[ocr errors][ocr errors]

finefs goes forward with fuccefs. When the poor are to be relieved, the officers appointed to deal out public charity affemble and eat upon it: nor has it ever been known that they filled the bellies of the poor, till they had previously satisfied their own. But in the election of magiftrates, the people feem to exceed all bounds; the merits of a candidate are often measured by the number of his treats; his conftitutents affemble, eat upon him, and lend their applaufe, not to his integrity or sense, but to the quantities of his beef and brandy.

And yet I could forgive this people their plentiful meals on this occafion, as it is extremely natural for every man to eat a great deal, when he gets it for nothing; but what amazes me most is, that all this good living no way contributes to improve their good humour. On the contrary, they seem to lose their temper as they lofe their appetites; every morfel they swallow, and every glass they pour down, ferves to increase their animofity. Many an honeft man, before as harmless as a tame rabbit, when loaded with a fingle election dinner, has become more dangerous than a charged culverin. Upon one of these occafions I have actually seen a bloody-minded man-milliner fally forth at the head of a mob, determined to face a defperate paftry-cook, who was general of the oppofite party.

But you 'must not fuppofe they are without a pretext for thus beating each other: on the contrary, no man here is so uncivilized as to beat his neighbour without producing very fufficient reafons. One candidate, for inflance, treats with gin, a spirit of their own manufacture; another always drinks brandy, imported from abroad. Brandy is a wholefome liquor; gin, a liquor wholly

their own. This then furnishes an obvious caufe of quarrel; whether it be most reasonable to get drunk with gin, or get drunk with brandy? The mob meet upon the debate; fight themselves fober; and then draw off to get drunk again, and charge for another encounter. So that the English may now properly be faid to be engaged in war; fince, while they are fubduing their enemies abroad, they are breaking each others heads at home.

I lately made an excurfion to a neighbouring village, in order to be a spectator of the ceremonies practised upon this occafion. I left town in company with three fiddlers, nine dozen of hams, and a corporation poet, which were defigned as reinforcements to the gin-drinking party. We entered the town with a very good face; the fiddlers, no way intimidated by the enemy, kept handling their arms up the principal street. By this prudent manœuvre, they took peaceable poffeffion of their head quarters, amidst the shouts of multitudes, who feemed perfectly rejoiced at hearing their music but above all at seeing their bacon.

I must own I could not avoid being pleased to see all ranks of people, on this occafion levelled into an equality, and the poor, in some measure, enjoying the primitive privileges of nature. If there was any diftinction fhewn, the lowest of the people feemed to receive it from the rich. I could perceive a cobler with a levee at his door, and a haberdasher giving audience from behind his counter. But my reflections were foon interrupted by a mob, who demanded whether I was for the diftillery or the brewery? As these were terms with which I was totally unacquainted, I chose at first to be filent; however, I

know not what might have been the confequence of my reserve, had not the attention of the mob been called off to a skirmish between a brandy drinker's cow, and a gin drinker's maftiff, which turned out, greatly to the fatisfaction of the mob, in favour of the mastiff.

This spectacle, which afforded high entertainment, was at last ended by the appearance of one of the candidates, who came to harangue the mob; he made a very pathetic speech upon the late exceffive importation of foreign drams, and the downfal of the diftillery; I could fee fome of the audience shed tears. He was accompanied in his proceffion by Mrs. Deputy and Mrs. Mayoress. Mrs. Deputy was not in the least in liquor; and for Mrs. Mayorefs, one of the fpectators affured me in my ear, that, she was a very fine woman before she had the fmall-pox.

Mixing with the crowd, I was now conducted to the hall where the magistrates are chofen; but what tongue can describe this fcene of confufion! the whole crowd feemed equally inspired with anger, jealousy, politics, patriotism, and punch: I remarked one figure that was carried up by two men upon this occafion. I at first began to pity his infirmities as natural, but foon found the fellow fo drunk that he could not stand. Another made his appearance to give his vote, but, though he could stand, he actually loft the use of his tongue, and remained filent. A third, who, though exceffively drunk, could both stand and speak, being asked the candidate's name for whom he voted, could be prevailed upon to make no other answer but tobacco and brandy. In short, an election-hall feems to be a theatre, where every paffion VOL. II. O

is feen without difguife, a fchool, where fools may readily become worfe, and where philofophers may gather wifdom. Adieu.



THE difputes among the learned here are now car

ried on in a much more compendious manner than formerly. There was a time when folio was brought to oppofe folio, and a champion was often lifted for life under the banners of a fingle forites. At present, the controverfy is decided in a summary way; an epigram or an acroftic finishes the debate, and the combatant, like the incursive Tartar, advances, and retires with a single blow.

An important literary debate at present engrosses the attention of the town. It is carried on with sharpness, and a proper share of this epigramatical fury. An author, it seems, has taken an averfion to the faces of several players, and has written verses to prove his diflike; the players fall upon the author, and affure the town he must be dull, and their faces must be good, because he wants a dinner; a critic comes to the poet's affistance, afferting that the verses were perfectly original, and fo fmart, that he could never have written them without the affiftance of friends; the friends thus arraign the critic, and plainly prove the verses to be all the author's own. So at it they are, all four together by the ears, the friends

at the critic, the critic at the players, the players at the author, and the author at the players again. It is impoffible to determine how this many-fided conteft will end, or which party to adhere to. The town, without fiding with any, view the combat in fufpenfe, like the fabled hero of antiquity, who beheld the earth-born brothers give and receive mutual wounds, and fall by indifcriminate deftruction.

This is, in fome measure, a state of the prefent difpute; but the combatants here differ in one refpect from the champions of the fable. Every new wound only gives vigor for another blow; though they appear to ftrike, they are in fact mutually fwelling themselves into confideration, and thus advertising each other into fame. To-day, fays one, my name fhall be in the gazette; the next day my rival's; people will naturally enquire about us; thus we fhall at least make a noise in the street, though we have nothing to fell. I have read of a dispute of a fimilar nature, which was managed here about twenty years ago. Hildebrand Jacob, as I think he was called, and Charles Johnson were poets, both at that time poffeffed of great reputation; for Johnson had written eleven plays, acted with great fuccefs, and Jacob, though he had written but five, had five times thanked. the town for their unmeritted applaufe. They foon became mutually enamoured of each other's talents; they wrote, they felt, they challenged the town for each other. Johnson affured the public, that no poet alive had the eafy fimplicity of Jacob, and Jacob exhibited Johnson as a mafter-piece in the pathetic. Their mutual praise was not without effect, the town faw their plays, were in rapture, read, and, without cenfuring them, forgot them. So for

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »