Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

merry thoughtless fort of people, who have always been opinionated of their own wit; they have turned themselves mostly to poetry. This is the most numerous branch of our family, and the poorest. The Quarterstaffs are most of them prize-fighters or deer-stealers : there have been so


of them hanged lately, that there are very few of that branch of our family left. The Whitestaffs are all courtiers, and have had very considerable places. There have been some of them of that strength and dexterity, that five hundred of the ableft men in the kingdom have often tugged in vain to pull a staff out of their hands. The Falstaffs are strangely given to

drinking: there are abundance of them in and about London. And one thing is very remarkable of this branch, and that is, there are just as many women as men in it. There was a wicked stick of wood of this name in Harry IV.'s time, one Sir John Falstaff. As for Tipstaff, the youngest son, he was an honest fellow; but his fons, and his sons' fons, have all of them been the veriest rogues living. It is this unlucky branch has stocked the nation with that swarm of lawyers, attorneys, serjeants, and bailiffs, with which the nation is overrun. Tipstaff, being a seventh son, used to cure the king's evil; but his rascally descendants are so far from having that healing quality, that, by a touch upon the shoulder, they give a man such an ill habit of body, that he can never come abroad afterwards. This is all I know of the line of Jacobstaff: his younger brother Ifaacstaff, as I told you before, had five sons, and was married twice ; his first wife was a Staff (for they did not stand upon false heraldry in those days), by whom he had one son, who in process of time being a schoolmaster, and well read in the Greek, called himself Distaff, or Twicestaff. He was not very rich, so he put his children out to trades; and the Distaffs have ever since been employed in the woollen and linen manufactures, except myself, who am a genealogist. Pikestaff, the eldest son by the second venter, was a man of business, a downright plodding fellow, and withal so plain, that he became a proverb. Most of this family are at present in the army. Raggedstaff was an unlucky boy, and used to tear his clothes

a getting birds' nests, and was always playing with a tame bear his father kept. Mopstaff fell in love with one of his father's maids, and used to help her to clean the house. Broomstaff was a chimney-sweeper. The Mopstaffs and Broomstaffs are naturally as civil people as ever went out of doors; but alas ! if they once get into ill hands, they knock down all before them. Pilgrimitaff run away from his friends, and went a strolling about the country: and Pipeftaff was a wine-cooper. These two were the unlawful issue of Longstaff.

“N.B. — The Canes, the Clubs, the Cudgels, the Wands, the Devil upon two Sticks, and one Bread, that goes by the name of Staff of Life, are none of our relations. I am,

“Dear cousin,
Your humble servant,

“ D. DISTAFF, “ From the Heralds' Office, May 1."

We have, in the genealogy of our house, the descriptions and pictures of our ancestors from the time of king Arthur, in whose days there was one of my own name, a knight of his round table, and known by the name of Sir Isaac Bickerstaff. He was low of stature, and of a very swarthy complexion, not unlike a Portuguese Jew. But he was more prudent than men of that height usually are, and would often communicate to his friends his design of lengthening and whitening his posterity. His eldest son Ralph, for that was his name, was for this reason married to a lady who had little else to recommend her but that she was very tall and very fair. The issue of this match, with the help of high shoes, made a tolerable figure in the next age, though the complexion of the family was obscure till the fourth generation from that marriage; from which time, till the reign of William the Conqueror, the females of our house were famous for their needlework and fine skins. In the male line, there happened an unlucky accident in the reign of Richard the Third; the eldest son of Philip, then chief of the family, being born with a hump-back and very high nose. This was the more astonishing, because none of his forefathers ever had such a blemish ; nor indeed

[ocr errors]

was there any in the neighbourhood of that make what made the nose the less excusable was the remarkable smallness of his eyes.

These several defects were mended by succeeding matches ; the eyes were opened in the next generation, and the hump fell in a century and a half : but the greatest difficulty was, how to reduce the nose; which I do not find was accomplished till about the middle of Henry the Seventh's reign, or rather the beginning of that of Henry the Eighth,

But while our ancestors were thus taken up in cultivating the eyes and nose, the face of the Bickerstaffs fell down insensibly into chin; which was not taken notice of (their thoughts being so much employed upon the more noble features) till it became almost too long to be remedied.

But length of time, and successive care in our alliances, have cured this also, and reduced our faces into that tolerable oval which we enjoy at present. I would not be tedious in this discourse, but cannot but observe, that our race suffered very much about three hundred years ago by the marriage of one of our heiresses with an eminent courtier, who gave us spindlefhanks and cramps in our bones, insomuch that we did not recover our health and legs till Sir Walter Bickerstaff married Maud the milk-maid, of whom the then Garter King at Arms (a facetious person) faid pleasantly enough, that she had spoiled our blood, but mended our constitutions.

After this account of the effect our prudent choice of matches has had upon our persons and features, I cannot but observe, that there are daily instances of as great changes made by marriage upon men's minds and humours. might wear any passion out of a family by culture, as skilful gardeners blot a colour out of a tulip that hurts its beauty. One might produce an affable temper out of a shrew, by grafting the mild upon the cholerick; or raise a jack-pudding from a prude, by inoculating mirth and melancholy. It is for want of care in the disposing of our children, with regard to our bodies and minds, that we go into a house and see such different complexions and humours in the same race and family. But to me it is as plain as a pike-staff, from what mixture it is, that this daughter silently lours, the other steals a kind look at you, a third is exactly well-behaved, a fourth a splenatick, and a fifth a coquet.

To convince men of the necessity of taking this method, let any one, even below the skill of an astrologer, behold the turn of faces he meets as soon as he passes Cheapside Conduit, and you see a deep attention and a certain unthinking sharpness in every countenance. They look attentive, but their thoughts are engaged on mean purposes. To me it is very apparent, when I see a citizen pass by, whether his head is upon woollen, silks, iron, sugar, indigo, or stocks. Now this trace of thought appears or lies hid in the race for two or three generations.

I know at this time a person of a vast estate, who is the immediate descendant of a fine gentleman, but the great grandson of a broker, in whom his ancestor is now revived. He is a very honest gentleman in his principles, but can't for his blood talk fairly: he is heartily sorry for it, but he cheats by constitution, and over-reaches by instinct.

Obadiah Greenhat says, he never comes into any company in England but he distinguishes the different nations of which we are composed. There is scarce such a living creature as a true Briton. We sit down indeed all friends, acquaintance, and neighbours; but, after two bottles, you see a Dane start up and swear, “The kingdom is his own.” A Saxon drinks up the whole quart, and swears, "He'll dispute that with him." A Norman tells them both, “He'll assert his liberty :” and a Welshman cries, “ They are all foreigners and intruders of yesterday,” and beats them out of the room. Such accidents happen frequently among neighbours' children, and cousingermans. For which reason I say, study your race, or the foil of your family will dwindle into cits or 'squires, or run up into wits or madmen.

[graphic][merged small]



Habeo senectuti magnam gratiam, quæ mihi fermonis aviditatem

auxit, potionis et cibi sustulit. Tull. DE SEN. I am much beholden to old age, which has increased my eagerness for conversation, in proportion as it has lefened my appetites of hunger and thirst.

FTER having applied my mind with more than ordinary attention to my studies, it is my usual custom to relax and unbend it in the conversation of such as are rather easy than shining companions.

This I find particularly necessary for me before I retire to rest, in order to draw my flumbers upon me by degrees, and fall asleep insensibly. This is the particular use I make of a set of heavy honest men, with whom I have passed many hours with much indolence, though not with great pleasure. Their conversation is a kind of preparative for sleep: it takes the mind down from its abstractions, leads it into the familiar traces of thought, and lulls it into that state of tranquillity which is the condition of a thinking man when he is but half awake. After this, my reader will not be surprised to hear the account which I am about to give of a club of my own contemporaries, among whom I pass two or three hours every evening. This I look upon as taking my first


before I go to bed. The truth of it is, I should think myself unjust

« AnteriorContinuar »