« VorigeDoorgaan »
N°92. SATURDAY, MARCH 25, 1780.
LOOKING from the window of a house where I was
short, there is scarce any body such a cipher from • Nature, as not to form some pretensions to making .a figure in spite of her.
• The young man who bowed to you is an extra• vagant Figure-maker, more remarkable from being
successor to a narrow one. I knew his father well, 6 and have often visited him in the course of moneyi transactions, at his office, as it was called, in the Ć garret-story
of dark airless house, where he sat, 6 like the Genius of Lucre, brooding in his hole over the wealth his parsimony had acquired him. • The very ink with which he wrote was adulterated * with water, and he delayed mending his pen till the
characters it formed were almost illegible. Yet he too had great part of his enjoyment from the opinion of others, and was not insensible to the plea
sures of Figure-making. I have often seen him « in his threadbare brown coat, stop on the street to wait the passing of some of his well-dressed debtors, that he might have the pleasure of insulting them with the intimacy to which their situations entitled him; and I once knew him actually lend a large sum, on terms less advantageous than it was his 6 custom to insist upon, merely because it was a ! Peer who wanted to borrow, and that he had applied in vain to two right honourable relations of immense fortune.
• His son has just the same desire of shewing his " wealth that the father had ; but he takes a very • different method of displaying it. Both, however, ' display, not enjoy, their wealth, and draw equal • satisfaction from the consequence derived from it in the opinion of others. The father kept guineas in his coffers which he never used; the son changes, • indeed, the species of property, but has just as little 'the power of using it. He keeps horses in his
stable, mistresses in lodgings, and servants in livery, to no better purpose than his father did guineas. • He gives dinners, at which he eats made dishes • that he detests, and drinks Champaigne and Bur
*gundy, instead of his old beverage of port and . punch, till he is sick, because they are the dishes • and drink of great and rich men. The son's situa. * tion has the advantage of brilliancy, but the fa
ther's was more likely to be permanent; he was • daily growing richer with the aspect of poverty; • his son is daily growing poorer, with the appear«ance of wealth.
It is impossible to enumerate the pranks which the sudden acquisition of riches, joined to this • desire of Figure-making, sets people a-playing • There is nothing so absurd or extravagant, which
riches, in the hands of a weak man, will not tempt « him to commit, from the mere idea of enjoying his
way of exhibition. Nay, this will • happen to persons of whose sense and discretion the • world had formerly a high opinion, even where that • opinion was a just one ; for wealth often makes • fools where it does not find them.'-My friend, happening to cast his eye towards me at that mo. ment, discovered a smile on my countenance : You are thinking now,' said he,
and I could • endure being left twenty or thirty thousand pounds notwithstanding the truth of my
observation.'• It would spoil your lecture,' I replied; but you
may go on in the mean time.'-He took the pinch of snuff which my remark had stopped in its progress towards his nose, and went on.
• From this motive of Figure-making,' continued he, turning to the ladies of the company, · Beauty puts on her airs, and Wit labours for a bon mot, till the first becomes ugly, and the latter tiresome. • You may have frequently observed Betsy Ogle, in
a company of her ordinary acquaintance, look charmingly, because she did not care how she looked, till the appearance of a gentleman, with a fine • coat or a title, has set her a-tossing her head, roll;
ing her eyes, biting her lips, twisting her neck, • and bringing her whole figure to bear upon him, • till the expression of her countenance became per• fect folly, and her attitudes downright distortion. • In the same way our friend Ned Glib, (who has
more wit than any man I know, could he but • learn the economy of it,) when some happy strokes • of humour have given him credit with himself and
company, will set out full tilt, mimicking, caricaturing, punning, and story-telling, till every body * present wishes him dumb, and looks
grave pro• portion as he laughs.
That wit and beauty should be desirous of making a figure, is not to be wondered at, admiration being the very province they contend for. That folly and ugliness should thrust themselves forward to public notice, might be matter of surprise, did • we not recollect that their owners most probably • think themselves witty and handsome. În these, • indeed, as in many other instances, it unfortunately • happens, that people are strangely bent upon mak
ing a figure in those very departments, where they « have least chance of succeeding.
• But there is a species of animal, several of whom 6 must have fallen under the notice of every body • present, which it is difficult to class, either among • the witty or the foolish, the clever or the dull, the ( wise or the mad, who, of all others, have the great• est propensity to Figure-making. are seems to « have made them up in haste, and to have put the • different ingredients, above referred to, into their • composition at random. They are more common • in such a place as this, than in a more extensive • sphere ; like some vermin, that breed in ponds • and rivulets, which a larger stream or lake would • destroy. Our circle is just large enough to give • their talents room, and small enough to be affected
by their exertion. Here, therefore, there is never wanting a junto of them of both sexes, who are ' liked or hated, admired or despised, who make
people laugh, or set them asleep, according to the • fashion of the time, or the humour of their audience, but who have always the satisfaction of
talking themselves, and of being talked of by others. • With us, indeed, a very moderate degree of genius • is sufficient for this purpose ; in small societies,
<s are set agape by small circumstances. I have • known a lady here contrive to make a figure for half the winter, on the strength of a plume of feathers, or the trimming of a petticoat, and a gentleman make shift to be thought a fine fellow, only by outdoing every body else in the thickness of his queue, or the height of his foretop.
• But people will not only make themselves fools ; • I have known instances of their becoming knaves, ' or at least, boasting of their being so, from this • desire of Figure-making. You shall hear a fellow, • who has once got the character of being a sharp
man, tell things of himself, for which, if they had • been true, he deserved to be hanged, merely be• cause his line of Figure-making lies in trick and • chicane ; hence, too, proceed all those histories of “their own profligacy and vice, which some young • men of spirit are perpetually relating, who are will
ing to record themselves villains, rather than not be recorded at all.
• In the arts, as well as in the characters of men, this same propensity is productive of strange disor• ders. Hence proceed the bombast of poetry, the • tumour of prose, the garish light of some paint. •ings, the unnatural chiaro scuro of others; hence, • in music, the absurd mixture of discordant move* ments and the squeak of high-strained cadences ; * in short, all those sins against nature and sim