« VorigeDoorgaan »
Wednesday. This morning the captain dressed himself in scarlet, in order to pay a visit to a Devonshire squire, to whom a captain of a ship is a guest of no ordinary consequence, as he is a stranger and a gentleman, who hath seen a great deal of the world in foreign parts, and knows all the news of the times.
The squire, therefore, was to send his boat for the captain; but a most unfortunate accident happened; for, as the wind was extremely rough, and against the hoy, while this was endeavouring to avail itself of great seamanship, in hawling up against the wind, a sudden squall carried off sail and yard; or, at least, so disabled them, that they were no longer of any use, and unable to reach the ship; but the captain, from the deck, saw his hopes of venison disappointed, and was forced either to stay on board his ship, or to hoist forth his own long-boat, which he could not prevail with himself to think of, though the smell of the venison had had twenty times its attraction. He did, indeed, love his ship as his wife, and his boats as children, and never willingly trusted the latter, poor things! to the dangers of the seas.
To say truth, notwithstanding the strict rigour with which he preserved the dignity of his station, and the hasty impatience with which he resented any affront to his person or orders, disobedience to which he could in no instance brook in any person on board, he was one of the best-natured fellows alive. He acted the part of a father to his sailors; he expressed great tenderness for any of them when ill, and never suffered any the least work of supererogation to go unrewarded by a glass of gin. He even extended his humanity, if I may so call it, to animals, and even his cats and kittens had large shares in his affections. An instance of which we saw this evening, when the cat, which had shewn it could not be drowned, was found suffocated under a feather-bed in the
cabin. I will not endeavour to describe his lamentations with more prolixity than barely by saying, they were grievous, and seemed to have some mixture of the Irish howl in them. Nay, he carried his fondness even to inanimate objects, of which we have above set down a pregnant example in his demonstration of love and tenderness towards his boats and
ship. He spoke of a ship which he had commanded formerly, and which was long since no more, which he had called the Princess of Brazil, as a widower of a deceased wife. This ship, after having followed the honest business of carrying goods and passengers for hire many years, did at last take to evil courses and turn privateer, in which service, to use his own words, she received many dreadful wounds, which he himself had felt, as if they had been his own.A Voyage to Lisbon.
3. Good Breeding in the first half of the Eighteenth Century.
Now, in order to descend minutely into any rules for good-breeding, it will be necessary to lay some scene, or to throw our disciple into some particular circumstance. We will begin then with a visit in the country; and as the principal actor on this occasion is the person who receives it, we will, as briefly as possible, lay down some general rules for his conduct; marking, at the same time, the principal deviations we have observed on these occasions.
When an expected guest arrives to dinner at your house, if your equal, or indeed, not greatly your inferior, he should be sure to find your family in some order, and yourself dressed and ready to receive him at your gate with a smiling countenance. This infuses an immediate cheerfulness into your guest, and persuades him of your esteem and desire of
his company. Not so is the behaviour of Polyspherchon, at whose gate you are obliged to knock a considerable time before you gain admittance. At length, the door being opened to you by a maid or some improper servant, who wonders where the devil all the men are; and being asked if the gentleman is at home, answers, she believes so; you are conducted into a hall, or back-parlour, where you stay some time, before the gentleman, in a dishabille from his study or his garden, waits upon you, asks pardon, and assures you he did not expect you so soon.
Your guest being introduced into a drawing-room, is, after the first ceremonies, to be asked, whether he will refresh himself after his journey, before dinner (for which he is never to stay longer than the usual or fixed hour). this request is never to be repeated oftener than twice, and not in imitation of Calepus, who, as if hired by a physician, crams wine in a morning down the throats of his most temperate friends, their constitutions being not so dear to them as their present quiet.
When dinner is on the table, and the ladies have taken their places, the gentlemen are to be introduced into the eating-room, where they are to be seated with as much seeming indifference as possible, unless there be any present whose degrees claim an undoubted precedence. As to the rest, the general rules of precedence are by marriage, age, and profession. Lastly, in placing your guests, regard is rather to be had to birth than fortune; for though pursepride is forward enough to exalt itself, it bears a degradation with more secret comfort and ease than the former, as being more inwardly satisfied with itself, and less apprehensive of neglect or contempt.
The order in helping your guests is to be regulated by that of placing them; but here I must, with great sub
mission, recommend to the lady at the upper end of the table, to distribute her favours as equally and as impartially as she can. I have sometimes seen a large dish of fish extend no farther than to the fifth person, and a haunch of venison lose all its fat before half the table had tasted it.
A single request to eat of any particular dish, how elegant soever, is the utmost I allow. I strictly prohibit all earnest solicitations, all complaints that you have no appetite, which are sometimes little less than burlesque, and always impertinent and troublesome.
And here, however low it may appear to some readers, as I have known omissions of this kind give offence, and sometimes make the offenders, who have been very well-meaning persons, ridiculous, I cannot help mentioning the ceremonial of drinking healths at table, which is always to begin with the lady's and next the master's of the house.
When dinner is ended, and the ladies retired, though I do not hold the master of the feast obliged to fuddle himself through complacence (and, indeed, it is his own fault generally, if his company be such as would desire it) yet he is to see that the bottle circulates sufficient to afford every person present a moderate quantity of wine, if he chooses it; at the same time permitting those who desire it, either to pass the bottle, or fill their glass as they please. Indeed, the beastly custom of besotting, and ostentatious contention for preeminence in their cups, seems at present pretty well abolished among the better sort of people.—An Essay on Conversation.
4. The Migration of Souls.
We now came to the banks of the great river Cocytus, where we quitted our vehicle, and passed the water in a boat,
after which we were obliged to travel on foot the rest of our journey; and now we met, for the first time, several passengers travelling to the world we had left, who informed us they were souls going into the flesh.
The two first we met were walking arm and arm in very close and friendly conference; they informed us that one of them was intended for a duke, and the other for a hackney-coachman. As we had not yet arrived at the place where we were to deposit our passions, we were all surprised at the familiarity which subsisted between persons of such different degrees; nor could the grave lady help expressing her astonishment at it. The future coachman then replied with a laugh, that they had exchanged lots; for that the duke had with his dukedom drawn a shrew for a wife, and the coachman only a single state.
As we proceeded on our journey, we met a solemn spirit walking alone with great gravity in his countenance : our curiosity invited us, notwithstanding his reserve, to ask what lot he had drawn. He answered with a smile, he was to have the reputation of a wise man with 100,000l. in his pocket, and that he was practising the solemnity which he was to act in the other world.
A little farther we met a company of very merry spirits, whom we imagined by their mirth to have drawn some mighty lot, but, on enquiry, they informed us they were to be beggars.
The farther we advanced, the greater numbers we met; and now we discovered two large roads leading different ways, and of very different appearance; the one all craggy with rocks, full as it seemed of boggy grounds, and every where beset with briars, so that it was impossible to pass through it without the utmost danger and difficulty; the other, the most delightful imaginable, leading through the