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spouts but a lively emblem of critical opposition--weak, low, washy, and dirty-gabbling away with a perfect impotence of splutter.
Speaking of malice, there are even some kinds of legs which afford us a lively pleasure in beholding them splashed.
Lady. Lord, you cruel man !
Indicator. Nay, I was not speaking of yours, madam. How could I wish ill to any such very touching stockings ? And yet, now I think of it, there are very gentle and sensitive legs (I say nothing of beautiful ones, because all gentle ones are beautiful to me) which it is possible to behold in a very earthy plightat least the feet and ankles.
Lady. And pray, sir, what are the very agreeable circumstances under which we are to be mudded ?
Indic. Fancy, madam, a walk with some particular friend, between the showers, in a green lane ; the sun shining, the hay sweet-smelling, the glossy leaves sparkling like children's cheeks after tears. Suppose this lane not to be got into, but over a bank and a brook, and a good savage assortment of waggonruts. Yet the sunny green so takes you, and you are so resolved to oblige your friend with a walk, that you hazard a descent down the slippery bank, a jump over the brook, a leap (that will certainly be too short) over the plouglied mud. Do you think that a good thick-mudded shoe and a splashed instep would not have a merit in his barbarous eyes, beyond even the neat outline of the Spanish leather, and the symbolical whiteness of the stocking? Ask him.
Lady. Go to your subject, do.
Indic. Well, I will. You may always know whether a person wishes you a pleasant or unpleasant adventure by the pleasure or pain he has in your company. If he would be with you himself (and I should like to know the pleasant situation, or even the painful one, if a share of it can be made pleasant, in which we would not have a woman with us), you may rest assured that all the mischief he wishes you is very harmless. At the same time, if there are situations in which one could wish ill even to a lady's leg, there are legs and stockings which it is possible to fancy well-splashed upon a very different principle.
Gentleman. Pray, sir, whose may those be ?
Indic. Not yours, sir, with that delicate flow of trouser, and that careless yet genteel stretch-out of toe. There is a humanity in the air of it-a graceful but at the same time manly sympathy with the drapery beside it. I allude, sir, to one of those portentous legs, which belong to an over-fed money-getter, or to a bulky Methodist parson, who has doating dinners got up for him by his hearers. You know the leg I mean.
It is “ like unto the sign of the leg," only larger. Observe, I do not mean every kind of large leg. The same thing is not the same thing in every one, if you understand that profound apothegm. As a leg, indifferent in itself, may become very charming, if it belongs to a charming owner ; so, even when it is of the cast we speak of in a man, it becomes more or less unpleasant according to his nature and treatment of it. I am not carping at the leg of an ordinary jolly fellow, which good temper as well as good living helps to plump out, and which he is, after all, not proud of exhibiting ; keeping it modestly in a boot or trousers, and despising the starched ostentation of the other : but at a regular, dull, uninformed, hebetudinous, "gross, open, and palpable " leg, whose calf glares upon you like the ground-glass of a postchaise lamp. In the parson it is somewhat obscured by a black stocking. A white one is requisite to display it in all its glory. It has a large balustrade calf, an ankle that would be monstrous in any other man, but looks small from the contrast, a tight knee well buttoned, and a seam inexorably in the middle. It is a leg at once gross and symbolical. Its size is made up of plethora and superfluity ; its white cotton stocking affects a propriety ; its inflexible seam and side announce the man of clock-work. A dozen hard-worked dependants go at least to the making up of that leg. If in black, it is the essence of infinite hams at old ladies' Sunday dinners. Now, we like to
see a couple of legs, of this sort, in white, kicking their way through a muddy street, and splashed unavoidably as they go, till their horrid glare is subdued into spottiness. A lamplighter's ladder is of use, to give them a passing spurn; upon which the proprietor, turning round to swear, is run against in front by a wheel-barrow ; upon which, turning round again, to swear worse, he thrusts his heel upon the beginning of a loose stone in the pavement, and receives his final baptism from a fount of mud.
Our limits compel us to bring this article to a speedier conclusion than we thought. We must therefore say little of a world of things we intended to descant on ;-of pattens; and eaves; and hackney-coaches; and waiting in vain to go out on a party of pleasure, while the youngest of us insists every
minute that “it is going to hold up ;” and umbrellas dripping on one's shoulder ; and the abomination of soaked gloves ; and standing up in gateways, when you hear now and then the passing roar of rain on an umbrella ; and glimpses of the green country at the end of streets ; and the foot-marked earth of the country roads; and clouds eternally following each other from the west ; and the scent of the luckless new-mown hay ; and the rainbow; and the glorious thunder and lightning ; and a party
; waiting to go home at night; and last of all, the delicious moment of taking off your wet things, and resting in the dry and warm content of your gown and slippers.
ON THE TALKING OF NONSENSE.
HERE is no greater mistake in the world than the looking
upon every sort of nonsense as want of sense. Nonsense,
in the bad sense of the word, like certain suspicious ladies, is very fond of bestowing its own appellation, particularly upon what renders other persons agreeable. But nonsense, in the good sense of the word, is a very sensible thing in its season ; and is only confounded with the other by people of a shallow gravity, who cannot afford to joke.
These gentlemen live upon credit, and would not have it inquired into. They are perpetual beggars of the question. They are grave, not because they think, or feel the contrast of mirth, for then they would feel the mirth itself; but because gravity is their safest mode of behaviour. They must keep their minds sitting still, because they are incapable of a motion that is not awkward. They are waxen images among the living ; the deception is undone if the others stir; or hollow vessels covered up, which may be taken for full ones ; the collision of wit jars against them, and strikes but their hollow
In fact, the difference between nonsense not worth talking, and nonsense worth it, is simply this :—the former is the result of a want of ideas, the latter of a superabundance of them. This is remarkably exemplified by Swift's “Polite Conversation,” in which the dialogue, though intended to be a tissue of the greatest nonsense in request with shallow merriment, is in reality full of ideas, and many of them very humorous; but then they are all commonplace, and have been said so often, that the thing uppermost in your mind is the inability of the speakers to utter a sentence of their own ;-they have no ideas at all. Many of the jokes and similes in that treatise are still the current coin of the shallow; though they are now pretty much confined to gossips of an inferior order, and the upper part of the lower classes.
On the other hand, the wildest rattling, as it is called, in which men of sense find entertainment, consists of nothing but a quick and original succession of ideas,-a finding, as it were, of something in nothing,-a rapid turning of the hearer's mind to some new face of thought and sparkling imagery. The man of shallow gravity, besides an uneasy half-consciousness that he has nothing of the sort about him, is too dull of perception to see the delicate links between one thought and another; and he takes that for a mere chaos of laughing jargon, in which finer apprehensions perceive as much delightful association as men of musical taste do in the most tricksome harmonies and accompaniments of Mozart or Beethoven. Between such gravity and such mirth there is as much difference as between the driest and dreariest psalmody, and that exquisite laughing trio,-“E voi ridete," — which is sung in “Così fan tutte.” A Quaker's coat and a garden are not more dissimilar ; nor a death-bell and the birds after a sunny shower.
It is on such occasions, indeed, that we enjoy the perfection of what is agreeable in humanity,—the harmony of mind and body,-intellect, and animal spirits. Accordingly, the greatest geniuses appear to have been proficients in this kind of nonsense, and to have delighted in dwelling upon it, and attributing it to their favourites. Virgil is no joker, but Homer is; and there is the same difference between their heroes, Æneas and Achilles, the latter of whom is also a player on the harp. Venus, the most delightful of the goddesses, is Philommeides, the