صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

self talk, and chattered away at such a rate, that he neither seemed to desire nor expect an answer.

On Miss Umphraville's coming in, he addressed himself to her; and, after displaying bis dress, and explaining some particulars with regard to it, he began to entertain her with an account of the gallantries in which he had been engaged the preceding winter in London. He talked as if no woman could resist his persuasive address and elegant figure, as if London were one great seraglio, and he himself the mighty master of it. This topic he was so fond of, that he enlarged upon it after Miss Umphraville had retired, and used a grossièreté of expression in his descriptions, which, of late, has been very much affected by our fine gentlemen; but which shocked Umphraville, to whom it was altogether new, and who has ever entertained the highest veneration for the sex.

To put an end to this conversation, Colonel Plum, who seemed to be tired of it, as we were, mentioned the very singular situation this country was in when the combined fleets of France and Spain lay off Plymouth; and took occasion to observe, that, if our feet should be vanquished, if our wooden walls should fail us, he was afraid our country, thus laid open to the invasion of those hostile powers, could not easily resist their force. Umphraville entertained a very different opinion. He said that a naval force might, perhaps be necessary, to maintain and defend an extensive foreign commerce; but he did not see how it was at all connected with the internal defence of a state, or why a nation might not be respectable both at home and abroad, without any great fleet? “ Were the English,” said he, “indebted to their wooden walls for the victory of Cressy, of Poictiers, and of Agincourt? Was it by a naval force that the

great Gustavus was enabled to take so decisive a part in the affairs of Europe, and to render the power of Sweden so respectable? Is it by ships that the brave Swiss have defended their liberties for so many ages ? What fleets did our own country possess, while she boldly maintained her independence for so many centuries, against the constant and unremitted attacks of England ? Did we possess a single ship of force, when the gallant Bruce almost annihilated the power of England on the field of Bannockburn? Believe me, gentlemen," continued he, “it is not an easy matter to subdue a free people fighting for their country. In such a cause every man would stand forth. Old as I am, I would not hesitate a moment to draw my sword against our foes, should they ever be desperate enough to make an attempt on these islands."

You
may,

if

you please,” said Sir Bobby, who seemed to be awed for a time into silence, by the elevated tone Umphraville had assumed, “but I'll be cursed if I would. Damn it, what does it signify, if the French were to conquer us? I don't think we could lose much by it; and, in some respects, we should gain. We should drink better Burgundy; and we should have clothes fit for a gentleman to wear, without running the risk of their being seized by these damned locusts of custom-house officers. — I should not like, though, to lose my seat in the house. If the French leave us that, they may come again when they please for me.” - Umphraville, who had not the most distant conception of his being in parliament, asked Sir Bobby, gravely, what seat, what house, he meant ?

Why, damn it, our house, the House of Commons, to be sure ; — there is no living out of parliament now; it is the ton for a gentleman to be in it, and it is the pleasantest thing in the world. There are

Jack
Dick
Lord

and I are always together. At first, we used to tire confoundedly of their late nights and long debates; but now the minister is so obliging as to tell us when he thinks the question will be put, and away we go to dinner, to the opera, or somewhere, and contrive to return just in time to vote, or, as Lord calls it, to be in at the death."

Hitherto Umphraville's countenance had discovered no emotion but that of contempt; now he could not conceal his astonishment and indignation. Recollecting himself, however, he asked the baronet, if he never thought of his constituents, and of the purposes for which they sent him to parliament? “ As to that,” said he, “ there is no man so attentive to his constituents as I am. I spend some months among them every summer, where I keep open house for the savages, and make love to their wives and daughters. Besides, I am always making presents to the women of some little fashionable trinket. The last time I came from London, I brought down a parcel of spring garters, that cost me thirty shillings a pair, by Gad; which I distributed among them, taking care, at the same time, to tell each of them, that nothing showed a fine ankle to such advantage as a spring garter.

In the evening, after our visitors had left us, I found Umphraville sitting in his elbow-chair, in a graver mood than usual. “I am thinking, my friend,” said he, “of the strange times we live in. You know I am not much of a politician; and living retired as I do, abstracted from the world, I have little access to be acquainted with the springs that move the wheels of government, or the causes of national prosperity or adversity. For some time past, however, I have been endeavouring, in vain,

to investigate the latent sources of the sudden and almost instantaneous decline of our empire, unexampled, I believe, in the history of nations. The scene you have this day witnessed, has given me more light on that subject than any thing I have yet met with. If such men are to conduct and regulate the great affairs of state, are we to wonder at our want of success? If our senate is to be filled with beings, mean as they are worthless, alike destitute of public virtue and of private honour, we may cease to be surprised at any calamity that befalls us. Of such creatures, I presume, the Roman senate was composed, when, by the groundless jealousy of an emperor, Gallienus, if I mistake not, the senators were prohibited from holding any military employment; and they considered the exemption as a favour, not as an affront; so lost were they to every principle of honour, so void of every generous and manly feeling. But what astonishes me most is, that in times like these, when the empire is shook to its foundation, the people should be so infatuated as to trust their best, their dearest rights in such hands. Had the congress been composed of Bobby Buttons, would America ever have made such a stand against us?

How long this philippic might have lasted I cannot say, had not Miss Umphraville come in and put an end to it, by challenging me to play a game at backgammon.

E

[ocr errors]

No. 69. TUESDAY, JANUARY 4, 1780.

TO THE AUTHOR OF THE MIRROR.

SIR, “I AM a pretty constant reader of your publications ; by what means, you shall know before I have fiinshed this letter. Among other papers of your publishing, I have read one marked No. 65, written by a lady, who subscribes herself S. M. That lady is pleased to complain of her situation, and to represent herself as unfortunate. I cannot think she has the least title to do so. She was received and entertained by a kind brother; but, forsooth, she took it into her head to quarrel with him because he married, and seemed to like his wife better than her, and to be displeased with the lady, because she appeared to have more vanity than she ought to have had. Pray, what right had she to find fault with those who so hospitably entertained her? or, how did she show superior sense by thus quarrelling with her bread and butter?-I am, Sir, the

younger brother of Sir George Fielding. I live comfortably and contentedly in his house; and yet, I could lay a wager, were Madam S. M. in my situation, she would be fretful and discontented; but I shall appeal to you, Sir, if she would have any reason for her discontent.

“ My father, Sir Robert, sent me, when a young man to the University ; but, as I had no taste for study, I spent most of my time at the billiard-table,

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »