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- LETTER IX.
CAPTAIN Augustus Thackeray did not escape from some more of those casualties into which novices in dinner-giving are apt to initiate their guests. Allured by the syren smiles of a dark-green wine-glass at his elbow, betokening hock in front, he ventured to tilt part of the contents of a slim-throated bottle into his glass. The mower down of multitudes had no sooner steered the beverage into his mouth, between the Scylla and Charybdis of his two mustachios, than he suddenly halted in his swallow, ejaculated "Geud Gad!" (his customary exclamation when any thing much amazed him,) and delivered the green deceiver, with its nauseous contents, to the hot and hurried Jane, who happened, at that moment, to be whisking past his chair. The cod-fish which Mrs. Culpepper had cruelly mangled, in quest of its liver, now disappeared, and was succeeded by that respectable bird, whose cackling saved the Roman capitol. Had Cæsar, at the head of his legions, followed in its rear, Captain Thackeray would never have looked half so aghast. He guessed, with fearful accuracy, how well Mrs. Culpepper could carve ; and foreboding certain splashings, of which he willed to be the giver rather than the receiver, he made a military movement, with his left hand, to get possession of the carving-knife and fork. The lady, however, outflanked him. In vain did he entreat that he might be allowed the honour of saving her that trouble: the lady was inexorable. "The Captain was very polite: indeed, all the gentlemen of the army were very polite. Captain Buckram, of the Loyal London Volunteers, was politeness itself: and Major Indigo, of the Cripplegate Sharpshooters, was the very pink of politeness. They always asked her to let them carve, and she always refused: it was a thing she never did, (and what's more, she never would)-let any body carve but herself. Her uncle, the Serjeant, was a capital carver-nobody better; but she never would let him she once contested the point with him so long, that the gravy beef looked like a patty-pan of potted: No! it was a thing she never did, and what's more, she never would: she particularly piqued herself upon her carving!" The conflagrator of female bosoms was not wont to be so rebuffed; but the impenetrable Mrs. Culpepper spiked all his artillery. He therefore, like a prudent warrior, determined to "bear a wary eye" upon the enemy's motions. The first four slices, from the breast, passed off without much danger, and Mrs. Culpepper's embroidered neighbour began to hope that the limbs would not be called for. Alas!" what are the hopes of man!"-" Give me a leg," ejaculated Mr. Culpepper. "Now for the tug of war," muttered the Captain to himself." I guess that there will soon be a slop-seller at both ends of the table." The prophecy was destined to be verified. The common race of men who haunt dinner-tables, dressed in blue or black, are not over-indifferent to the consequences of sitting in the purlieus of a goose. What then must be the feelings of a wretch habited like Capt. Thackeray? If Necessity is the mother of Invention, Danger is the school-mistress who sets her to work. The dilemma did not admit of delay. Already had our hostess dived into the receptacle of sage and onions: already had she made an incision near the os femoris: and already was she grasping the extremity of the bird's
leg, with a firm, though greasy, left hand; when the Router of Armies drew hastily from his sabre-tash the crimson silk pocket handkerchief, of which honourable mention was made in my last Epistle, and tying two of its corners behind his neck, caused it to hang like an ægis, to guard his bosom from the random shot of Mrs. Culpepper's knife and fork. "What is he about?" whispered Culpepper to his son: "If he means to take my hint about shaving, I think he might wait till dinner is over.' The deed, however, soon proved the wisdom of its perpetrator. The fair carver, by dint of hacking and twisting, had nearly severed the leg from the body: and, essaying all her remaining strength, now accomplished the feat, but with such an accelerated momentum, that leg, fist, and fork descended, like lightning, into the dish. The sage, onions, and gravy, thus assaulted, fled for their lives, and fastened themselves, in many a stray spatter, upon all who happened to be near them. "La! Mamma! how excessively awkward!" cried Miss Clara, hastily raising the flap of the tablecloth (for napkins there were none), to dislodge a trifle of sage and onion from her eyelid. The rapidity of this action overset the contents of a salt-seller into a dish of lemon cream. "Say nothing about it," whispered her prudent father. Every body at table was more or less wounded by the explosion, which, but for his crimson silk cuirass, would have been as fatal to the Captain as the bursting of the gasometer in Wellingtonstreet, Blackfriars, was to the South London Gas Company. "It is fortunate that I adopted this expedient," cried the soldier; "otherwise Captain Thackeray would have been Captain Talbot, alias "the spotted dog." "Well, Sir, you may take off your handkerchief now," said the half-vexed hostess. "Excuse me, Madam," answered he of the crimson breast-plate: "both the enemy's wings, and one of his legs, are still in the field." "My dear," said Culpepper to his wife, "you began with piquing yourself upon your carving: and you have ended with piquing other people. Come, I call that not so bad. I speak my mind, Captain Thwack-away"-" Thackeray, Sir, is my name❞—" Well then, Thackeray, if you like it better: I speak my mind: I'm not ashamed of myself: my name is Culpepper; I'm a slop-seller, and I live in Savage-gardens." "That's pretty plain," muttered the Captain. 'It's odd enough," resumed the old gentleman, "that my wife never could lop off the limb like other people. It happens regularly once a year. Her uncle, the Serjeant, of whom you observe she is always talking, dines with us once a year-on Michaelmas-day: we always have a goose he always sits where you do (I mean the Serjeant, not the goose): my wife always carves, and he always gets splashed; but as he is a Serjeant, and therefore dresses in black, it does not so much matter." "A Serjeant in black !" exclaimed the Knight of the ponderous sword: "Geud Gad! Pray, of what regiment?" "The Devil's own," roared Culpepper; "he's a Serjeant at Law." This sally forced a slight laugh from the soldier; but he forthwith recollected himself, and resumed his accustomed air of decorous insipidity. No farther calamity occurred, until, in an evil moment, Captain Thackeray required to be helped to some lemon-cream. The upset salt had by this time insinuated itself into the interior of that compound, so that it presented a smooth, smiling, yet treacherous surface, like the ocean, of which Gay's deploring Damsel thus complains:
"No eyes those rocks discover
The Captain had hitherto eaten with considerable caution. It would have been a breach of manners had he lifted to his eye the glass which hung at his bosom. But, as he was not really short-sighted, a single glance of his naked optics was sufficient to inform him that the veal olives, the patties, and the curry, were best admired at a distance. But the lemon-cream threw him off his guard. He expressed himself decidedly partial to lemon-cream. "Lemon-cream, madam," said he, turning to the Lady President, "is a standing dish at the United Service: so it is at Count Stuffenough's, the Ambassador from Hungary: so it is at Lady Sarah Surfeit's; I eat it there twice a week. I wonder the Duke of Doublecourse never has it: I frankly told him, last Wednesday, that I would not dine with him again if he had it not. Miss Culpepper, pray help me bountifully, and then I shall not incur the malediction poured by Brummel upon the heads of those who are helped twice." Clara cast a conscious look at her father, who winked his left eye, in token of secresy and compliance. Thus urged, the unhappy girl deposited about one eighth of the contents of the dish upon the Captain's plate, which, thus freighted, was re-delivered by Jane over the wrong shoulder of the gorgeous gourmand. A table-spoon, large enough for the jaws of Grimaldi, lay before him; with this he tilted a tolerable lump of the lemon-cream into his mouth; when, lo! in lieu of that soft, melting, and lemon-shaded sweetness, which his fond imagination had anticipated, all the mines of Poland seemed to descend upon his palate. Regurgitation was impracticable. The false solid had, like a quicksand, become liquid, and he was forced to gulp it down "with what appetite he might." His throat swelled, during the process, like that of the sword-digesting juggler; and it was full three quarters of a minute before the sacker of cities had regained breath sufficient to ejaculate " Geud Gad!" At this eventful moment, Mr. Culpepper's foot-boy rushed into the room with a letter, addressed to his Young Master. The youth opened it, and exclaimed with delight, "Five Tickets for Tom and Jerry! Five Tickets for Tom and Jerry!" "What night?" inquired Clara." To-morrow," answered George.— "It is a rule with me," said the father, "to go any where, provided I get in for nothing. Your mother, Clara, and yourself, George, will make four; and, Captain, I hope you'll make the fifth."" With great pleasure," answered the latter, who had just swallowed a whole tumbler of water, "provided there is no lemon-cream in the bills." The party was forthwith arranged; and I conclude with re-echoing the wish of Gilpin's Bard,
May I be there to see!"
MR. P.'S VISIT TO LONDON.
To the Editor of the New Monthly Magazine.
MR. EDITOR-For thirty years I manfully resisted the temptations of London, though I had lived there from my birth to the latest period of my bachelorship. They say, a wife makes a strange alteration in a man; and so it was with me. After my wedding-day I led a new life, and neither balls, masquerades, circulating libraries, theatres, nor even our weekly club, were attractions for me ;-all these things, said I, like Acres' " damns," (with my own to boot,) "have had their day." While in Pembrokeshire, for I retired to that county, I never desired to visit the Metropolis, except for the sake of its exhibitions of painting and sculpture, and to witness the progress of the arts, which, the magazines and newspapers constantly affirmed, were hastening to perfection so fast, that in a year or two more, (such was their yearly prophecy,) there would be an end to all criticism on the subject. I knew the rogues too well to confide in their sublimated hopes; yet it was with difficulty I conquered my yearning after the glorious works they described, and sorely regretted (fool that I was!) I could not pay the expense of a trip to town and my quarter's rent at the same time. Still my love of the country, my wife, and my books, together with the. straitness of my income, compelling me to live in a cheap part of the kingdom, and remain quietly at home, kept me tolerably contented, Perhaps you are thinking of an old common-place against me-that there is no virtue in yielding to necessity.-Well, be it so. However, my two sons being now out in the world, my daughter having lately picked up a thriving husband, and the expenses of housekeeping being so much reduced, while my income still continued the same, I began to suspect it was indolence, or old age, or avarice, and not prudence, that withheld me from putting my long-wished-for journey into execution. The fact is, I believe I did ponder too deeply on stagecoach fares, the extravagance of inns, and the necessity of sporting a new coat on the occasion. But, while in this wavering mood, a neighbour lent me an Essay on the Elgin Marbles, and there appeared to be such unanimity of opinion, not only as to their intrinsic excellence, but as to their being models for our Artists, and the sure and certain means of correcting and refining our national taste, that I hesitated not a moment to pay them a visit, and witness the grand effect they had on my countrymen.
Accordingly, a letter to my cousin in Queen Square was immediately written, apprising him of my intention; and, before the ink was dry, I called in my wife, and read it to her with that sort of resolute frown which a man puts on when he expects his lordly will and pleasure to be combated by a thousand objections and entreaties. Then, (for even in the happy connubial state a little manoeuvring is indispensable, for the sake of peace and quietness,) before she had time to utter a word, I took her gently by the hand, suddenly changing my frown into a smile, and said-" Why my dear, I shall be back again in five days. Besides, it will not cost much. John Davis will take me in his cart as far as Cardiff,—a trifle carries me to Bristol,-and an outside place on the coach cannot ruin us." To my surprise, she was delighted at the idea, promising herself, as I quickly discovered, argu
VOL. IV. NO. XVII.
ment for a twelvemonth on London wonders and London novelties, first to be carried on between ourselves, and afterwards retailed among her neighbours, severally and collectively, " a happiness that often woman hits on." I began to rub my beard, for a suspicion darted across my mind, that she looked forward, as a matter of course, to taking the jaunt with me. With great prudence, therefore, I broached the subject beforehand, that I might possess the right of arguing it down by degrees, and at last give my teto, if necessary, with a better grace. "Ah, my dear old girl," said I, "can't you contrive to bear me company? I have been thinking, all this time, if you could not somehow or another manage it. What say you?" She instantly put on a serious face, and deliberated much too long for my entire satisfaction; but however at last she told me, with a profusion of thanks for such kindness from the best of husbands, (and she never had any reason to complain,) that she really did not know how it was possible to leave the house by itself; and then again the cow had just calved,-and it was the busiest season of the year with her poultry,-and, moreover, she doubted if the old Poland hen would be set by any one but herself. So it was settled I should go to town "without incumbrance," as the advertisements have it, and yesterday forenoon I arrived at the Saracen's Head.
Do not imagine I am come here as a professed connoisseur in painting and sculpture. I merely like to look at them because they give me pleasure; and even that pleasure, for the most part, arises from a consideration of their effect on society. Of what importance would it be, that certain excellent works adorn the galleries of the rich, if their influence never extended beyond the walls? But this is not the case: and they are, or ought to be, multiplied, in engravings and casts, over the whole country. This is a natural consequence wherever the fine arts may be said to flourish:-I am afraid they are on the decline among us. Had the Elgin Marbles been inscribed, after the manner of the golden apple, " dentur digniori," they could never have reached London, at least according to the judgment of Paris. I have been here only a few hours, yet I have seen enough to prove our unworthiness. In coming to this conclusion, I do not inquire into the number of our artists, nor how many pictures they paint, nor what sums of money are given for them: I simply look for an elegance, a purity of taste, among the better classes of the inhabitants; and if I find them deficient in these, nothing can persuade me they have a true feeling for the art, or that any thing beyond portrait-painting is really encouraged. When we call to mind the large and flowing wigs of our grandfathers, intended to look like the flaxen curls of Arcadian swains-the buttons on their coats embroidered with lambkins-their walking-sticks tipped with a crook-and their pastoral compliments to our grandmothers, in hooppetticoats, with their hair plastered up two feet above the head, surmounted by a shepherdess' cap; and that these fantastical ladies and gentlemen addressed each other by the names of Corydon and Phyllis, Philander and Amaryllis,—I say when we recollect that such was the fashion of the day, we cease to wonder at the hard struggle of the fine arts against shell-work, filigree, samplers, and Chelsea china. Hogarth, in his “ Marriage à la mode," places, as ornaments on a nobleman's chimney-piece, a hideous collection of disproportionate and discordant prodigies; and the satire sufficiently marks the character of