were disposed and varied through their several shades and gradations, from the rich and gorgeous glow of such minds as Burke's, to the chastised wit and unambitious pleasantry of Topham Beauclerck, the lettered ease and good sense of Bennet Langton, and then to the excellent individuals, who, though of humbler pretensions, were not stocks or stones, but of

shrewd, sterling, understandings; and whose remarks were always listened to with respect and attention. It has been asserted that there was seldom any set discussion amongst them; for, the easy copiousness and discursive range of Burke's conversation brought together so many hints and allusions, as to create a perpetual variety and alternation of discourse. This, indeed, was Burke's theory of conversation, "the perfection of which," he once remarked, "was, not to play a regular sonata, but, like the Æolian harp, to await the inspiration of the 'passing breeze.""

We know not exactly whence it arises.-We meet in every circle, in every drawing-room, in every coffee-house, at every table, more wellinformed persons than ever; but every body has remarked, that professed literary men are not pleasant or instructive companions when they meet together. A little sprinkling of them infuses an agreeable variety in a party, but, like some families, they should never visit in a groupe.-Does this well-founded reproach arise from that professional backwardness which

« AnteriorContinuar »