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BY A MAN ABOUT TOWN.
I TURNED into Offley's the other night, when it was almost at odds with morning which was which.' It was accordingly, as Jack Falstaff feelingly describes it on being disturbed, the sweetest morsel of the night; and such have I often found it
'In my warm youth, when George the Fourth was King.'
Then it was that, flinging aside dull care, and bidding her try to kill another cat,* instead of tormenting a Christian, I began to put in the remainder of the evening,'-an evening, by the way, of a peculiar sort, for it always expired amidst the tears of the cup, and generally in the broad blaze of sun-light. Many and many an evening of this sort have I spent at Offley's, and it was the memory of them that now guided my footsteps. The large and well proportioned room erected by old Offley as a temple to singing, smoking, supping, and so forth, was empty, save for the presence of the waiter, Reynolds, who was leaning upon his arms in the accustomed place over the back of the box near the door, gazing into the unpeopled space before him with a melancholy air, which would have sat appropriately upon the genius of the place. He started at my foot. steps, and his face lit up as he recognized in me an old frequenter of the establishment in those days when he whom men called Offiey, but the loftier spirits styled Frawley, presided over the gay and busy scene, and took his state as the patron of high solemnities. Time had made no perceptible change in Reynolds: i think the old scythebearer rarely does in waiters. They acquire prematurely in their youth the appearance of a 'certain age,' and for at least a genera. tion they look no older. You par-boil salmon to make it keep. The waiter seems to have undergone a similar process at the outset of his career, and in its course to exemplify the conservative effects. The French are right; the proper appellation for them from the knife-board to the grave is garçon! I ordered the staple commodi. ties of the house-a chop and a nip of Burton ale.
There was no such chop to be had in Christendom as that which old Frawley used to cook with his own hands for his favourite guests. But the mighty Mandarin of multitudinous chops is no more. No matter we must take things as we can best get them; and so, like an Homeric hero, I proceeded to remove my desire for meat and drink, and then, with a Broughamian glass of brandyand-water, calidum cum by my side, and a real Havannah, I fell into a reflective mood. The feelings which swelled my bosom were similar to those which Cicero attributes to Atticus. Movemur enim nescio quo pacto locis ipsis, in quibus eorum quos diligimus ant admiramur adsunt vestigia. Me quidem ipsæ illæ nostræ Athenæ non tam operibus magnificis exquisitisque antiquorum artibus delectant, quàm recordatione summorum virorum, ubi quisque habitare, ubi sedere, ubi disputare sit solitus, studiosèque eorum etiam
* Care killed a cat.--Old proverb.
sepulchra contemplor.' I thought of a number of good and clever fellows who used to spend so much time in this room,-they might be said, without exaggeration, to inhabit it; I saw where they used to sit, carry on their arguments, and do other things which the Roman has neglected to record of his illustrious Greeks, such as drink grog, smoke cigars, sing songs, make speeches, and occasionally box their corners. I threw myself back upon the bench, closed my eyes, and the room was again thronged as of yore. There was the crowd of strangers to the town, and of low persons belonging to it-of the town, towny; and there, too, knots of rare fellows, now spectators only, and rather supercilious ones, of the busy scene, soon to be actors of fast and fiery merriment, when the professional singers shall have been gone, and the snobbery cleared. There at the round table, behind a huge bowl, worthy representative of the Celestial Empire, ladling out the punch which he has himself concocted, sits Lord in all the portliness of a bon vivant of the school of Fox and Sheridan, who had consumed seas of turtle, forests of venison, and oceans of punch and claret. On his right sits the Marquess of, smoking shag tobacco from a clay pipe, and looking more like a north country grazier than a courtier, or the representative of a house that can boast
• The stirring memories of a thousand years.'
Around this table, close packed, are members of Parliament, officers, barristers, and other gentlemen; and conspicuous amongst them for his stentorian laugh and rollicking flow of spirits is Jack Spenser, the prince of boon companions, an excellent singer of songs of all sorts,
From grave to gay, from lively to severe,'
and the best of convivial orators. In the box next to this table, and in familiar communicatiou with it, is a younger crew of 'jolly companions,' law-students, parliamentary reporters, painters, and actors, and amongst these, as the general guest, is Sim Fairfield, alias' the Captain.' Ay, and there on the stool in the middle of the room stands old Frawley himself, singing,
'I'm jolly Dick the lamplighter.'
And oh! how the chorus thunders with that aspiration of the vowels, in which the company loved to follow the example of Mr. Offley!
'Then who'd be grave, when wine can save
And magic grapes lend hangel shapee
To hevery girl we 're drinking!
I opened my eyes for the purpose of taking some more of the lining out of my tumbler; my vision fled, and I awoke to the remembrance that a few bricks only stood betwixt the churchyard and the seat of unbridled jollity, and that old Frawley now lay in that churchyard, and so did Simon Fairfield; and no doubt both sleep well, as the tavern's roar was always sweet lullaby in their ears. Sim lies directly under the great window of the room. On the evening of his burial, Count Bolieski, a Polander, and a number of the Captain's friends, assembled at that window, and poured libations upon his grave. They did not, however, treat his gentle and jolly spirit like a heathen ghost. They poured forth no blood; the Captain had an aversion to it even in the way of his profession, unless
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 former. A 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.
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 bonhommie and good-fel. lowship 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 appear. ance on the next anniversary of the saint,
Who drove the frogs into the bogs, and banished all the vermin!'
I recollect, too, a pair of these over-nice 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 church-yard opposite to Off. ley'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 rere-supper 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 called penillion 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,
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 he had once been eminently handsome, and his manners exqui. site. 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 stamp. ed 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 succeeded, moreover, in bringing safe to the hotel at which he lived. But, being in his bed-room, with that strange cunning which fre