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"Powers of distortion!" I involuntarily exclaimed, "am I then so ugly as all this! What! am I to carry this offensive record of my own deformity to all prefects, mayors, and commandants of garrisons? -to present it at the gates of fortified towns, to sniggling soldiers of the line, and sneering subalterns? Impudence! Confound that sneering Charge des Affaires! I thought he was laughing at me all the time. Low scrub! I'll not carry my own caricature about with me. Why should I spend British gold among a parcel of foreigneering chaps? All slaves, every man jack of them, frog-eaters, fellows that wear wooden shoes! What care I for old Muggins? And as for Philadelphia, with her three thousand pounds (they call it twelve, but I always divide by four), there's as good fish in the sea as ever was caught."
Having achieved this magnanimous soliloquy, I turned away in disgust, and swaggered along Oxford Street, and so down Regent Street, when I passed the Bull and Mouth and the Spread Eagle with as much indifference as if no such unique examples of animated nature existed on the face of this terraqueous globe, fully determined to abstain from the criminality of abandoning my country, and expending my means in enriching foreigners, who, while they fleece, laugh at us. In this happy frame of mind, who should I stumble upon in the Haymarket but my old friend and fellow apprentice, Tom Taylor, with whom I served four years of my time in the eminent wholesale house of Muscovado, Knaggs, and Muscovado, of Thames Street.
Tom never was a promising youth for business; very fond of the play, literary books, and the like of that, and, moreover, a remarkably slow hand at accounts. I did my best to help him out of scrapes every now and then; but it would not do. Tom became a dissenting-minister down in the country, by which he gained a little money, a great reputation, and, what was better still, a remarkably handsome wife, with whom he had just come up to town to spend a day, and see the lions.
After the usual salutations, Tom was remarkably glad to see me, and I was uncommonly glad to see him,-his Reverence introduced me to his little wife, and invited me to join their exploring party, and to dine with them at their hotel in the evening.
"Well, I don't care if I do make a day with you, Tom,” said I, in reply to his kind invitation; "but the fact is, I was just on the point of starting for Paris.”
"Paris!" exclaimed my friend. "Don't you think, now, friend Twig, that there is a good deal to see in London."
"Well, I don't know, Tom. 'Pon my life, now, that's very true. I wonder I didn't think of that before. But some friends of mine tell me that Paris-"
"Have you ever been to Westminster Abbey?" inquired Tom. Never in my life," replied I.
"Never! Dear me, I wonder at you, Mr. Twig!" exclaimed Mrs. Tom Taylor.
visited the Tower?"-" Not yet."
'The Zoological Gardens."—" Never.”
"Bless me! my dear fellow!" exclaimed the minister, putting his arm within mine," you may go to Paris any time these twenty years.
Come with us, and recollect the proverb, that 'far-off fields look green.'"
We accordingly walked very leisurely as far as Westminster Abbey. With what reverential awe did we enter that hallowed fane !—" that receptacle of the dust of heroes, statesmen, poets, conquerors, and kings! -that temple whose venerable walls enclose more departed wit, and worth, and fame than all the Pantheons that have flouted the sky since the days of Greece and Rome! Here, in the pride of youth and hope, strength and beauty, have the successive monarchs of our mighty England, amid the clangour of trumpets, the roaring of cannon, and the acclamations of their people, assumed the external symbols of that extended sway, which, if it does not rule, influences at least all the world; and here, after various fate and fortune, in the silence of night, and in darkness, have many of them returned, to be deposited in the silent tomb, no more to fill with their renown aught save the page of history, no more to carry in their right hands the destinies of millions -no more to be fawned upon or flattered,-now lying low as the meanest of their subjects! There needs no preacher to set forth the vanity of human wishes, the absurdity of human ambition, the hollowness of human enjoyments here. Here we read a sermon in every stone, the sepulchre becomes a teacher, the very walls are eloquent! From the Abbey, which my friend Taylor assured me is as much superior to Notre Dame both in intrinsic beauty and in the magic of its associations, as Muscovado's sugar warehouse is to a sweet-stuff shop, we went to the Houses of Parliament, where we performed the customary operations of seating ourselves by turns upon the Woolsack, and in the Speaker's chair, without finding any material addition made thereby to the stock of information we already might have possessed either in law or politics.
Our destination was next to the river, and we were speedily at Hungerford Market, whence we embarked in a Greenwich steamer ; two clarionets and a harp on board, striking up " Rule Britannia" with the enthusiasm of true Britons. It was high tide, the day was fine, and the broad silvery stream was covered with every variety of craft, whether of business or pleasure, from the lumbering barge slowly worked up with the advancing tide by her sweeps (like an enormous black-beetle), to the dashing six-oared cutter, manned by a crew of gallant young lawyers, at this moment putting off in high style from the Temple Stairs. Soon we swept through London Bridge,—that model, as Tom Taylor called it, of lightness, grace, and strength, the ample arches of which rather skimmed over than spanned the river; and became lost in the forest of masts that grow upon the bosom of old Thames.
"Talk to me of the Seine!" exclaimed Tom Taylor, with a curl of the lip.
"What! you have seen the Seine?" inquired I; "and is it really, now as fine a river as this?"
"As this!" exclaimed my companion, in astonishment; "as thisthe commercial artery of Europe,-the highway of nations, the element of wealth, fertility, and beauty! The Seine, forsooth! a pitiful runlet of two-milk whey; whose most important services are those it renders to swimming-schools and washerwomen!"
"Lord!" said I to myself, "what fools these Mugginses must be, to be sure!"
We were now wandering up and down the spacious courts and noble corridors of the palace, for truly such it is, of the Greenwich pensioners. We inspected their chaste and beautiful chapel; lingered a long time in their hall, where the thousand triumphs of the British flag live on the glowing canvass; but were most of all gratified with the air of contented satisfaction that beamed in the weather-beaten faces of the time-honoured veterans who, outliving all the chances of war and tempest, luxuriated here in the well-earned repose provided for them by a grateful country.
"This," said Tom Taylor, who was waxing of late rather oratorical, -"this in part redeems the horrors and the miseries of war. Can we any longer wonder that our gallant tars have so long preserved to England the empire of the sea, when England provides for them in age, and mutilation, and disease, so glorious an asylum? Well, indeed, may they expend their life-blood in her service, when she shelters them in the palaces of her sovereigns. Glory and honour cannot surely desert the land that makes the worthy recompense of her brave defenders not merely a duty, but an honour. May we never see the day when the British tar will no longer be treated with the marked consideration of the country he defends! for surely never will he cease to deserve it."
Leaving Tom Taylor's fine sayings, of which I have forgotten the rest, for visitors less hungry than we, let me go on to observe that the sight of Blackwall-it was the white-bait season-suggested ideas of something more substantially refreshing than oratory, and all that sort of thing; the result of which was a suggestion of mine that we should dine comfortably at the Artichoke, and then make the most of our time for the rest of the afternoon, to which my worthy friend, Tom, and his fair companion, willingly agreed.
It is not always the fate of the traveller to fall in with a good dinner every time that he feels himself able to do it justice: to-day, however, we were in clover. Dinner being over, I ventured to ask my friend, Tom, if the French cookery, of which I had heard and read so much, and upon which my guide-book and the Mugginses were so eloquent, was really the splendid thing they made it out to be; and in particular, whether it was true that with an old shoe and an onion a French cook can turn out a "potage" that might tickle the palate of Apicius himself.
"Have you any fault to find with the dinner of to-day, Mr. Twig?" inquired Mrs. Taylor with an expression of surprise.
"By no means, my dear madam," I replied. "The stewed eels were perfect; the flounders uncommonly good; and the hashed venison-not to speak of the Mulligatawny-superb."
"The pastry I thought was excellent," observed the lady.
"But," continued I, I said but, because I would not give you a farthing for a true-born Englishman if he is not to be allowed to grumble," but the variety of French dishes is extraordinary. I happened to fall in with a Parisian bill of fare-"
"I beg pardon for interrupting you," observed Tom, "but that variety of which you speak is produced curiously enough. I happened to take up my quarters once upon a time at the Café de l'Orangerie, and I know the trick. There the bill of fare exhibits a catalogue of three hundred dishes; but, in truth, there are never more in the house than three. For instance, there appear on the carte' a hundred different entrées of veal, another hundred of beef, and a third
hundred of mutton. A piece of each of these meats is kept simmering in a stew-pan, and a copper of universal gravy with a few handfuls of sliced vegetables are always at hand. You order, for example, gigot mouton avec sauce piquante,' — that sounds well, and probably you may think it will eat as well as it sounds: a scrap of meat is immediately cut from the shapeless junk in the stew-pan, is then well slopped with universal gravy, and a dash of the vinegar-cruet supplies the sauce piquante.' If, haply, you prefer boeuf à la sauce Tomate,' or à la Jardinière,' it is all the same: a little red-lead or brick-dust colours the universal gravy for the former, and a pinch of dried sage gives a refreshing verdure to the latter. Veal is treated in a manner precisely similar: whether you order 'veau à l'oseille,' or any of the other ninety-nine variations that are played upon the subject in the stew-pan, it is all the same, the sorrel, spinage, anything green will do, is plastered over the bit of meat, and served up to order. 'Tis the universal gravy that does it.'
"Muggins-Muggins," thought I on hearing all this, "what a hopeless old ass you must be!"
Having enjoyed ourselves sufficiently at the Artichoke, and paid our not unreasonable bill with the readiness of guests who have been welltreated, and wish to come again, we made the best of our way to the Brunswick Wharf, where places were to be taken for our journey by railway to town. A train was that moment about to start; we got into one of the carriages, and, in less time than I take to chronicle the event, were deposited at the town terminus, where we got a hackney coach, and drove off at full speed for the Zoological Gardens, regretting very much that time did not permit us to take the Tower and the Docks in our way. We reached the gardens in good time, and had another opportunity of admiring the extraordinary way in which the co-operative wealth and intelligence of mighty London procures materials of knowledge and enjoyment. We had seen in the earlier part of our excursion the creative genius of art in various ways elicited for purposes of profit, glory, or pleasure, here, as Tom Taylor observed, "Nature herself, coy and reserved Nature, is called from her wild retreats to be made tributary to man's enjoyment. The monarch of African wilds; the denizens of the sandy deserts of Arabia; the grisly tyrant of the Polar ice; nay, the very inhabitants of air, are brought familiarly before our eyes, and the student of animated nature may lay aside his books, and in this place become intimate with the animals that formerly he must have journeyed thousands of miles amid dangers and privations innumerable, to have looked upon."
When we had paid our customary tribute of biscuits to the bear, apples to the elephant, and twigs of hawthorn to the giraffes, and examined the other curiosities of the place, we thought it high time to retire; and, getting into our coach, we desired the coachman to drive us as near as possible to the foot of Primrose Hill. Here we got out; and, taking advantage of a footpath, were speedily at the summit, where a delightful view more than rewarded us for the toil of our ascent. The sun was sinking in the west, and its horizontal rays glancing along the thousand roofs of smoky London, and lighting up as in flame the giant dome of St. Paul's, towering in bulky eminence over the wide-extended city; behind us, in deep and harmonious shade were the richly-wooded and luxuriant "sister hills" of Hampstead and Highgate, and at our feet was the Regent's Park, and the
Gardens we had just quitted. Mrs. Taylor was in ecstasy; and Tom declared it was the finest thing we had seen that day.
“I have heard,” said I, addressing my reverend friend, inquiringly, "a great deal of Montmartre, and think they call it the Primrose Hill of Paris."
"Primrose Hill!—if they called it Rubbish Hill, or Mount Misery, my dear fellow, the name would be more appropriate; a naked rock, with a few stone-quarries, and a dilapidated windmill on the top, are its whole attractions, I assure you."
We now descended the hill, and drove as rapidly as possible to Fladong's Hotel, where, while we were indulging ourselves with a cigar and glass of sherry and water, Tom Taylor happened to take up a newspaper; and, casting his eye over the public amusements, proposed that, as Mrs. Taylor had gone to rest, we might finish our grog, and employ the remainder of the evening in going to the play.
"What is there to-night?" I inquired.
"Hamlet: the part of Hamlet by a gentleman, his first appearance on the Metropolitan boards," replied my friend.
"That will do," said I. "We can't be wrong."
"Twill be either tragical or comical, I suppose," rejoined Taylor, "as the case may be." Whereupon off we went together to the
The house was tolerably filled; the boldness of the aspirant to histrionic fame having attracted a sprinkling of critics prompt to "squabash" the unfortunate delinquent, who, "neither having the accent of Christian, nor the gait of Christian, pagan, or man," might have, in the simplicity of his heart, essayed the enactment of a part so difficult of comprehension, even to the all-illumined critics themselves, as that of Hamlet the Dane. To the great astonishment, and probably disappointment of the critics, the aspirant did not break down in the ghost scene, nor yet in the soliloquy,-in addition to a complete knowledge of the conventionalities of his art, and of stage business generally, he never lost for a moment that deep feeling that exhibits the man of mind in the actor; there was soul in every tone, and with much art he so carried himself in his performance, that he might have truly said with Polonius, "Madam, I swear I use no art at all." The play went off exceedingly well. I would have waited for the after-piece; but my friend, Taylor, told me that there was nothing to see after Hamlet. "What do you think of the French tragedy, Tom?
"Did you ever see a hornpipe in fetters, Twig."
"To be sure," replied I; "in the Beggar's Opera; but what has that to do with it?"
"What has that to do with it? Why that is it."-" Is what?
"Why, that same French tragedy of which you spoke."
"Nonsense; you're joking."
"Not I, upon my life; a hornpipe in fetters, or tragedy upon stilts." As we went home together I opened by degrees my heart to the excellent Tom Taylor, and told him all the history of my being crowed over by the Mugginses simply because I had the misfortune of not having been to Paris. I also hinted my suspicions that if I had been a travelled man, and could say that I had been on the Continent, I thought it was possible that Philadelphia Muggins-a very nice girl, by the way-would have no objection to change the inharmonious name of Muggins for the softer sound of Twig; that she had the reputation of