« السابقةمتابعة »
in this medley of kitchen, parlour, and hall, that car ried me back to earlier times, and pleased me. The place, indeed, was humble, but every thing had that look of order and neatness which bespeaks the superintendence of a notable English housewife. A group of amphibious looking beings, who might be either fishermen or sailors, were regaling themselves in one of the boxes. As I was a visiter of rather higher pretensions, I was ushered into a little misshapen back room, having at least nine corners. It was lighted by a sky-light, furnished with antiquated leathern chairs, and ornamented with the portrait of a fat pig. It was evidently appropriated to particular customers, and I found a shabby gentleman, in a red nose, and oil-cloth hat, seated in one corner, meditating on a half-empty pot of porter.
The old sexton had taken the landlady aside, and with an air of profound importance imparted to her my errand. Dame Honeyball was a likely, plump, bustling little woman, and no bad substitute for that paragon of hostesses, Dame Quickly. She seemed delighted with an opportunity to oblige; and hurrying up stairs to the archives of her house, where the precious vessels of the parish club were deposited, she returned, smiling and courtesying with them in her hands.
The first she presented me was a japanned iron tobacco-box, of gigantic size, out of which, I was told, the vestry had smoked at their stated meetings, since time immemorial; and which was never suffered to be profaned by vulgar hands, or used on common occasions. I received it with becoming reverence; but
; what was my delight, at beholding on its cover the identical painting of which I was in quest! There was displayed the outside of the Boar's Head Tavern, and before the door was to be seen the whole convivial group, at table, in fùll revel, pictured with that wonderful fidelity and force, with which the portraits of renowned generals and commodores are illustrated øn tobacco-boxes, for the benefit of posterity, Lest, however, there should be any mistake, the cunning kimner had warily inscribed the names of Prince Hal and Falstaff on the bottoms of their chairs. 1 On the inside of the cover was an inscription, nearly obliterated, recording that this box was the gift of Sir Richard Gore, for the use of the vestry meetings at the Boar's Head Tavern, and that it was " repaired and beautified by his successor, Mr. John Packard, 1767." Such is a faithful description of this august and venerable relic, and I question whether the learned Scriblerius contemplated his Roman shield, or the Knights of the Round Table the long-sought sangreal, with more exultation.
While I was meditating on it with enraptured gaze, Dame Honeyball, who was highly gratified by the interest it excited, put in my hands a drinking cup or goblet, which also belonged to the vestry, and was descended from the old Boar's Head. It bore the inscription of having been the gift of Francis Wythers, Knight, and was held, she told me, in exceeding great value, being considered very “antyke.” This last opinion was strengthened by the shabby gentleman
with the red nose, and oil-cloth hat, and whom I strongly suspected of being a lineal descendant from the valiant Bardolph. He suddenly aroused from his meditation on the pot of porter, and casting a knowing look at the goblet, exclaimed, “ Ay, ay, the head don't che now that made that there article."
The great importance attached to this memento of ancient revelry by modern churchwardens, at first puzzled me; but there is nothing sharpens the apprehension so much as antiquarian research; for I immediately perceived that this could be no other than the identical “parcel-gilt goblet" on which Falstaff made his loving, but faithless vow to Dame Quickly; and which would, of course, be treasured up with care among the regalia of her domains, as a testimony of that solemn contract.*
Mine hostess, indeed, gave me a long history how the goblet had been handed down from generation to generation. She also entertained me with many particulars concerning the worthy vestrymen who have seated themselves thus quietly on the stools of the ancient roysters of Eastcheap, and, like so many commentators, utter clouds of smoke in honour of Shakspeare. These I forbear to relate, lest my readers should not be as curious in these matters as myself. Suffice it to say, the neighbours, one and all, about Eastcheap, believe that Falstaff and his merry crew actually lived and revelled there. Nay, there are several legendary anecdotes concerning him still extant among the oldest frequenters of the Mason's Arms, which they give as transmitted down from their forefathers; and Mr. M'Kash, an Irish hair-dresser, whose shop stands on the site of the old Boar’s Head, has several dry jokes of Fat Jack's, not laid down in the books, with which he makes his customers ready to die of laughter.
* Thou didst swear to me upon a parcel-gilt goblet, sitting in my Dolphin Chamber, at the round table, by a sea-coal fire, on Wednesday in Whitsun-week, when the Prince broke thy head for likening his father to a singing man of Windsor ; thou didst swear to me then, as I was washing thy wound, to marry me, and make me my lady, thy wife. Canst thou deny it?
Henry IV. part 2
I now turned to my friend the sexton to make some farther inquiries, but I found him sunk in pensive meditation. His head had declined a little on one side ; a deep sigh heaved from the very bottom of his stomach, and, though I could not see a tear trembling in his eye, yet a moisture was evidently stealing from a corner of his mouth. I followed the direction of his eye through the door which stood open, and found it fixed wistfully on the savoury breast of lamb, roasting in dripping richness before the fire.
I now called to mind, that in the eagerness of my recondite investigation, I was keeping the poor man from his dinner. My bowels yearned with sympathy, and putting in his hand a small token of my gratitude and good-will, I departed with a hearty benediction on him, Dame Honeyball, and the parish club of Crooked-lane--not forgetting my shabby, but sententious friend, in the oil-cloth hat and copper nose.
Thus have I given a “tedious brief” account of this interesting research; for which, if it prove too short and unsatisfactory, I can only plead my inexperience in this branch of literature, so deservedly popular at the present day. I am aware that a more skilful illustrator of the immortal bard would have swelled the materials I have touched upon, to a good merchantable bulk, comprising the biographies of William Walworth, Jack Straw, and Robert Preston; some notice of the eminent fishmongers of St. Michael's; the history of Eastcheap, great and little ; private anecdotes of Dame Honeyball and her pretty daughter, whom I have not even mentioned: to say nothing of a damsel tending the breast of lamb, (and whom, by the way, I remarked to be a comely lass, with a neat foot and ankle ;)—the whole enlivened by the riots of Wat Tyler, and illuminated by the great fire of London.
All this I leave as a rich mine, to be worked by future commentators; nor do I despair of seeing the tobacco-box, and the “parcel-gilt goblet,” which I have thus brought to light, the subject of future engravings, and almost as fruitful of voluminous dissertations and disputes as the shield of Achilles, or the far-famed Portland vase.