Page images
PDF
EPUB

ease and elegant vivacity. It is highly amusing to observe the gradation of a family aspiring to style, and the devious windings they pursue in order to attain it. While beating up against wind and tide, they are the most complaisant beings in the world; they keep "booing and booing," as M'Sycophant says, until you would suppose them incapable of standing upright; they kiss their hands to every body who has the least claim to style; their familiarity is intolerable, and they absolutely overwhelm you with their friendship and lovingkindness. But having once gained the envied pre-eminence, never were beings in the world more changed. They assume the most intolerable caprices; at one time address you with importunate sociability; at another, pass you by with silent indifference; sometimes sit up in their chairs in all the majesty of dignified silence; and at another time bounce about with all the obstreperous ill-bred noise of a little hoyden just broke loose from a boarding-school.

Another feature which distinguishes these newmade fashionables is the inveteracy with which they look down upon the honest people who are struggling to climb up to the same envied height. They never fail to salute them with the most sarcastic reflections; and like so many worthy hodmen, clambering a ladder, each one looks down upon his next neighbour below, and makes no scruple of shaking the dust off his shoes into his eyes. Thus by dint of perseverance merely, they come to be considered as established denizens of the great world; as in some barbarous nations an oyster-shell is of sterling value, and a copper-washed counter will pass current for genuine gold.

In no instance have I seen this grasping after style more whimsically exhibited than in the family

of my old acquaintance Timothy Giblet. I recollect old Giblet when I was a boy, and he was the most surly curmudgeon I ever knew. He was a perfect scare-crow to the small fry of the day, and inherited the hatred of all these unlucky little urchins; for never could we assemble about his door of an evening to play, and make a little hubbub, but out he sallied from his nest like a spider, flourished his formidable horsewhip, and dispersed the whole crew in the twinkling of a lamp. I perfectly remember a bill he sent in to my father for a pane of glass I had accidentally broken, which came well nigh getting me a sound flogging; and I remember, as perfectly, that the next night I revenged myself by breaking half a dozen. Giblet was as arrant a grub-worm as ever crawled; and the only rules of right and wrong he cared a button for, were the rules of multiplication and addition; which he practised much more successfully than he did any of the rules of religion or morality. He used to declare they were the true golden rules; and he took special care to put Cocker's arithmetic into the hands of his children, before they had read ten pages in the Bible or the Prayer-book. The practice of these favourite maxims was at length crowned with the harvest of success; and, after a life of incessant self-denial and starvation, and after enduring all the pounds, shillings, and pence miseries of a miser, he had the satisfaction of seeing himself worth a plum, and of dying, just as he had determined to enjoy the remainder of his days in contemplating his great wealth and accumulating mortgages.

His children inherited his money; but they buried the disposition, and every other memorial of their father in his grave. Fired with a noble thirst for style, they instantly emerged from the retired lane

in which themselves and their accomplishments had hitherto been buried; and they blazed, and they whizzed, and they cracked about town, like a nest of squibs and devils in a firework. Their sudden éclat may be likened to that of the locust, which is hatched in the dust, where it increases and swells up to maturity, and after feeling for a moment the vivifying rays of the sun, bursts forth a mighty insect, and flutters and rattles, and buzzes from every tree. The little warblers, who have long cheered the woodlands with their dulcet notes, are stunned by the discordant racket of this upstart intruder, and contemplate, in contemptuous silence, its bustle and its noise.

Having once started, the Giblets were determined that nothing should stop them in their career, until they had run their full course and arrived at the very tip-top of style. Every tailor, every shoemaker, every coachmaker, every milliner, every mantua-maker, every paper-hanger, every pianoteacher, and every dancing-master in the city, were enlisted in their service; and the willing wights most courteously answered their call, and fell to work to build up the fame of the Giblets, as they had done that of many an aspiring family before them. In a little time the young ladies could dance the waltz, thunder Lodoiska, murder French, kill time, and commit violence on the face of nature in a landscape in water-colours, equal to the best lady in the land; and the young gentlemen were seen lounging at corners of streets, and driving tandem; heard talking aloud at the theatre, and laughing in church, with as much ease and grace, and modesty, as if they had been gentlemen all the days of their lives.

And the Giblets arrayed themselves in scarlet, and in fine linen, and seated themselves in high

places; but nobody noticed them except to honour them with a little contempt. The Giblets made a prodigious splash, in their own opinion; but nobody extolled them except the tailors, and the milliners, who had been employed in manufacturing their paraphernalia. The Giblets thereupon being, like Caleb Quotem, determined to have "a place at the review," fell to work more fiercely than ever; they gave dinners, and they gave balls; they hired cooks, they hired confectioners; and they would have kept a newspaper in pay, had they not been all bought up at that time for the election. They invited the dancing men, and the dancing women, and the gormandizers, and the epicures of the city, to come and make merry at their expense; and the dancing men, and the dancing women, and the epicures, and the gormandizers, did come; and they did make merry at their expense; and they ate, and they drank, and they capered, and they danced, and they -laughed at their entertainers.

Then commenced the hurry and the bustle, and the mighty nothingness of fashionable life; such rattling in coaches! such flaunting in the streets! such slamming of box-doors at the theatre! such a tempest of bustle and unmeaning noise wherever they appeared! The Giblets were seen here and there and everywhere; they visited every body they knew, and every body they did not know; and there was no getting along for the Giblets. Their plan at length succeeded. By dint of dinners, of feeding and frolicking the town, the Giblet family worked themselves into notice, and enjoyed the ineffable pleasure of being for ever pestered by visiters who cared nothing about them; of being squeezed, and smothered, and parboiled at nightly balls, and evening teaparties; they were allowed the privilege of forgetting

the very few old friends they once possessed; they turned up their noses at every thing that was not genteel; and their superb manners and sublime affectation at length left it no longer a matter of doubt that the Giblets were perfectly in the style.

"Being, as it were, a small contentmente in a never contenting subjecte; a bitter pleasaunte taste of a sweete seasoned sower; and, all in all, a more than ordinarie rejoicing, in an extraordinarie sorrow of delyghts !"-LITHGOW.

We have been considerably edified of late by several letters of advice from a number of sage correspondents, who really seem to know more about our work than we do ourselves. One warns us against saying any thing more about 'Sbidlikens, who is a very particular friend of the writer, and who has a singular disinclination to be laughed at. This correspondent in particular inveighs against personalities, and accuses us of ill-nature in bringing forward old Fungus and Billy Dimple, as figures of fun to amuse the public. Another gentleman, who states that he is a near relation of the Cocklofts, proses away most soporifically on the impropriety of ridiculing a respectable old family; and declares that if we make them and their whim-whams the subject of any more essays, he shall be under the necessity of applying to our theatrical champions for satisfaction. A third, who by the crabbedness of the hand-writing, and a few careless inaccuracies in the spelling, appears to be a lady, assures us that the Miss Cocklofts, and Miss Diana Wearwell, and Miss Dashaway, and Mrs. Will Wizard's quondam flame, are so much obliged to us for our notice, that they intend in future to take no notice of us at all, but leave us

« PreviousContinue »