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+. Nothing but fairy ingenuity could accomplish this. He would indeed be wrapt up in himself. We should think he would be “as deaf as a beadle” to all orders
: We are in possession of much more “stuff,” as the author terms it; with which, at some future time (if the medicine be liked) we may again dose our readers.
A COMPLAINT OF THE DECAY OF BEGGARS IN THE METROPOLIS.
THE all-sweeping besom of societarian reformation—your only modern Alcides’ club to rid the time of its abuses—is uplift with many-handed sway to extirpate the last fluttering tatters of the bugbear MENDIcity from the metropolis. Scrips, wallets, bags—staves, dogs, and crutches— the whole mendicant fratermity with, all their baggage are fast posting out of the purlieus of this eleventh persecution. From the crowded crossing, from corners of streets and turnings of allies, the parting Genius of Beggary is “with sighing sent.” I do not approve of this wholesale going to work, this impertinent crusado, or bellum ad exterminationem, proclaimed against a species. Much ood might be sucked from these eggars. They were the oldest and the honourablest form of pauperism. Their appeals were to our common nature; less revolting to an ingenuous mind than to be a supplicant to the particular humours or caprice of any fellow-creature, or set of fellow-creatures, parochial or societarian. Theirs were the only rates uninvidious in the levy, ungrudged in the assessment. There was a dignity springing from the very depth of their desolation; as to be naked is to be so much nearer to the being a man, than to go in livery. The greatest spirits have felt this in their reverses; and when Dionysius from king turned schoolmaster, do we feel anything towards him but contempt? Could Vandyke have made a picture of him, swaying a ferula for a sceptre, which would have af. fected our minds with the same heroic , pity, the same compassionate admiration, with which we regard his Belisarius begging for an obolum? Would the moral have been more graceful, more pathetic? The Blind Beggar in the legend— the father of pretty Bessy—whose story doggrel rhymes and ale-house signs cannot so degrade or attenuate, but that some sparks of a lustrous spirit will shine through the disguisements—this noble Earl of Flanders (as indeed he was) and memorable
sport of fortune, fleeing from the unjust sentence of his liege lord, stript of all, and seated on the flowering green of Bethnal, with his more fresh and springing daughter by his side, illumining his rags and his beggary— would the child and parent have cut a better figure, doing the honours of a counter, or expiating their fallen condition upon the three-foot eminence of some sempstering shopboard P In tale or history your Beggar is ever the just antipode to your King. The poets and romancical writers (as dear Margaret Newcastle would call them) when they would most sharply and feelingly paint a reverse of fortune, never stop till they have brought down their hero in good earnest to rags and the wallet. The depth of the descent illustrates the height he falls from. There is no medium which can be presented to the imagination without offence. There is no breaking the fall. Lear, thrown from his palace, must divest him of his garments, till he answer “ mere mature;” and Cresseid, fallen from a prince's love, must extend her pale arms, pale with other whiteness than of beauty, supplicating lazar alms with bell and clap-dish. The Lucian wits knew this very well; and, with an opposite policy, when they would express scorn of greatness without the pity, they show us an Alexander in the shades cobbling shoes, or a Semiramis getting up foul linen. How would it sound in song, that a great monarch had declined his affections upon the daughter of a baker! yet do we feel the imagination at all violated, when we read the “true ballad,” where King Cophetua wooes the beggar maid P Pauperism, pauper, poor man, are expressions of pity, but pity alloyed with contempt. No one properly contemns a beggar. Poverty is a comparative thing, and each degree of it is mocked by its “neighbour grice.” “ Its poor rents and comingsin are soon summed up and told. Its pretences to property are almost ludicrous. Its pitiful attempts to save excite a smile. Every scornful companion can *. his trifle-bigger purse against it. Poor man reproaches poor man in the streets with impolitic mention of his condition, his own being a shade better, while the rich pass by and jeer at both. No rascally comparative insults a Beggar, or thinks of weighing purses with him. He is not in the scale of comparison. He is not under the measure of property. He confessedly hath mone, any more than a dog or a sheep. No one twitteth him with ostentation above his means. No one
* Timon of Athens,
accuses him of pride, or upbraideth
him with mock humility. None jostle with him for the wall, or pick quarrels for precedency. No *i; neighbour seeketh to eject him from his tenement. No man sues him. No man goes to law with him. If I were not the independent gentleman that I am, rather than I would be a retainer to the great, a led captain, or a poor relation, I would chuse, out of the delicacy and true greatness of my mind, to be a Beggar. Rags, which are the reproach of poverty, are the Beggar's robes, and raceful insignia of his profession, is tenure, his full dress, the suit in which he is expected to show himself in public. He is never out of the fashion, or limpeth awkwardly behind it. He is not required to put on court mourning. He weareth all colours, fearing mone. His costume hath undergone less change than the Quaker's. His coat is coeval with Adam's. He is the only man in the universe who is not obliged to study appearances. The ups and downs of the world concern him no longer. He alone continueth in one stay. The price of stock or land affecteth him not. The fluctuations of agricultural or commercial prosperity touch him not, or at worst but change his customers. He is not expected to become bail or surety for any one. No man troubleth him with questioning his religion or politics. He is the only free man in the universe. The Mendicants of this great city were so many of her sights, her lions.
I can no more spare them than I could the Cries of London. No cormer of a street is complete without them. They are as indispensable as the Ballad Singer; and in their picturesque attire as ornamental as the Signs of old London. They were the standing morals, emblems, mementos, dial-mottos, the spital sermons, the books for children, the salutary checks and pauses to the high and rushing tide of greasy citizenry— Look Upon that poor and broken bankrupt there.
Above all, those old blind Tobits that used to line the wall of Lincoln's Inn Garden, before modern fastidiousness had expelled them, casting up their ruined orbs to catch a ray of pity, and (if possible) of light, with their faithful Dog Guide at their feet, —whither are they fled? or into what corners, blind as themselves, have they been driven, out of the wholesome air and sun-warmth P immersed between four walls, in what withering poor-house do they endure the penalty of double darkness, where the chink of the dropt half-penny no more consoles their forlorn bereavement, far from the sound of the cheerful and hope-stirring tread of the passenger? . Where hang their useless crutches P and who will farm their dogs 2–Have the overseers of St. L— caused them to be shot? or were they tied up in sacks, and dropt into the Thames, at the sug
estion of B–, the mild Rector of
Well fare the soul of unfastidious Vincent Bourne, most classical, and at the same time, most English, of the Latinists l—who has treated of this human and quadrupedal alliance, this dog and man friendship, in the sweetest of his poems, the Epitaphium in Canem, or, Dog's Epitaph. Reader, peruse it; and say, # customary sights, which could call up such gentle poetry as this, were of a nature to i. more harm or good to the moral sense of the passengers through the daily thoroughfares of a vast and busy metropolis.
Fixit inoffenso gressu; gelidumque sedile
Hi mores, haec vita fuit, dum fata sinebant,
Dum neque languebam morbis, nec inerte senecta;
Poor Irus' faithful wolf-dog here I lie,
I meantime at his feet obsequious slept;
Not all-asleep in sleep, but heart and ear
These dim eyes have in vain exlored for some months past a well+nown figure, or part of the figure, of a man, who used to glide his comely upper half over the pavements of London, wheeling along with most ingenious celerity upon a machine of wood; a spectacle to natives, to foreigners, and to children. He was of a robust make, with a florid sailor-like complexion, and his
head was bare to the storm and sunshine. He was a natural curiosity, a speculation to the scientific, a prodigy to the simple. The infant would stare at the mighty man brought down to his own level. The common cripple would despise his own pusillanimity, viewing the hale stoutness, and hearty feat. of this half-limbed giant. Few but must have noticed him; for the accident,
which brought him low, took place during the riots of 1780, and he has been a groundling so long. He seemed earth-born, an Antaeus, and to suck in fresh vigour from the soil which he neighboured. He was a grand fragment; as good as an Elgin marble. The nature, which should have recruited his reft legs and thighs, was not lost, but only retired into his upper parts, and he was half a Hercules. I heard a tremendous voice thundering and growling, as before an earthquake, and casting down my eyes, it was this mandrake reviling a steed that had started at his portentous appearance. He seemed to want but his just stature to have rent the offending quadruped in shivers. He was as the man-part of a Centaur, from which the horse-half had been cloven in some dire Lapithan controversy. He moved on, as if he could have made shift with yet half of the body-portion which was left him. The os sublime was not wanting ; and he threw out yet a jolly countenance upon the heavens. Forty-and-two years had he driven this out of door trade, and now that his hair is grizzled in the service, but his good spirits no way impaired, because he is not content to exchange his free air and exercise for the restraints of a poor house, he is expiating his contumacy in one of those houses (ironically christened) of Correction. Was a daily spectacle like this to be deemed a nuisance, which called for legal interference to remove? or not rather a salutary, and a touching object, to the passers-by in a great city ? Among her shows, her museums, and supplies for ever-gaping curiosity (and what else but an accumulation of sights—endless sights —is a great city; or for what else is it desirable P) was there not room for one Lusus (not Natura indeed, but) Accidentium ? What if in fortyand-two years' going about, the man had scraped together enough to give a portion to his child (as the rumour ran) of a few hundreds—whom had he injured? whom had he imposed upon P. The contributors had enjoyed their sight for their pennies. What if after being exposed all day to the heats, the rains, and the frosts of heaven—shuffling his ungainly trunk along in an elaborate and painful mo
tion—he was enabled to retire at night to enjoy himself at a club of his fellow cripples over a dish of hot meat and vegetables, as the charge was gravely brought against him by a clergyman deposing before a House of Commons' Committee—was this, or was his truly paternal consideration, which (if a fact), deserved a statue rather than a whipping post, and is inconsistent at least with the exaggeration of nocturnal orgies which he has been slandered with—a reason that he should be deprived of his chosen, harmless, may edifying, way of life, and be committed in hoary age for a sturdy vagabond PThere was a o once, that would not have shamed him to have sate down at the cripples' feast, and would have thrown in his benediction, aye, and his mite too, for a companionable symbol. “Age, thou hast lost thy breed.”— Half of these stories about the prodigious fortunes made by begging are (I verily believe) misers' calumnies. One was much talked of in the public papers some time since, and the usual charitable inferences deduced. A clerk in the Bank was surprised with the announcement of a five hundred pound legacy left him by a person whose name he was a stranger to. It seems that in his daily morning walks from Peckham (or some village thereabouts) where he lived, to his office, it had been his ractice for the last twenty years to op his halfpenny duly into the hat of some blind Bartimeus, that sate begging alms by the way-side in the Borough. The good old beggar recognised his daily benefactor, by the voice only; and, when he died, left all the amassings of his alms (that had been half a century perhaps in the accumulating) to his old Bank friend. Was this a story to purse up people's hearts, and pennies, against giving an alms to the blind?— or not rather a beautiful moral of well-directed charity on the one part, and noble gratitude upon the other? I sometimes wish I had been that
I seem to remember a to: grateful kind of creature, linking, and looking up with his no eyes in the sun
Is it possible I could have steeled my purse against him?