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A Yorkshire Penance
the dean, who, coming almost last down the steps, was horrified to see this fine gentleman in such a position.
"Oh!" he cried, in shocked tones, "is this a masquerade?"
"It is a Yorkshire penance for keeping bad company, Mr. Dean," replied Nash, pointing to his friends, who stood in a group to see that the bet was fairly won.
This was bad enough, but there are some who will think that the way in which he won another wager was worse. If it is true that modesty is rather a habit of mind than an active virtue, then it was a very ill-formed and imperfect habit in the days of Richard Nash. The fine of £500 imposed on Sir Charles Sedley was, I fancy, more on account of his blasphemy than for his immodesty; or perhaps, if he was the first to initiate such escapades, his action gave a shock to the feelings of the judge which had less effect each time a similar shock was administered. A large bet was laid that Nash would not, in the costume of Adam before the fall, ride a cow through a village. He took the bet with his usual nonchalance, and won it. Unfortunately history does not record its effect upon the inhabitants of the village, but really, when reading of such incidents, one feels that Godiva's heroism has been much overrated.
Nash not only had a thorough appreciation of the value of money, he was also quite sensible of the value of fame, and was prepared to do much active work to secure it. Thus, when in 1695 the students of the Middle Temple exhibited a pageant before King William, they chose Nash, then a young man of twenty-one, as organiser and master. By this, as Goldsmith says, we see at how early an age he was thought proper to guide the amusements of his country, and be the Arbiter Elegantiarum of his time; we see how early he gave
proofs of that spirit of regularity for which he afterwards became famous, and showed an attention to those little circumstances, of which, though the observance be trifling, the ¡neglect has often interrupted men of the greatest abilities in the progress of their fortunes."
Nash justified their choice of him for the part, and so successfully arranged everything and pleased the King that William offered him knighthood. The young man, however, felt the absurdity of a title without a penny upon which to support it, and replied, in temporising way :-"Please your Majesty, if you intend to make me a knight, I wish it may be one of your Poor Knights of Windsor, and then I shall have a fortune, at least able to support my title." The King, however, passed the pointed suggestion by, and Nash received neither title nor income. He also took nothing in payment for his services, though he made many friends and acquaintances of good standing whom he was probably clever enough to use to his own advantage. Queen Anne offered him a knighthood later, and a second time he refused the honour, giving as an excuse to his friends that if he accepted it Sir William Read, the mountebank-who had just been knighted-would call him brother; Read being a quack doctor who had attended Anne for some affection of the eyes.
Nash was twice a "king," for Steele, in the Spectator, tells in 1711 a story of his residence in the Temple: "I remember to have heard a bencher of the Temple tell a story of a tradition in their house, where they had formerly a custom of choosing kings for such a season, and allowing him his expenses at the charge of the society. One of our kings, said my friend, carried his royal inclination a little too far, and there was a committee ordered to look into the management of his treasury. Among other
A Forced Voyage
things it appeared, that his majesty, walking incog. in the cloister, had overheard a poor man say to another, 'Such a small sum would make me the happiest man in the world.' The king, out of his royal compassion, privately inquired into his character, and finding him a proper object of charity, sent him the money. When the committee read the report, the house passed his accounts with a plaudite without further examination, upon the recital of this article in them:
'For making a man happy
£10 0 0.'"
Goldsmith adds that the benchers added a further £10 to the donation, and that they publicly thanked Nash for his action.
For nine or ten years after the pageant Nash continued to live an extravagant life in London, though there was one short interlude when, according to his own account, he went abroad against his will. It seemed to be essentially the period of practical joking, when for the passing amusement of a few a man might be subjected to weeks of trouble. A short time after the revels took place Nash was invited to look over a man-of-war, and to dine on board. At dinner he was encouraged to drink freely, and without suspicion he fell a willing victim to the encouragement. As the ship was under orders to sail to the Mediterranean, it started on its journey, and was well away before Nash found out that he was at sea. Whether he was dismayed or angered there is no record to tell, but the invitation he accepted for the night had to be extended for the voyage out and home again. Being something of a philosopher, and having few obligations— excepting to his creditors-it is probable that he enjoyed the trip. If he is to be believed, he certainly got some excitement out of it, for, during the voyage, the ship