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Although I have since enjoyed much polished society, and it has been my good fortune, among brilliant men of wit and letters-yet, I have never Enown such evenings as those on which I now look back, passed with a few individuals, in an obscure coffee-room, in an obscure part of London. Perhaps it was that a little learning found where it is scarcely expected, is a feast of more relish, than a banquet of it, to which one is invited; its homeliness gave the zest; at all events, there was not that nominal pleasure and real trouble, which the obligations and customs of society generally give to it. How often has the inclemency of the weather,--that barrier to social enjoyments--the whistling storm, been to our little crew, the boatswain's pipe that called all hands to trim the fire, and with debates and tales, show it defiance, quaffing tea and coffe, until “ frequent cups prokonged the rich repast.” Often tracking my way home at night, through snow, preserving the last glowing heat of the fire on my clothes, and some amusing anecdote in my head, I have been reminded of my musings, by walking beyond my lodgings, and having to retrace my steps.
The men I used to meet there, I believe are all now dead, and though I may boast of troops of friends, whose talents and acquirements far exceeded theirs, and for whom I entertain more affection, such is the waywardness of the human heart, as my eye reverts, it fills almost with tears, and I dwell on the past, as an irreparabte loss.
Economy induced me to frequent the place where I casually met the subject of this paper, my means were then limited, and to save fire and candle light during the long winter evenings, I took a book with me to fill up the time. I was a sober sort of man, and there I met others like myself, except one little old gentleman, who took brandy in his tea, and always slept after it; he was advanced in life, and occupied a corner that was priviieged, and considered as his own; he generally snuffed the candle with his fingers before he settled himself to rest; and always obtained from the waiter, or some one near him a pinch of snuff when he awoke. If it was not to be procured, he soon after left the room. The evening papers generally kept the company in silence, or caused a debate, particularly if a lively, loquacious, bustling, short thick-set gentleman happened to be there, who was an Etonian, a graduate of * College, Cambridge, and, consequently, school-fellow, and intimate with all the leading men in power. Politics were his bane, and often ours, for it prevented his rising in the world, and our conversing on any other subject. Political economy was a favourite theme, that shallow puddle in philosophy, where men have sufficieat water to drown themselves, but never enough to swim in. He was then in opposition, a Foxite, and continually writing letters in the shape of pamphlets to ministers, the secretary of state or his Majesty, which he often distributed in the room, and bade us read at our leisure. . This gentleman and the little man in the corner, who always talked of Lord North's administration, and what he knew of the American War, were continually engaged with men and measures, corruption and influence. The little man with his pinch of snuff in his fingers, the other hand disengaged for the purpose of demonstrating and invigorating his logic, whose fluency was then an overpowering argument, compelled admissions from his antagonist, and drove arguments out of his head, who forgot what he had said, and what he was going to say. It was under favour of one of these
uproars after the news-paper had been dispatched, there glided into the room a gentleman and lady, both young. They remained long unobserved at the other end of it, in a retired box; had taken their tea, and were about to leave the room, when the gentleman was recognized and saluted - The unusual sight of a Lady attracted notice. When gone-what new scheme is this? said the Cantab to a young man who had spoken to the gentleman before he left the room. They are going to the play, this is the third night of his interlude being played—What ? is he an author too? Yes and a successful one-He has promised us all orders, but his female friend is prouder of his talents than he seems himself—She is very handsome--a fine countenance—yes, both intelligent and accomplished, far beyond her situation in life. But he is so wild, said the little gentleman, having finished his snuff in the late argument; he was now more asleep than awake. I'll see the interlude, said the Cantab, before I get the order, I like that young man, and went out-deep sleep came upon the little man in the corner, and I fell into conversation with the young author's friend. I had heard these two frequently engaged in conversation, but never before ventured to join either of them; I had exchanged ordinary civilities and no more. Struck by their low murmuring conversations, rising frequently to the animated sounds of controversy, until I became a judge from the tones of their voice of the subject of them--the lively treble in which they told their love affairs, the graver tones on money matters, the deep diapason tones of metaphysics, and still more unaccountable and mysterious changes of the voice, which I learnt soon after were belonging to the occult sciences.
Before this evening I had considered this young man morose and repulsive, or one of those difficult men we meet in society, who say little and pass for knowing much-diagrams that puzzle us without inducing us to demonstrate them, not much observed or relished. However I thought I bad an opportunity and I'd try him. It was no pleasant encounter, for 1 am much influenced by the turn of a face, from which I contract prejudices, and his hepatic complexion, protruding cheek bone, silent deep set eye, with scattered eye brows, scarcely won memBut he had a falling under lip, that I have known sometimes to indicate a talker. He gave some account of the author who interested me much more, or rather painler, as he to be in the sequel of his Story.
His father was an Irish gentleman, ruined by getting a prize in the lottery, he used to say that God was very good to him, and he, in return, would be very good to God. He therefore applied himself to eating and drinking, got into luxurious habits, gout and other disorders, the fruits of dissipation; neglected his business, contracted an immortal law-suit, and died a beggar. His son, then young, was tolerably educated, but excelled in drawing, a circumstance to which he was indebted afterwards for his livelihood. About three years ago, he found a picture in a garret, which in his sanguine opinion, was a valuable 'Titian, and brought it to this country to make his fortune, and enable him to prosecute his studies. About twelve months ago, he sold it much under its value to some picture dealer, and he has been enjoying himself on the price of it, I fear it has had no better effect on him, than the prize in the lottery had on his father.
proved He is the most melancholy and the most lifeless man, unaccountably freakish, sober, and extravagant, full of contradictions, sensible and absurd, but always impelled by his feeling and imagination. His money was. nearly exhausted some time ago, by lending to hangers on, and partly by curious inventions, when he suddenly took a new
turn-He applied as a scene painter, and got the situation at one of the Theatres, his occupation gave him free access to the house, and the amusement working on his predisposition to scribble, (his was not quite“ an unlettered muse," he formed a little story of
, the Blacksmith of Antwerp, into an interlude, it was accepted and will be in all probability frequently played, but with so little profit to himself, that he will be scarcely encouraged to make another attempt. It has only served to give him some distinction among his employers, and I fear among the ladies—what, you do not imagine that lady who was here with him an actress ?- Indeed I do, for I saw her perform the principal part in his piece—a ruinous connexion then I fear it is for him,-yes, for it has already made him so idle and so poor, and I never like to see a young man growing smart in his appearance, and getting in debt, particularly when it used to be the reverse; still be has a high sense of honour.
I had been sitting at the end of the room where this pair had secluded themselves, and as my powers of abstraction are always overcome by music and women, my attention was unavoidably drawn towards them. There is a tope of voice, like Cordilia's, “ ever low, gentle, and soft," with somewhat of imploring in it, that fascinates the ear, an excellent quality in women,” I always envy the man to whom it is addressed. This lady had in addition to her beauty, this quality. She had to entreat for something, and her friend drew out these sweet tones by a playful obstinacy as he said smiling, to teach her both patience and perseverance, two excellent virtues, rarely acquired without sacrifices, and which young gentlemen only undertake to teach. I heard no more, they were preparing to go, (I could perceive before I was told,) to the Theatre, for it is always a brisk moment of expectation to a female ; for it recals to them some past enjoyment, it is generally the representation of their favourite passion; but on this occasion, it was the actress about to display the genuine operation of that passion on her own feelings—to increase the reputation of her real lover-to give all the charms of truth to fiction, and win the sweet praise that made her lover doubly dear.
It was an extraordinary occasion which brought this lady to the coffeehouse, she never again made her appearance there.
Beattie has, in his Minstrel, traced the interesting progress of genius, led from the admiration of the works of nature, to that of intellectual beauty and truth, advancing in knowledge and virtue. This ia poetry, or in a better state is natural, easy and possible; but the reverse too frequently falls under our observation :--the degradation of genius, as it sinks through each
opprobrious stage, from enthusiasm to remorse, that false ambition, vice or weakness, expose him to, when his endowments are ill directed.
lo a profession like that of painting, the life of an artist is one of observation, his contemplative existence is the history rather of thought than of action, yet, he must unite with it the lahorious patience of the mechanic.
The vagrant indulgence of a volatile temper, must carry off with it the very necessary power of application and thinking, and the crowd that enter the art with slight education, limited means, unsettled habits, no imagination, and less enthusiasm, have their love of action and talents turned into the bustling love of gain, or some fatal flow in their characters gives way under the pressure of benefits, that a little sagacity or ordinary prudence might have secured.
Mr. Morris was eager in whatever pursuit he adopted for a time, and much influenced by his feelings, which were early indulged amidst the wild scenery of his country. His associates, and reading, contributed to give him a romantic turn. While his countenance frequently betrayed a melancholy character, he has declared the world too tame for him, and desired to feel the rapid motion attributed to it by philosophers. He has often declared the happiest moments of his life, were those passed alone, but particularly on the rocky coast, where his father used to reside; there, drenched with the spray, he used to visit the lighthouse, delight in the tremulous motion given to it by the storm, as if the
thunders imparted a nervous sensation, as it is said to do to animals; · or leaving this place, to find his uncertain path over rocks and furze and
heath, an “ uncouth way" at night, when heaven lent its lightnings to direct him home, and the tumultuous storm bid him hasten on.
But it was not the sublimity of the storm alone, that led him to the wild promontory, nor the splendour of the setting sun, nor the serene aspect of the rising moon, peeping over the distant head-land, rendering invisible to the observant mariner, the pale light of the revolving lamp: no, “'twas something more exquisite stil}." The officer at the Martello tower, which stood near the light-house, had a lovely daughter. She was Morris's first love, and until he left the country, she was his entire love, but his father's good or ill fortune drew him from his farming to the city, and the lady, unequal to the severity of winters in so exposed a situation, declined in her health, and died, I possess a poem, addressed to her about this time, in the sequel of this story, the reader will, perhaps, learn how it was procured, and judge of his susceptibility at that period.
Like others, it was in the city he first babbled of green fields, before he had intercourse with the genius of the garret. It was his solitary walks amidst rocks, sequestered dingles, and pastoral glens, taught him where he passed the early and best period of his life, but it passed too swiftly away. He has since said he acquired more knowledge with a little reading--for he could even then reflect and observe--than years of experie ence with greater application could bestow.
The accidents in life, which put men in posseșsion of advantages, also try them, as they operate either on good sense or passion, and their effect may be known long before the result has shown it more clearly. Passion wastes and dissipates whatever it obtajas, while more cool, but no less ardent sense, amasses power, and hoards every advantage, profits by every acquisition, until it accumulates a beneficial stock, on which it can draw; but I retard my story by anticipating its moral.