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agreeable. She was also possessed of the engaging leer, the chuck under the chin, winked at a double-entendre, could nick the opportunity of calling for something comfortable, and perfectly understood the discreet moments when to withdraw. The gallants of those times pretty much resembled the bloods of ours; they were fond of pleasure, but quite ignorant of the art of refining upon it; thus a court bawd of those times resembled the common low-lived harridan of a modern bagnio. Witness, ye powers of debauchery, how often I have been present at the various appearances of drunkenness, riot, guilt, and brutality! A tavern is the true picture of human infirmity: in history we find only one side of the age exhibited to our view; but in the accounts of a tavern we see every age equally absurd and equally vicious.
Upon this lady's decease the tavern was successively occupied by adventurers, bullies, pimps, and gamesters. Towards the conclusion of the reign of Henry VII., gaming was more universally practised in England than even now. Kings themselves have been known to play off at Primeiro,* not only all the money and jewels they could part with, but the very images in churches. The last Henry played away, in this very room, not only the four great bells of St. Paul's cathedral, but the fine image of St. Paul, which stood upon the top of the spire, to Sir Miles Partridge, who took them down the next day, and sold them by auction. Have
any cause to regret being born in the times you now live? or do you still believe that human nature continues to run on declining every age? If we observe the actions of the busy part of mankind, your ancestors will be found infinitely more gross, servile, and even dishonest, than you. If, forsaking history we only trace them in their hours of amusement and dissipation, we shall find them more sensual, more entirely devoted to pleasure, and infinitely more selfish.
*(A game at cards. ]
The last hostess of note I find upon record was Jane Rouse. She was born among the lower ranks of the people; and by frugality and extreme complaisance contrived to acquire a moderate fortune: this she might have enjoyed for many years, had she not unfortunately quarrelled with one of her neighbors, a woman who was in high repute for sanctity through the whole parish. In the times of which I speak, two women seldom quarrelled, that one did not accuse the other of witchcraft, and she who first contrived to vomit crooked pins was sure to come off victorious. The scandal of a modern tea-table differs widely from the scan dal of former times: the fascination of a lady's eyes at present is regarded as a compliment; but if a lady formerly should be accused of having witchcraft in her eyes, it were much better both for her soul and body that she had no eyes at all. In short, Jane Rouse was accused of witchcraft; and though she made the best defence she could, it was all to no purpose: she was taken from her own bar to the bar of the Old Bailey, condemned and executed accordingly. These were times, indeed, when even women could not scold in safety.
Since her time the tavern underwent several revolutions, aocording to the spirit of the times, or the disposition of the reigning monarch. It was this day a brothel, and the next a conventicle for enthusiasts. It was one year noted for harboring Whigs, and the next infamous for a retreat to Tories. Some years ago it was in high vogue, but at present it seems declining. This only may be remarked in general, that whenever taverns flourish most, the times are then most extravagant and luxurious.
“Lord! Mrs. Quickly," interrupted I, “you have really deceived me; I expected a romance, and here you have been this half hour giving me only a description of the spirit of the times :
if you have nothing but tedious remarks to communicate, seek some other hearer; I am determined to hearken only to stories.”
I had scarcely concluded, when my eyes and ears seemed open to my landlord, who had been all this while giving me an account of the repairs he had made in the house; and was now got into the story of the cracked glass in the dining-room.
THE FOUNTAIN OF FINE SENSE.
I fancied myself placed at the foot of a high mountain, and saw around me several people who were preparing to climb up its steepy side. Desirous of knowing whither they were going, I mixed in the crowd, and attempted to ascend as well as the rest. Near half way to the top I perceived a fountain, of which several drank with the utmost eagerness; and not even the pump-room at Bath could be filled with a greater variety of characters. Lords, bishops, squires, tradesmen, and men without trades, strove each for a draught; and as each drank he seemed intoxicated, though but with water. The drinkers spoke frequently without understanding what they said; they decided magisterially on subjects which they did not comprehend; and judged of works they had never seen. They talked of painting without knowing the elements of the art; and decided upon music without having an ear to distinguish harmony. Nothing in short could be more ridiculous than their conversation. They in general aimed at being sayers of good things, which some uttered with solemn pride, and others with petulant loquacity.
A lady accosted a certain nobleman : “My dear lord,” says she, "are we to expect no production of yours this season? I am so fatigued with the works of those mercenary writers for bread, that I protest if I don't see something new of yours, I shall absolutely discontinue my studies, and return to piquet." “Excuse me, madam,” replied his lordship, “I should be very willing to publish my works, if there were many such judges as you; but alas! we have neither taste, sentiment, nor genius amongst us; we are quite fallen; none are capable of distinguishing true delicacy: would you think, madam, that my volume of philosophical poems would not go off, and yet the very same judges had bought Pope's Works with great eagerness? No, madam, I shall reserve my future productions for posterity, who, I flatter myself, will give them a more favorable reception."
In another quarter I perceived a well-dressed poet reading his manuscript to a ragged brother, who seemed in raptures with every line of it; he praised the language, sentiment, and sublimity; shrugged up his shoulders in ecstasy, and flourished his hands with enthusiasm. As the emperors formerly paid poets for every line they liked, so on the contrary our ragged poet was paid for every line he happened to praise; the writer reading it to him not for the sake of his corrections but his flattery.
My attention was called off from this couple to another, where a young man dressed in shabby finery was asking another, who seemed to be a nobleman by his appearance, for a subscription. "Excuse me, sir," replied his lordship, "I never subscribe except for prints or drawings; for I am resolved to encourage and revive the fine arts among us, and even vie with Italy for the superiority."
Disgusted with such conversation, I was upon the point of returning back; when one of the crowd, addressing me, said, “ Dear sir, won't you drink before you go? here you are got to the fountain of fine sense, and yet are going away without tast6 Ah,
ing.” “Ti nat!" replied I, “is this the fountain of fine sense ?" “ Yes, sir," said he, “and as soon as you shall have drank its waters, you will find yourself every whit as amiable and pleasing as the rest of the company." “ Excuse me, sir," says I, “ if the waters are to have the same effect upon me that I see them have upon the rest of the company, I disclaim all pretensions to fine sense, and am much better pleased with common sense." my dear sir," returned he, with a shrug,“ keep your common sense for a circle of Hollanders or aldermen. Without taste, virtue, and delicacy, how insipid is every society !"
I was just upon the point of descending the mountain, when I perceived some persons at the summit; and though I knew it must cost me great pains, did what I could to join them. When with incredible labor I had gained it, I there found a second fountain, round which several persons were placed, who drank freely of its waters; and seemed at once to unite gravity, sense, and humor. Here I perceived people of all the nations of Eu rope entertaining each other without rancor, wrangling, or envy. There Metastasio and Maffei paid their mutual compliments, and attempted each other's improvements; there Voltaire and the royal Prussian gave and received fame reciprocally; Gresset and Piron read their works to each other with delight; and there I saw Johnson, Gray, and Mason, with some other authors of our own country, conveying strong sense in the wildest sallies of poetical enthusiasm. Pleased with the company, I was just going to take a draught of the delicious fountain, when an old agreeable acquaintance, who had been long posted there, and who shall be nameless, welcomed me with so violent a shake by the hand that I awoke, and received no other benefit from my imaginary journey, than a certain conviction that a shallow understanding generally aspires at the reputation of wit; but true genius ever chooses to wear the appearance of good sense.