Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

man who had acquired a large fortune in the course of trade, and had lately purchased an estate in the neighbourhood, on which he had built an elegant house. Acasto, and his friend Mr. Downright, strenuously opposed the plan of accommodating this novus homo, who had presumed to buy one of the best'estates in the county, from the heir of an ancient family, at a higher price than any body else would have given for it. For my own part, I was truly mortified to observe in both parties as much trick and chicane as might, when properly varnished, have done honour to the most finished statesman. In one thing only I discovered that open plainness on which country.gentlemen are so apt to value themselves, and that was in the language in which they addressed each other. There, indeed, they were sufficiently plain ; and no where did I ever observe a more total neglect of the favourite maxim of Lord Chesterfield, fortiter in re, suaviter in modo.

On our way home,' Acasto entertained me with the characters of the gentlemen we had seen ; but he might have saved himself the trouble ; for, by recollecting how they voted, I should immediately have known which of them were honest and sincere, and which mean time-serving sycophants.

I shall not trouble my readers with any reflections on Acasto's character. It is plain, that the little peculiarities which, with all his natural good sense and benevolence, expose him hourly to ridicule or to censure,

have been occasioned by his retreat from the world, and by that solitude in which he has lived so long. Seldom, indeed, have I known any one that did not, in some degree, suffer from it ; that did not, more or less, become selfish and contracted, conceited and opinionative. I never see a young heir fluttering about town in the circle of gaiety, without feeling an emotion of compassion. In a few years, when he comes to be supplanted in

that circle by a younger set, no resource remains for him but a retreat to the country, where he must pass his days either in a state of listless inactivity, or in pursuits unworthy of a rational being. I would therefore earnestly recommend it to every parent, to educate the heir of his fortune to some profession; to set before him some object that may fill his mind, may rouse him to action, and may make him at once a happy and respectable member of society.

M.

No. CV. TUESDAY, MAY 9.

THE winter, which, like an untaught visitor, had prolonged its stay with us to a very unreasonable length, has, at last, given place to vernal breezes and a more indulgent sky; and many of my readers will now leave the business or amusements of the town, for the purer air and less tumultuous enjoyments of the country. As I have, now and then, ventured some observations on the manners and fashions of the former, I could not forbear, from a friendly concern for those whom the season now calls into the latter, to offer a few remarks on certain errors which are more generally prevalent in the country.

My last paper was intended for the serious perusal of country gentlemen. I mean, in this, to make a few lighter observations on some little failings, in point of manners to which I have seen a propensity in country-gentlemen, country ladies, and in those who, though of the town for the greatest part of the year, make their appearance like the cuckoo (I mean no offence by the compari

son), when the trees have put on their leaves, and the meadows their verdure.

In the first place, I would beg of those who migrate from the city, not to carry too much of the town with them into the country. I will allow a lady to exhibit the newest-fashioned cut in her riding habit, or to astonish a country congregation with the height of her head-dress : and a gentleman, in like manner, to sport, as they term it, a grotesque pattern of a waistcoat, or to set the children a-gape by the enormous size of his buckles. These are privileges to which gentlemen and ladies may be thought to have entitled themselves by the expence and trouble of a winter's residence in the capital. But there is a provoking, though a civil sort of consequence such people are apt to assume in conversation, which, I think, goes beyond the just prerogative of township, and is a very unfair encroachment on the natural rights of their friends and relations in the country- They should consider, that though there are certain subjects of ton and fashion, on which they may pronounce ex cathedra (if I may be allowed so pedantic a phrase), yet that, even in the country, the senses of hearing, seeing, tasting and smelling, may be enjoyed to a certain extent ; and that a person may like or dislike a new song, a new lutestring, a French dish, or an Italian perfume, though such person has been unfortunate enough to pass last winter at a hundred miles distance from the metropolis.

On the other hand, it is but fair to inform the ladies and gentlemen of the country, that there is a certain deference which ought to be paid, in those matters, to the enlightened judgment of their friends, who are newly arrived from the seat of information and of knowledge. I have heard a lady in the country, when her cousin from Edinburgh had been very obligingly communicating some ex.

traordinary piece of intelligence, or exhibiting some remarkable piece of dress or finery, cut, her short, by saying, with all the coolness in the world, “ That " is singular enough, but it is nothing to what I “ heard from Miss B........, with whom I have coro responded ever since she went to London ;” or, “ this is very pretty, to be sure, but not to be com« pared to Mrs. C.........'s, which she had sent her « in a present from Paris.” This sort of brag-playing in conversation I have sometimes heard carried to a very disagreeable length, which would be in a great measure prevented, if people were not to be allowed credit for what they may have heard, or have been told, but to take consequence only from what they have seen. If we town-people are to be thus out-wondered on report, there is an end of all order and subordination in the matter. To borrow another allusion from the game above-mentioned, I think it is but reasonable, that the wonders of persons from town should take the same precedence of the wonders of the people in the country, that natural cards do of makers.

But it is sometimes from the opposite feeling, from too high an idea of the importance of their town visitors, that the good people of the country are apt to fall into improprieties. It is wonderful to see the confusion into which the appearance of the newfashioned carriage of a gentleman just arrived from town throws the family, especially the female part of it, of his rural neighbour. Such a peeping from windows, such a running backwards and forwards of bare-headed boys and girls to fetch their master from the field, and their mistress from the washhouse ! Then, after waiting a long while in the parlour, which the chambermaid has had but time to put half in order, comes the old lady with some awkward apology, followed by a scold to the maid for leaving her rubber or hearth-brush in view of the

[blocks in formation]

company By and by appears the master of the house, with another apology, for appearing before ladies in his farmer's dress. After a long series of common enquiries, a frequent pulling out of watches on the part of the visitors, and two or three messages up stairs from the mistress of the family ; down come the young ladies with their caps awry, their long pins but half stuck in, their hair powdered in patches, and their aprons stiff from the folds. Here follows a second course of the same questions and answers, which being closed by an observation of the late hour from the one side, and some strictures on the shortness of town-visits from the other, the company are suffered to depart, who, it is ten to one, laugh all the way home at the good people who were at such pains to make themselves fit, as they thought, to be seen by them. Let these last remember, that there is a style, as it is called, proper to every thing ; decency and cleanliness they owe to themselves; an imitation of the fashionable fineries of the town they owe to nobody; most of these, indeed, are quite preposterous in the country; it is only when people get into crowds that they are at liberty to make fools of themselves.

As I have in the beginning of this paper, desired the city.emigrants not to carry the town into the country, so I must entreat their country friends not to forget that the others have but lately arrived there. Their relish for draining, ditching, hedging, horsehoeing, liming and marling, and such other branches of the fine arts as an afternoon's conversation at a gentleman farmer's frequently runs into, has been a good deal blunted by seven months residence in the region of amusement and dissipation. The like caution will apply to those female orators who occupy the intervals of tea-drinking with dessertations on the cow-house, the dairy, and the poultry-yard.

« VorigeDoorgaan »