AMONG the deaths in our obituary -- or this month, I observe
with concern "At his cottage on the Bath road, Captain
Jackson." The name and attribution are common enough; but a
feeling like reproach persuades me, that this could have been no other
in fact than my dear old friend, who some five-and-twenty years ago
rented a tenement, which he was pleased to dignify with the appellation
here used, about a mile from Westbourn Green. Alack,
how good men, and the good turns they do us, slide out of memory,
and are recalled but by the surprise of some such sad memento as
that which now lies before us!
He whom I mean was a retired half-pay officer, with a wife and
two grown-up daughters, whom he maintained with the port and
notions of gentlewomen upon that slender professional allowance.
Comely girls they were too.
And was I in danger of forgetting this man ? -- his cheerful
suppers -- the noble tone of hospitality, when first you set your
foot in the cottage -- the anxious ministerings about you, where
little or nothing (God knows) was to be ministered. -- Althea's horn
in a poor platter -- the power of self-enchantment, by which, in his
magnificent wishes to entertain you, he multiplied his means to
You saw with your bodily eyes indeed what seemed a bare scrag
-- cold savings from the foregone meal -- remnant hardly sufficient
to send a mendicant from the door contented. But in the copious
will -- the revelling imagination of your host -- the "mind, the
mind, Master Shallow," whole beeves were spread before you --
hecatombs -- no end appeared to the profusion.
It was the widow's cruse -- the loaves and fishes; carving could
not lessen nor helping diminish it -- the stamina were left -- the
elemental bone still flourished, divested of its accidents.
"Let us live while we can," methinks I hear the open-handed
creature exclaim; "while we have, let us not want," "here is
plenty left;" "want for nothing " -- with many more such hospitable
sayings, the spurs of appetite, and old concomitants of
smoaking boards, and feast-oppressed chargers. Then sliding a
slender ratio of Single Gloucester upon his wife's plate, or the
daughter's, he would convey the remanent rind into his own, with
a merry quirk of "the nearer the bone," &c., and declaring that
he universally preferred the outside. For we had our table distinctions,
you are to know, and some of us in a manner sate above
the salt. None but his guest or guests dreamed of tasting flesh
luxuries at night, the fragments were vere hospitibus sacra. But
of one thing or another there was always enough, and leavings:
only he would sometimes finish the remainder crust, to show that
he wished no savings.
Wine he had none; nor, except on very rare occasions, spirits;
but the sensation of wine was there. Some thin kind of ale I
remember -- " British beverage," he would say! "Push about, my
boys;" "Drink to your sweethearts, girls." At every meagre
draught a toast must ensue, or a song. All the forms of good
liquor were there, with none of the effects wanting. Shut your
eyes, and you would swear a capacious bowl of punch was foaming
in the centre, with beams of generous Port or Madeira radiating to
it from each of the table corners. You got flustered, without
knowing whence; tipsy upon words; and reeled under the
of his unperforming Bacchanalian encouragements.
We had our songs -- " Why, Soldiers, Why " -- and the "British
Grenadiers " -- in which last we were all obliged to bear chorus.
Both the daughters sang. Their proficiency was a nightly theme
-- the masters he had given them -- the "no-expence" which he
spared to accomplish them in a science "so necessary to young
women." But then -- they could not sing "without the instrument."
Sacred, and by me, never-to-be violated, Secrets of Poverty
Should I disclose your honest aims at grandeur, your makeshift
efforts of magnificence? Sleep, sleep, with all thy broken keys, if
one of the bunch be extant; thrummed by a thousand ancestral
thumbs ; dear, cracked spinnet of dearer Louisa ! Without
mention of mine, be dumb, thou thin accompanier of her thinner
warble! A veil be spread over the dear delighted face of the
well-deluded father, who now haply listening to cherubic notes,
scarce feels sincerer pleasure than when she awakened thy time-shaken
chords responsive to the twitterings of that slender image
of a voice.
We were not without our literary talk either. It did not extend
far, but as far as it went, it was good. It was bottomed well; had
good grounds to go upon. In the cottage was a room, which
tradition authenticated to have been the same in which Glover, in
his occasional retirements, had penned the greater part of his
Leonidas. This circumstance was nightly quoted, though none of
the present inmates, that I could discover, appeared ever to have
met with the poem in question. But that was no matter. Glover
had written there, and the anecdote was pressed into the account
of the family importance. It diffused a learned air through the
apartment, the little side casement of which (the poet's study
window), opening upon a superb view as far as to the pretty spire
of Harrow, over domains and patrimonial acres, not a rood nor
square yard whereof our host could call his own, yet gave occasion
to an immoderate expansion of vanity shall I call it ? -- in his
bosom, as he showed them in a glowing summer evening. It was
all his, he took it all in, and communicated rich portions of it to
his guests. It was a part of his largess, his hospitality; it was
going over his grounds; he was lord for the time of showing them,
and you the implicit lookers-up to his magnificence.
He was a juggler, who threw mists before your eyes -- you had
no time to detect his fallacies. He would say "hand me the silver
sugar tongs;" and, before you could discover it was a single spoon,
and that plated, he would disturb and captivate your imagination
by a misnomer of "the urn" for a tea kettle; or by calling a
homely bench a sofa. Rich men direct you to their furniture, poor
ones divert you from it; he neither did one nor the other, but by
simply assuming that everything was handsome about him, you
were positively at a demur what you did, or did not see, at the
cottage. With nothing to live on, he seemed to live on everything.
He had a stock of wealth in his mind; not that which is
properly termed Content, for in truth he was not to be contained
at all, but overflowed all bounds by the force of a magnificent self-delusion.
Enthusiasm is catching; and even his wife, a sober native of
North Britain, who generally saw things more as they were, was
not proof against the continual collision of his credulity. Her
daughters were rational and discreet young women; in the main,
perhaps, not insensible to their true circumstances. I have seen
them assume a thoughtful air at times. But such was the preponderating
opulence of his fancy, that I am persuaded not for
any half hour together, did they ever look their own prospects
fairly in the face. There was no resisting the vortex of his temperament.
His riotous imagination conjured up handsome settlements
before their eyes, which kept them up in the eye of the
world too, and seem at last to have realised themselves; for they
both have married since, I am told, more than respectably.
It is long since, and my memory waxes dim on some subjects, or
I should wish to convey some notion of the manner in which the
pleasant creature described the circumstances of his own wedding-day
I faintly remember something of a chaise and four, in which
he made his entry into Glasgow on that morning to fetch the bride
home, or carry her thither, I forget which. It so completely made
out the stanza of the old ballad --
When we came down through Glasgow town,
I suppose it was the only occasion, upon which his own actual
splendour at all corresponded with the world's notions on that
subject. In homely cart, or travelling caravan, by whatever
humble vehicle they chanced to be transported in less prosperous
days, the ride through Glasgow came back upon his fancy, not as a
humiliating contrast, but as a fair occasion for reverting to that
one day's state. It seemed an "equipage etern" from which no
power of fate or fortune, once mounted, had power thereafter to
We were a comely sight to see;
My love was clad in black velvet,
And I myself in cramasie.
There is some merit in putting a handsome face upon indigent
circumstances. To bull and swagger away the sense of them before
strangers may be not always discommendable. Tibbs, and Bobadil,
even when detected, have more of our admiration than contempt.
But for a man to put the cheat upon himself; to play the Bobadil
at home; and, steeped in poverty up to the lips, to fancy himself
all the while chin-deep in riches, is a strain of constitutional
philosophy, and a mastery over fortune, which was reserved for my
old friend Captain Jackson.