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out of the English, is a man who brings news to stir up the stagnancy of the unimaginative natives of Great Britain.
To-morrow, being Sunday, I will drop in at the Marquis's, and ascer tain what novelties he has in preparation,' as the theatres say. Everything that is cleverest, throws off at Bexfield House, and should there be anything worth talking of in rehearsal, it were fatal not to be behind the curtain.
Where will the next volcano start up ?-Canada is burnt out, and Syria subsiding, nobody cares about Circassia, except the perfumers. I wish they would push the thing a little in China. When that hare was started, I pumped a monstrous deal out of Henry Ellis; and have got notes embellished with names, polysyllabic enough to stretch from the first course to the second, which I could make deliciously available.-Souchong and pekoe exhale from every syllable!-Besides, I once received a note from Lord Jocelyn, (declining a dinner invitation,) which entitles me to hint, in a careless manner, that I am in correspondence with his lordship. Nous verrons.
A CLASSICAL ODE WITH A 'FREE TRANSLATION."
QUÆ te sub tenerâ rapuerunt, Pota, juventâ,
Ut linquam terras, invisaque lumina solis,
Ah! Paddy, my darlin'! thin what has become o' ye?
To comfort the heart o' yer sorrowful wife!
Ochone! now ye're gone, see how dreadful my fate is,
If ye do, ye'll forget yer poor wife, mebbe hate her;
MESSRS. LEACH, BATTYE, AND SLUG'S MANAGING
Hence, home, you idle creatures, get you home!
MR. CORNELIUS MABBY lived rather high up, in a house leading out of Milford Lane by zigzagonal (if I may use such an expression) windings, between Essex Street and Arundel Street,-two streets notorious for a superabundance of coal-merchants, lawyers, and lodging-house keepers. With the exceptions, I believe, of one baker, one plumber, two chandlers' shops, and one law-stationer, there is hardly a variety from the trades or professions which I have set down. In a court-(for history disdains mystery) -in a court, in fact, and up four pair of stairs, lived Mr. Mabby. He was head clerk in the firm of Messrs. Leach, Battye, and Slug, eminent Chancery lawyers, in some blind street, antlering itself out of the Strand. He was much occupied ; but it must be confessed that it was his pleasure to wear the collar of occupation. History is never so agreeable and becoming as when it takes the air of biography; and as I happen to know (having been present) that Mr. Mabby divulged himself on the evening of the day after last Michaelmas term, to two of the junior old gentlemen in Messrs. Leach and Co.'s employment, over or after a hot 'heel' supper, at the close of the office, say about eleven o'clock,-I shall, after describing the lofty yet comfortable locality of Mr. Mabby, commit to the conversation of him and his two co-labourers the development of the clerkly
Up, therefore, four pair of stairs lived Mr. Mabby. The house was a sort of human receiving-house for what may be denominated penny-post families. Fathers, mothers, and children dropped into a one-pair back, or a three-pair front, as casually as letters; and at the door, the bell-handles had all the harmonious appearance of organ stops, each under each, as tuneable' as the Shakspearian hounds, and each vied with the other in requesting you would have the pleasure to ring it. Mabby, it must be owned, had to go up four flights of stairs, and flights they were to the airy spirit, which rose like the eagle from the scene of its prey to its own nest,a little, however, it must be admitted, after sunset. He had (besides a closet for the children) one room,-not the eagle, but Mr. Mabby,—and this he protested, in his airy way, that he had for many reasons, one or two of which he condescended to enumerate,—namely, that he preferred clear air, which came softened through the chimney-tops from the Thames (this he called ventilating the bleakness), for the sake of his five children; he preferred it for the sake of his own exercise in going home; and above all, he put a high estimate on it, because his wife, Mrs. Mabby, was satisfied that the things dried better (and she spent her life in washing), and that Mabby, her dear Mabby, looked whiter in the eyes of the Chancellor,
from the atmosphere in which his collars were dried. The room was one which Crabbe would have delighted to paint; the mantelpiece was out of the reach of every human being of the family, except by means of a stool; and yet on this mantelpiece, by a sort of indescribable compromise between use and ornament, the pepper-box shone as something almost German-silvery and attractive; the nutmeg-grater seemed to discard its roughness, and put on a sort of polished character; in short, the common tin needments of the kitchen, like the lower human orders in life, flared up into a sort of tin Chartism, and asserted rights which neither their usual position in society nor their metal entitled them to maintain. The fender was low, and weak in the back, and with difficulty supported the weight of a shovel with a net-work scoop, a pair of tongs with a diseased joint, and a poker with a starvation tongue. There was one easy-chair without a bottom, and the flock coming out at intervals at the back; two or three other seats, which might be considered as regulars, if their being broken in would qualify them, furnished the room; and moreover the eye fell upon one table, with an anti-Spanish mahogany top, and a spavined leg; one three-post bedstead, with a wooden box doing the duty of the fourth leg and a clothes-press at the same time, very solidly; no valance, no curtains, but a decided iron bar going round a portion of the top, asserting the right to them at pleasure. I do not wish to be particular in my description, and shall therefore not hunt the dear Mr. and Mrs. Mabby into their cupboards and coal-cellar, though as to the latter, I will do her the justice to say, that no one more availed herself of the variations of the market than she did; as the eldest child, to avoid a cumbrous stock being laid in at a bad price, invariably fetched in the article fresh and fresh in a hat-box.
I have been perhaps a little too particular in my description of this domicile; but when can a reader so well realise to himself or herself the interest of the characters described, as when the scene of action is faithfully brought before them.
A word or two as to Mrs. Mabby, and I will proceed with my narration. Were it not that in all that concerned her husband she would interfere with her attenuated observations, I should certainly pass her by as something that ought to be spared to the reader. But she was a characterless character. She would be doing when she had nothing to do; she would be saying when she had nothing to say; she never by the remotest chance spoke of anything but her own family; she was no wiser than the youngest child in it. Being near-sighted, in eye as well as mind, she declared she saw everything that was going on in that family. She saw Mabby looking ill, when she could not see him at all; she zealously washed, when she could not tell a dirty thing from a clean one; she broiled a steak for what she called her dear M. when she didn't know whether the fire was in or out. Her life was a life of suds and solitude, and utter near-sightedness of eye and mind.
I now am enabled to return to the day after term, a day on which my respected Chancery-clerk, Mr. Mabby, not only obtained liberty to leave at ten, but in the plenitude of his pleasure prevailed upon two young old gentlemen, with peaked pointed noses, and small shiny rims to their hats, appetites set razor-fashion, narrow shoulders, and indefatigable application, to enjoy a supper upon the 'heels' aforesaid, washed and cooked with admirable industry by Mrs. Mabby, and superintended by the dipping of five pair of hungry little fore-fingers,
into the saucepan in
and the same number of insatiable juvenile which they were dressed.
It must now be concluded that the office of Messrs. Leach and Co. is closed; that the common-law clerk has packed up all his razorsports (as writs are facetiously termed); that the pike of a master has ceased to glare out from the weeds of his office; that the three dull coals are raked out of the common office-fire; that the poor cashier has balanced his little embezzlement-book; that the solicitor himself has accomplished his legacy and his residue case; and that Mr. Mabby retires up four pair of stairs to the bosom of his family. On this night it is quite clear that he has asked two of his fellow clerks to sup witl. him; and to that supper, as illustrative of character, I now beg to introduce the reader.
The organ-stop, four from the bottom, had been drawn out and let go with a smart snap from the released fore-finger and thumb of Mr. Mabby, as he stood on the door-step attended by his two meagre and hungry associates, and the rush of one to the pit from the upper regions was distinctly heard from landing to landing. The door was opened by the eldest daughter, who with a recently washed face (distinctly defined by a shady rim which went high up round the forehead, and retired behind the ears to the nape of the neck), and a frock in very melancholy imitation of white, received her parent with a newly-lit dip, and that peculiar shiny chuckle which marks the face of a child labouring under a hope or a promise of 'setting up to supper.' Mabby stepped in first, a mode of civility peculiar to a lodger. A housekeeper may pause, bow, and usher in his friends to his home, following them like a vassal, because, once over the threshold, all is 'home, sweet home;' but the lodger in the house has to pick his home out of a packet, to show the way to his little honeyed cellular department in the busy hive. And therefore Mabby stepped in, and begged his friends to follow. Up went the white frock and the dip first, a little too quick for the uninitiated travellers of the irregular staircase. Mabby then opened as leader,' with all the pomposity, near-sightedness, and twistings of a Chancery silk gown, supported by his two juniors, who followed on the same side,'-that is unwound the selfsame tortuous course, and trod in the same steps as their leader. After the usual difficulties, the party got into what Mrs. Mabby in her pleasanter moments called 'The Master's Office;' that is the one room we have already described; and the heels on the fire, the candle on the mantelpiece, Mrs. Mabby dressed as if it was Sunday, and her little family, separate reports in the way of children, filed regularly, seemed to bespeak a most cozy evening. Mabby confirmed all his said little reports by distinct pats on the head; and then, probably with reference to the unoccupied space in his own, and the room's interior, opened with that direction with which Lady Macbeth concludes, by uttering, like a judgment, 'To bed-to bed-to bed-to bed!' There were then the invariable five supplicatory looks at the mother, the five shrugs of the little skinny naked shoulders,-the five audible snuffles. of cold and disappointment,-then the crawling, dangling submission, -then a monotonous distribution of kisses to all (not even letting the two invitees escape), and then, last stage of all,' the accomplishment of the bottle conjuror's trick, the introduction of the whole of this
fine young family into a closet, which it would have puzzled even the invention of a George Robins to have aggravated into a bed-chamber. The iron boot in which the leg of poor Macbriar was lodged in the days of Old Mortality could hardly have fitted closer than must this pinching dormitory have enfolded these five little tortured innocents. They were allowed no light, as there was no room for it, and it was satisfactory to know that the little dears, once in, were sure to be safe. There!-good night!' said the mother, as she saw her little lambs folded; and you heard the stifled bleatings of five 'Good nights!' as the door closed upon the suffocating rest of the five Babes in the Wood.
'My dear!' said Mabby, as his wife returned to the room,now for supper! We are all famished. Jones and Bibby have tasted nothing to-day, on purpose to be ready for supper; and I have only munched one biscuit, within, as I may say, the jurisdiction of the court, and to which twice, as it snapped crisp, the usher filed exceptions. Come, come!'
'Well, Mr. M.' (she used initials when she wanted to clear-starch her husband in the eyes of his friends)—'Well, Mr. M., all is ready, and done to a bubble. You lay the cloth, and I will be ready with the supper as quick as a suit.'
Now here the good woman was a little out, even with the best of meanings. She knew a legal allusion was always the most agreeable to her better half; but she was scarcely ever lucky in her seizure of one. Mabby winked to Jones and Bibby, and received two decided winks of acknowledgment in return, an over-payment of delight!'
Quick as a suit, eh, my dear? Quicker, I hope, or it won't suit
'He, he!' from Bibby, and 'Ha, ha!' from Jones, rewarded Mabby, who proceeded at once to stretch an odd sort of undersized table-cloth-a towel that had rather overgrown itself-upon the anti-mahogany table aforesaid. With a little careful twitching and smoothing, it contrived scantily to hide the surface wood-work, but allowed no drapery to ap proach the knees, or be ready for the napkin-work during the meal, or to give a final polish to the interior of the fork, an accomplishment invariably caught by hasty diners at eating-houses. Porter, and a more refined beverage, were had in for the coming feast; and Mrs. Mabby soon deposited in a capacious deep dish the savoury reeking viands. The onslaught was rapid, the destruction severe; not a vestige of the devourable part of the one dish remained in less time than we choose to record. But
· Pass we the long unvarying course!"
and come we to the after-supper converse. At the conclusion of the repast, however, Mabby, who had reserved a pleasantry he had treasured up for the occasion, asked Bibby if he was a good hand at a humdrum?
A what?' inquired Bibby.
A humdrum-a riddle-a bus or a humdrum,' replied Mabby.
'Not a bit,' foggily replied the satisfied one.
'Come, Jones, then,' said the inquirer, turning to the other companion, 'come, why are we like a party of the swell-mob?'