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wanted, he has to be excavated from the lower labyrinths of the basement floor, where, busy as a bee with boots, blacking, and brick-dust, he passes the mornings of his days. But when the parlour gives a dinner, or the first-floor holds a soirée, if you should happen to be one of the guests, you will see Bung brilliant in a clean face, a milkwhite collar, and dickey," neat slippers, and a showy suit of rather faded livery, a little tarnished in the lace and buttons, only a few sizes too big for him, and not very much the worse for wear -by candlelight. I have observed that the livery has changed three times during the five years of my tenancy with Mrs. Jones. When Bung was what she calls a “brat of a boy," she liveried him in blue and gold, which Mr. Solomons brought her in his bag, but which soon went to pieces, and had to be succeeded by a suit of drab and silver. Bung grew out of these, and now disports himself in a man's suit of Oxford grey and frogs, which is very becoming, and sets the seal of gentility upon our establishment. I may add, that whenever Bung waits at table in livery, his services are duly put down in the weekly bill; but I have great doubts, although Mrs. Jones thus levies a tax for livery upon her lodgers, whether she pays a farthing herself on that score to the revenue.
I have now answered about a dozen of the most prominent of the great public questions of the day; and here, for the present, I shall conclude my responses. Whatever importance the reader may choose to attach to these questions -for myself, I have my own private opinions concerning them—he will not, he cannot deny that they are, among all the subjects of which the press treats from time to time, those which it keeps with the most perseverance and persistency before the public eye. Other topics it treats of by fits and starts, and in a more or less abstract manner. The subject of national education is at a premium one day, at a discount the next; political reform comes and goes upon
the platform of the broad sheet; the peace agitation is rampant at one season and dormant at another; and so on. But the whiskers, the oats, the perambulators, the wigs, the hot mealy potatoes, &c.—these things keep their ground; their foundations are deeply rooted beyond the mutabilities of the changing years, and bid defiance to the storms of fate. Whether such phenomena be according to the natural course of things, or whether they be the symbols of some profound and unexplained mystery, I leave to be decided by the coming man" when he shall have made his appearance.
FIDDLES AND THE FIDDLE-TRADE.
No man who is not a fiddler can be fully aware of the virtues that reside in a fiddle. To the majority of mankind, the thing is but a vibratory machine of thin wood, furnished with tightened strings of catgut for the production of musical sounds; and the non-fiddling portion of the community are apt to entertain a derogatory notion both of fiddles and fiddlers, as though there were something unaccordant with the dignity of human nature in the production of melody by shaking the elbow and twiddling the fingers. Not that they by any means object to the result produced, or refuse to listen to the harmonious combination of sounds which horsehair and resin elicit, or refrain at all times from responding to the invitation of the music by tripping through the mazes of the delightful dance: but they wouldn't be seen to operate themselves; they could not submit to be themselves the fiddlers. A small section of society-a dismal, dolorous, and drab-hearted community-go still further. With them, the terms "to play the fiddle" and "to play the fool" are synonymous; the notes of a fiddle-string sound irreligiously in their ears, and they look upon fiddlers as persons in a highly equivocal, not to say dangerous position. But the truth is, these people don't know what a fiddle is. I do, and I have therefore the advantage of them.
I am the owner of a Straduarius which cost me nearly £200, and is worth more than double the money. I have insured it in the "Equitable" for the sum it cost-I couldn't rest in my bed till I had done so.
How it came
into my possession-what risks I ran-what sacrifices I made to get it-what danger I was in of losing it for ever: these are particulars which I may record at some future time. At present, I am about to say something of fiddles and the fiddle-trade in general, for the benefit of the world at large and my brother-amateurs (I am not a professional musician) in particular.
All the world-at least all the musical world-knows that the finest fiddles which the art of man has ever achieved, were made by the Cremonese masters 200 and odd years ago. What all the world does not know so well is the fact, that though these masters, Amati, Straduarius, and the rest, made but comparatively few instruments, these have been somehow so miraculously multiplied since their death, that at the present moment, when, according to the ordinary course of things, they ought almost to have vanished from the earth, they abound in such prodigious numbers, that there is not a dealer in one of the great cities of Europe who has not always one or two specimens at least upon hand to dispose of. I am of opinion that this is owing, not so much to the merit of the Cremona fiddles, transcendently excellent as most of them are, as it is to the existence of a class of men of whom the reader knows but little or nothing. It is with the great fiddle-makers as with the Raphaels, Titians, Correggios, and Rembrandts, in another art; their works are so tremendously in request among the connoisseurs, that they have to be manufactured anew to meet the demand. It is the credulity and ignorance of the collectors which have instigated the forgeries in both cases.
As your connoisseur in art is never a painter, though he knows the constituents of megilp, and can daub a bolsterlooking cloud; so your connoisseur in fiddles is never a performer, unless the ability to rasp a quadrille or a polka is to entitle him to that designation. But the collector of fiddles, it is probable, derives as much pleasure from his
accumulations as his brother of the studios. He gloats over the torso of an old instrument, and feels the same raptures on contemplating the graceful swell of the "belly," as my lord-connoisseur does in the presence of an antique marble or a Venus of Titian. And as there are rival connoisseurs in art who bid and buy franticly against one another, so are there rivals in the fiddle-mania who do precisely the same thing. One consequence of this is, that fiddle-dealing is a snug money-making profession, the more pretentious branch of which is monopolised in London by a few old stagers, but which is carried on profitably in all the large towns. There is, for instance, Old Borax, whom those who want him know whereabouts to look for-within the shadow of St. Martin's Church.
Borax makes but little demonstration of his wealth in the dingy hole that serves him for a shop, where a double-bass, a couple of violoncellos, a tenor or two hanging on the walls, and half-a-dozen fiddles, lying among a random collection of bows, bridges, coils of catgut, packets of purified resin, and tangled horsehair in skeins, serve for the insignia of his profession. But Borax never does business in his shop, which is a dusty desert from one week's end to another. His warehouse is a private sanctum on the first floor, where you will find him in his easy-chair reading the morning-paper, if he does not happen to be engaged with a client. Go to him for a fiddle, or carry him a fiddle for his opinion, and you will hardly fail to acknowledge that you stand in the presence of a first-rate judge. The truth is, that fiddles of all nations, disguised and sophisticated as they may be to deceive common observers, are naked and self-confessed in his hands. Dust, dirt, varnish, and bees-wax are thrown away upon him; he knows the work of every man, of note or of no note, whether English, French, Dutch, German, Spaniard, or Italian, who ever sent a fiddle into the market, for the last 200 years; and he will tell you who is the fabricator of