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landlord. From him I could have wished to know the history of a tavern that had such a long succession of customers: I could not help thinking that an account of this kind would be a pleasing contrast of the manners of different ages; but my landlord could give me no information. He continued to doze and sot, and tell a tedious story, as most other landlords usually do; and, though he said nothing, yet was never silent: one good joke followed another good joke; and the best joke of all was generally begun towards the end of a bottle. I found at last, however, his wine and his conversation operate by degrees: he insensibly began to alter his appearance. His cravat seemed quilled into a ruff, and his breeches swelled out into a fardingale. I now fancied him changing sexes; and as my eyes began to close in slumber, I imagined my fat landlord actually converted into as fat a landlady. However, sleep made but few changes in my situation: the tavern, the apartment, and the table, continued as before; nothing suffered mutation but my host, who was fairly altered into a gentlewoman, whom I knew to be Dame Quickly, mistress of this tavern in the days of Sir John; and the liquor we were drinking, which seemed converted into sack and sugar.
"My dear Mrs. Quickly," cried I, (for I knew her perfectly well at first sight) "I am heartily glad to see you. How have you left Falstaff,
"Pistol, and the rest of our friends below stairs? "Brave and hearty, I hope?" In good sooth, replied she, he did deserve to live for ever; but he maketh foul work on't where he hath flitted. Queen Proserpine and he have quarrelled for his attempting a rape upon her divinity; and were it not that she still had bowels of compassion, it more than seems probable he might have been now sprawling in Tartarus.
I now found that spirits still preserve the frailties of the flesh; and that, according to the laws of criticism and dreaming, ghosts have been known to be guilty of even more than platonic affection; wherefore, as I found her too much moved on such a topic to proceed, I was resolved to change the subject, and, desiring she would pledge me in a bumper, observed with a sigh, that our sack was nothing now to what it was in former days: "Ah, Mrs. Quickly, "those were merry times when you drew sack for "Prince Henry: men were twice as strong, and "twice as wise, and much braver, and ten thou"sand times more charitable, than now. Those were the times! The battle of Agincourt was a victory indeed! Ever since that we have only "been degenerating; and I have lived to see the day when drinking is no longer fashionable; when men wear clean shirts, and women shew their "necks and arms: all are degenerated, Mrs. Quickly; "and we shall probably, in another century, be "frittered away into beaus or monkeys. Had you "been on earth to see what I have seen, it would "congeal all the blood in your body (your soul, I "mean). Why, our very nobility now have the in"tolerable arrogance, in spite of what is every day "remonstrated from the press; our very nobility, I
say, have the assurance to frequent assemblies, "and presume to be as merry as the vulgar. See,
my very friends have scarcely manhood enough to "sit to it till eleven; and I only am left to make a "night on't. Pr'ythee do me the favour to console "me a little for their absence by the story of your "own adventure, or the history of the tavern where "we are now sitting: I fancy the narrative may have "something singular."
Observe this apartment, interrupted my companion; of neat device and excellent workmanship.
In this room I have lived, child, woman, and ghost, more than three hundred years: I am ordered by Pluto to keep an annual register of every transaction that passeth here; and I have whilom compiled three hundred tomes, which eftsoons may be submitted to thy regards. "None of your whiloms or eft"soons's, Mrs. Quickly, if you please," I replied: "I know you can talk every whit as well as I can;
for, as you have lived here so long, it is but natural "to suppose you should learn the conversation of "the company. Believe me, dame, at best, you have "neither too much sense, nor too much language to
spare; so give me both as well as you can; but "first my service to you; old women should water "their clay a little now and then; and now to your story."
The story of my own adventures, replied the vision, is but short and unsatisfactory; for believe me, Mr. Rigmarole, believe me, a woman with a butt of sack at her elbow, is never long-lived. Sir John's death afflicted me to such a degree, that I sincerely believe, to drown sorrow, I drank more liquor myself than I drew for my customers: my grief was sincere, and the sack was excellent. The prior of a neighbouring convent (for our priors then had as much power as a Middlesex justice now) he, I say, it was who gave me a licence for keeping a disorderly house; upon conditions I should never make hard bargains with the clergy, that he should have a bottle of sack every morning, and the liberty of confessing which of my girls he thought proper in private every night. I had continued for several years to pay this tribute; and he, it must be confessed, continued as rigorously to exact it. I grew old insensibly; my customers continued, however, to compliment my looks while I was by, but I could hear them say I was wearing when my back was turned. The prior
however still was constant, and so were half his convent: but one fatal morning he missed the usual beverage; for I had incautiously drank over-night the last bottle myself. What will you have on't? The very next day Doll Tearsheet and I were sent to the house of correction, and accused of keeping a low bawdy-house. In short, we were so well purified there with stripes, mortification, and penance, that we were afterwards utterly unfit for worldly conversation : though sack would have killed me, had I stuck to it; yet I soon died for want of a drop of something comfortable, and fairly left my body to the care of the beadle.
Such is my own history; but that of the tavern, where I have ever since been stationed, affords greater variety. In the history of this, which is one of the oldest in London, you may view the different manners, pleasures, and follies, of men at different periods. You will find mankind neither better nor worse now than formerly; the vices of an uncivilized people are generally more detestable, though not so frequent, as those in polite society. It is the same luxury, which formerly stuffed your alderman with plum-porridge, and now crams him with turtle. It is the same low ambition, that formerly induced a courtier to give up his religion to please his king, and now persuades him to give up his conscience to please his minister. It is the same vanity, that formerly stained our ladies cheeks and necks with woad, and now paints them with carmine. Your ancient Briton formerly powdered his hair with red earth, like brick-dust, in order to appear frightful: your modern Briton cuts his hair on the crown, and plasters it with hogs-lard and flour; and this to make him look killing. It is the same vanity, the same folly, and the same vice, only appearing different as viewed through the glass of fashion. In a word, all mankind are a
"Sure the woman is dreaming," interrupted I. "None of your reflections, Mrs. Quickly, if you "love me; they only give me the spleen. Tell me your history at once. I love stories, but hate rea"soning."
If you please, then, Sir, returned my companion, I'll read you an abstract, which I made of the three hundred volumes I mentioned just now.
My body was no sooner laid in the dust, than the prior and several of his convent came to purify the tavern from the pollutions with which they said I had filled it. Masses were said in every room, reliques were exposed upon every piece of furniture, and the whole house washed with a deluge of holy-water. My habitation was soon converted into a monastery; instead of customers now applying for sack and sugar, my rooms were crowded with images, reliques, saints, whores, and friars. Instead of being a scene of occasional debauchery, it was now filled with continual lewdness. The prior led the fashion, and the whole convent imitated his pious example. Matrons came hither to confess their sins, and to commit new. Virgins came hither who seldom went virgins away. Nor was this a convent peculiarly wicked; every convent at that period was equally fond of pleasure, and gave a boundless loose to appetite. The laws allowed it; each priest had a right to a favourite companion, and a power of discarding her as often as he pleased. The laity grumbled, quarrelled with their wives and daughters, hated their confessors, and maintained them in opulence and ease. These, these were happy times, Mr. Rigmarole; these were times of piety, bravery, and simplicity! "Not so very happy, neither, good Madam; pretty "much like the present: those that labour starve; " and those that do nothing wear fine clothes and live in luxury."