Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

when it appeared at mess in the interior of black puddings; nor no milk,-for Simon could never abide it in its purity, and required always to have it liberally mixed with rum. No! They thrice evoked his manes, and then solemnly emptied upon his last resting-place pots of porter, quarts of ale, and double-goes of brandy, hollands, rum, whiskey, and gin, all of which in his lifetime Captain Fairfield loved with a love passing the love of women. I was out of town when the country was deprived of the services of that great man Frawley, so I know not what ceremonies followed his interment; but I learned that he died in the good cause for which he had lived. He caught cold by running out bareheaded on an inclement night to select a brace of birds for the supper of a pet customer, and placing himself on his return, before a huge fire to cook them, he died in a few days after. But his fame will live as long as mutton-chops continue to be objets de consommation. Every time any of his old friends are served with a cold or tough chop, and have consequently to recommend the cook to the attention of the infernal powers, they think of poor old Frawley, and breathe a wish that he had been still alive to cook and cater for them. Now this I call fame. If I may judge from my own experience, he must be invoked daily, in the language of the Irish mourner, "Oh! Frawley, why did you die?" for I find my own memory of him refreshed upon multitudinous occasions. In fact, Bellamy's is the only place now where you can get a good, hot, plain English mutton-chop. The female cook is nearly as great an artist as Frawley; but there is a difference, so to speak, in the fabric of the chop. The House of Commons' chop is small and thin. I have seen honourable members eat a dozen of them at a sitting. Frawley's, on the contrary, was thick and substantial, and therefore, when dressed with his consummate skill, better than the forA couple of them furnished a moderate man with a dinner. But it is curious to remark that it was at Bellamy's Offley received his artistical education. He was originally a waiter there, and as such was privileged to watch, and occasionally admitted to assist, the presiding priestess of the gridiron at the exercise of her mysteries.

mer.

Frawley's extreme ugliness (if Victor Hugo had seen him, he would have given him a heritage, of immortality), his vigorous "exasperation" of the vowels, his sharpness, his invincible good humour and politeness,-equal to Talleyrand's, of whom it was said, that at the moment he was receiving a kick in the " catastrophe," his countenance might be observed radiant with smiles, - all conduced to make him a general favourite. And this he must have turned to good account, and put money in his purse, as he was enabled at no very advanced period of life to start in business as a tavern-keeper on his own account. Certainly Frawley was one of the ugliest of human beings; yet it was not a repulsive ugliness. He was lame; his hands were like the claws of a bear; he squinted awfully; all the features were irregular. The face was entirely, as artists say, out of drawing; the head was on one side, like that of a magpie peeping into a marrow-bone; yet there was an air of bonhomie and good-fellowship about the expression of the countenance, that courted your laugh, rather than gave rise to any averse or unpleasant feeling. Frawley had been used to be laughed at all his life, and from long habit came to like it. Decidedly he was most attached to the young rakes, who took the loving labour of quizzing him to the top of his

bent. If at three or four o'clock in the morning he could learn that a party of these bright and buoyant spirits had arrived, he would, though in bed, arise and come down stairs to join heart, and soul, in the fun which was going forward. Sometimes, too, if he were lazy, a deputation would proceed to his chamber, and fetch him down in his night-gear. It was as impossible to play out the play without him at his own inn, as it would have been without Jack Falstaff at the Boar in Eastcheap. His songs were sure to excite peals of laughter, whether joyous or sentimental, "Jolly Dick the Lamplighter," or "The Lass of Richmond Hill," the social effusions of Morris, or the sea-songs of Dibdin. His reminiscences of the great men upon whom he had waited when at Bellamy's, were also shrewd and entertaining. Nor had he lived in the presence of orators-the mighty men of renown-in vain. No! he was a powerful speaker both in vehemence and volubility, and the use of what the Germans style thunder-words. His eloquence showed to peculiar advantage at the supper on St. Patrick's night whereunto he invited all the choice spirits who frequented his establishment. Grand were the strains wherein he poured forth his acknowledgments when his health was drunk amidst the most vociferous applause.

Some fastidious persons used to affect to think there was too much noise at these reunions; but they were sure to make their appearance on the next anniversary of the saint,

"Who drove the frogs into the bogs, and banish'd all the vermin!"

I recollect, too, a pair of these overnice gentlemen were signally punished for their affectation. Wearied, as they declared, with the alternations of shouting and chorussing, which were as regular as those of day and night, the intervening seasons of twilight being devoted to drinking, solo-singing, and spouting, they announced about two a departure for their quiet beds; but having "got the cross drop into them," they contrived to quarrel with the authorities for wishing to exercise in Covent Garden market a natural prerogative, contrary to police law; the consequence was, they were thrust into the watch-house, which looks into the churchyard opposite to Offley's great room. Having been the reverse of polite to those functionaries who "violated the dignity of man" in their persons, no tidings of their fate could they get conveyed to their jovial friends, and they consequently had to pass the remainder of the evening gazing through the bars of their prison window, which commanded a fine view of the window of the room they had abandoned, and whence they could see the light streaming, and hear the sounds of merriment as they careered over the graves of the sad and silent dead. About eight A. M. the police relented. Word of the prisoners' plight was sent to Offley's. They were speedily released, and found the party, on their arrival, engaged in discussing a meal half ancient, half modern, partaking of the nature of a reresupper and a breakfast. There were grilled fowl, broiled bones, and devilled kidneys, with bottled stout and champagne, on the one hand, on the other tea, coffee, and the etceteras. The rescued prisoners were glad to undergo a world of quizzing, on condition of being allowed to comfort their chilled and exhausted bodies with the good things before them. We sung in what the Welsh call penilkion about these fallen cherubim to the tune of

"There were three maids of Spain a-drinking of their wine,” old Offley leading off with

"There was two slow-coach gents a-drinking hof my wine,

And all their kinversation was we think hourselves mighty fine!"

I here close my reminiscences of the last of " the old hosts" of the metropolis. Never again will London see so pleasant, so good, and so safe a tavern and night-house as old Frawley's used to be-never in one room so witty, so well-informed, and so right joyously convivial a circle as were wont to surround old Frawley.

Captain Simon Fairfield was the reverse of Mr. Offley in every respect. Fortune smiled on Simon at his entrance into life. She gave him the best passports into society- a handsome person, an elegant address, an honourable name, and a voice of exquisite sweetness. But much has been written by Mr. Benson Hill, and others, about the most prosperous portion of his career when he was a favourite guest of all the general officers, and of the Duke himself; when, no convivial party during our campaigns could be complete without the best singer in the British army. It was only when poor old Sim was reduced to moral and physical degradation that I knew him. He was a sad wreck. Still it was impossible not to perceive that be had once been eminently handsome, and his manners exquisite. They still bore undeniable traces of polish and refinement. There were, moreover, such occasional glimpses of self-assertion in his bearing towards the snobbery, that I could easily believe those who described him as a haughty exclusive when he played a part in the fashionable world. He was well-proportioned, and might have served in his youth as a model for a light-infantry officer. His features were regular: the eye of deep clear blue, the nose aquiline, the mouth delicate, the play of the lips singularly expressive, the brow noble in fact, grandly chiselled. The hands and feet were most aristocratically small and well-formed. In short, Nature stamped gentleman upon him, and it was out of the question not to recognize him as such even when drunk and dirty, unkempt and unshaven, shirtless, and with an old frock evidently not made for him, and fastened up to the throat, to conceal the want of linen by the aid more of pins than buttons.

Sim's life might be divided into three periods. During the first he served throughout the Peninsular war. Envy, however, pretended that Sim had a predilection for the sick-list on the eve of a general engagement, and that he was much indulged in his taste, as neither the surgeon nor the commanding-officer were over-anxious to imperil the life of their famous tenor. So he escaped without a scratch. Upon the peace, he sold out; and here begins the second period. He was then a fashionable man upon town,—a lion of the drawing-rooms and of the principal taverns, such as Long's, Steeven's, the Clarendon. He was a lady-killer too, and might have made many a good match. But he was too fastidious or too careless, and let every opportunity slip. Gradually his two darling vices told against him-love of drink, and of play. He had a curious adventure at this period of his history. He got very drunk at a convivial party, and having left it, turned into a hell, where he threw in seven or eight mains, and won a considerable sum, which he suc ceeded, moreover, in bringing safe to the hotel at which he lived. But, being in his bed-room, with that strange cunning which fre

[merged small][ocr errors]

quently displays itself in madmen, and men temporarily mad from drink, he cut a little slit with his penknife in the mattress, and into this thrust the bank-notes, crumpled into a small ball. Sim then went to bed, fell into a deep undreaming sleep, and forgot all that had occurred. When he rose next day he perceived from the money on his table that he had been playing-and with success. He sallied forth, and encountered an acquaintance, who congratulated him upon the large sum he had won. Sim denied lustily that he had won more than two or three and thirty-pounds. His friend rejoined, "I saw you, and if you won one shilling you won eight or nine hundred pounds.

Simon thought he was hoaxing him, and departed in a huff. But another and another acquaintance bade Sim joy of his winnings, so that he was at last forced into the conviction that he had won the money. But, if he had, he had lost it again. His pocket had been picked either at the hell, or in the street.

"Thus was Corinth lost and won!"

Six months had passed away, and Simon still continued to occupy the same bedchamber in the Northumberland coffeehouse, which then stood in the Strand, nearly opposite the mansion of the Percies. Some procession was to pass. Sim's room was borrowed for the occasion, that the sittings at the window might be let, and the bed was taken down. In removing the mattress a housemaid discovered Sim's treasure (nearly seven hundred pounds), and the captain being a favoured lover, she restored it to him entire.

The relief was seasonable. Unfortunately, however, the greater part before long went as it had come, and no second miracle restored it to the loser. A drunken gambler may win once; but he is sure to be ruined in the long run. So was it with our hero. His love for indulging in potations pottle-deep increased, and his ill-success at play went on in proportion. He drank to drive away care. At last everything went-money, credit, standing in society, even hope itself departed. Then commenced the third phasis of his life. For a time he haunted the gaming-tables where he had lost his means of livelihood; he sunk to the rank and society of the hellites, sang when called upon, afterwards acted as a bonnet, and thus existed: but at last was banished even from hell. He now got drunk whenever he could; and whenever he did, was quarrelsome and abusive, and rarely refrained from especially assailing his friends and patrons, the hellites. At length the nuisance became so great, that they were compelled to drive him forth "to prey at fortune."

Nothing remained save his exquisite voice; but even this to another man would have been a fortune. Had he gone on the stage, he might have enjoyed comfort and independence. But, strange as it may seem, his pride revolted at the notion. Yet he had been whilst

in the army a constant amateur performer; and there can be no doubt he might have succeeded. No! he preferred sinking into a sort of attendant at the night-taverns. From the proprietors of these he got a dinner (but he rarely cared to dine) or supper, and a couple of "goes" of whiskey. No liquor came amiss to him; but he was an Irishman, and sufficiently patriotic to prefer the Irish manufacture. In consideration of the entertainment afforded by "mine host" he was to sing when called upon. It was the custom, more

over, for anybody who wished to hear a particular song, such as "The Tinker," "The Chairman," "Love's young dream," or the like, to treat the captain with a "go." And thus he generally enjoyed as many tumblers of punch as he could swallow betwixt evening and some six o'clock next morning. He was, likewise, continually receiving crowns, halfcrowns, and shillings, from those who knew him in former days. He made it, however, a rule to spend whatever money he chanced to receive before he retired to what he was pleased to style his chaste and virtuous bed. His fancy was, whenever he had anything beyond a few pence-to treat others with the proceeds of the bounty conferred upon himself. He would go to the kitchen of the Constitution, and treat the hackney-coachmen to the full extent of his means, presiding with great dignity, and graciously condescending to entertain his guests by singing after his best manner, and by his capital performances upon a violin borrowed for the occasion. At another time he would betake himself to the Harp - -a house of call for the actors, supernumeraries of the theatres, scene-shifters, and so forth, and play “Le véritable Amphytryon" for the benefit of these cattle.

Á friend of mine one morning put this propensity to the test. A party of us adjourned from Offley's to an early breakfast-house in the neighbouring market, to see a queer chapter in human life, eat fresh eggs, and drink a decoction of roasted corn under the name of coffee. We had Sim with us. He was in high feather. He astonished the weak minds of the market-gardeners by singing "The Tinker," with the whole of the trombone accompaniments, and slanged a Jew clothesman to admiration. Even the defeated Israelite was obliged, as he gave in, to admit, "S'help me God! but you're a clever man!" We were all delighted with Simon, and one of our body presented him with a sovereign. We determined to watch what he did with it. We were not long in doubt: he made straight for Belshaw's gin-palace, at the corner of James Street; and as we peeped in we saw the captain taking a "cropper" himself, and presiding over the distribution of " croppers round to a host of bas

ket-women.

Sim's steadiest support was from a set of Irish students-at-law, some of whom are, now "that wild youth's past," distinguished scholars and advocates learned in the law, and some are numbered with the dead. These young men were contemporaries, or nearly so, at the Irish University, and they were, in good sooth, friends. There was but one heart and one purse among them. They were wild dogs, and as frolicsome and mischievous as monkeys. But they were great of heart, hated humbug and sycophancy, and loved each other's society passing well.

It may be well imagined that men of this sort took especial pleasure in the convivial powers of the captain, and never left him without a drop to "wet his whistle." But he was an individual whom beyond that it was impossible to serve. There was no use in giving him money; it was equally useless to give him clothes. Dress the old man from head to foot to-day, and you were charmed to see how thoroughly he resumed the air and appearance of a gentleman. Before two days, however, were over, every article, down to the boots, was under avuncular protection, and Sim in the old attirethe broken-down, indestructible military frock, and ragged trowsers open to every wind from heaven.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »