صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

her into all the circles of fine people, and crowds all the fine people into hers; it starts a thousand whimsical caprices that furnish employment to the arts, and it has the merit of opening her doors and her purse to the sons of science : in short, it administers protection to all descriptions and degrees of genius, from the manufacturer of a toothpick to the author of an epic poem : it is a vanity, that is a sure box at an author's first night, and a sure card at a performer's benefit; it pays well for a dedication, and stands for six copies upon a subscriber's list. Vanessa in the centre of her own circle sits like the statue of the Athenian Minerva, incensed with the breath of philosophers, poets, painters, orators, and every votarist of art, science, or fine speaking. It is in her academy, young novitiates try their wit and practise panegyric; no one like Vanessa can break in a young lady to the poetics, and teach her Pegasus to carry a side-saddle: she can make a mathematician quote Pindar, a master in chancery write novels, or a Birmingham hardware-man stamp rhymes as fast as buttons.

As I came rather before the modern hour of visiting, I waited some time in her room before any

of the company appeared; several new publications on various subjects were lying on her table; they were stitched in blue paper, and most of them fresh from the press ;

in some she had stuck small scraps of paper, as if to mark where she had left off reading : in others she had doubled down certain pages, seemingly for the same purpose. At last, a meagre little man with a most satirical countenance was ushered in, and took his seat in a corner of the room ; he eyed me attentively for some time through his spectacles, and at last accosted me in the following words: You are looking at these books, Sir; I take for granted they are newly published.'- I believe they are,' I replied. I thought so,' says he.-

[ocr errors]

* Then you may depend upon it their authors will be here by and by; you may always know what company you are to expect in this house by the books upon the table : it is in this way Vanessa has got all her wit and learning, not by reading, but by making authors believe she reads their works, and by thus tickling their vanity she sends so many heralds into the world to cry up her fame to the skies : it is a very pretty finesse, and saves a world of time for better amusements.' He had no sooner said this than Vanessa entered the room, and whilst I was making a most profound reverence, I beheld something approaching to me, which looked like columns and arches aud porticos in the perspective of a playhouse scene; as I raised my eyes

and examined it a little closer, I recognised the ruins of Palmyra, embroidered in coloured silks

upon

Vanessa's petticoat. It was the first visit I had ever paid, and Vanessa not being ready with my name, I made a silent obeisance, and receiving a smile in return, retreated to my chair : my friend said a great many smart things upon the ruins of Palmyra, which Vanessa on her part contended to be a very proper emblem for an old woman in decay, who had seen better days; the wit replied, that instead of Palmyra it ought to have been Athens, and then she would have been equipped from head to foot in character.' Vanessa smiled, but maintained the propriety of her choice, bidding him observe, that though she carried a city upon her back, that city all the world knew was planted on a desert. She now addressed herself to me, and in the most gracious manner asked me when I hoped to put my project into execution; I answered in about two months, thinking she alluded to the publication of these papers, a circumstance I knew she was informed of. * Well, I protest,' says Vanessa, • I envy you the undertaking, and wish I could find courage enough

to accompany you.' I assured her there was nothing in the world would make me so happy as her assistance, and that I was confident it would insure success to my undertaking. • There you flatter me,' says she, for I should do nothing but look after shells and corals and the palaces of the Tritons and Naiads, if I was to go down with you.—Here I began to stare most egregiously.-- But, after all,' added she, will your diving-bell carry double ?This luckless diving-bell was such an unexpected plunge to me, that if I had been actually in it, I could scarce have been more hampered; so I thought it was better to remain under water, and wait till the real artist came in to set the mistake to rights ; this, however, my neighbour with the spectacles would not allow of, for suspecting the mal-entendu, he began to question me how long I could stay under water, and whether I could see distinctly; he then took a pamphlet from the table, and spreading out a large engraved plan of a diving-bell, desired me to inform him how I managed those pipes and conductors of air ; all this while he was slily enjoying my confusion, till I summoned resolution to apprise Vanessa of her mistake; this produced a thousand polite apologies on her part— But these wretched

eyes of mine,' says she, are for ever betraying me into blunders.'— That is a pity indeed,' replied the wit, ‘for they illuminate every body else: but if they betray their owner,' adds he, it is God's revenge against murder. Several literati now entered the room, to whom Vanessa made her compliments, particularly to a blind old gentleman, whom she conducted to his chair with great humanity, and immediately began talking to him of his discoveries and experiments on the microscope. “Ah! Madam,' replied the minute philosopher, those researches are now over; something might have been done, if

my eyes had held out, but I lost my sight just as I had discovered the generation of mites ; but this I can take on myself to pronounce, that they are an oviparous race.'- Be content,' replied Vanessa, there is a blessing upon him who throws even a mite into the treasury of science. The philosopher then proceeded to inform her, that he had begun some curious dissections of the eye of a mole, but that his own would not serve him to complete them : 'If I could have proceeded in them,' says he, “I am verily persuaded I could have brought him to his eye-sight by the operation of couching; and now,' says he, ! I am engaged in a new discovery, in which I mean to employ none but persons under the like misfortune with myself.'—So interesting a discovery raised my curiosity, as well as Vanessa's, to inquire into it, and methought even the wit in the spectacles had a fellow-feeling in the subject: It is a powder, Madam,' added the philosopher,' which I have prepared for destroying vermin on fruit-trees, and even ants in the West Indies; I confess to you,' says he, 'it is fatal to the eye-sight, for I am persuaded I owe the loss of mine to it, rather than to the eggs of mites, or the couching of moles; and accordingly I propose that this powder shall be blown through bellows of my own inventing by none but men who are stone blind; it will be very easy for your gardener, or overseer of your plantations, to lead them up to their work, and then leave them to perform it; for the dust is so subtle that it is scarce possible to invent a cover for the eyes, that can secure them against it. I believe,' added he, I have some of it in my pocket, and if you have any flies or spiders in the room, I will soon convince you of its efficacy by an experiment before your eyes.' Vanessa eagerly assured him there was no such thing in her room, and drawing her chair to a distance, begged

him not to trouble himself with any experiment at present.

There sat an ordinary woman in a black cloak by the fire-side, with her feet upon the fender and her knees up, who seemed employed upon a cushion or pillow, which she kept concealed under her apron, without once looking at the work she was upon. • You have read of the Witch of Endor,' says she to me (observing I had fixed my eyes upon her), 'I am a descendant of that old lady's, and can raise the dead, as well as she could.'-Immediately she put aside her apron, and produced a head moulded in wax so strikingly like my deceased friend, the father of Calliope, that the shock it gave me was too apparent to escape her. You knew this brave fellow I perceive,' says she; England never owned a better officer ; he was my hero, and every line in his face was engraved in my heart.'-'What must it be in mine?' I answered, and turned away to a circle of people who had collected themselves round a plain, but venerable old man, and were very attentive to his discourse: he spoke with great energy, and in the most chosen language; nobody yet attempted to interrupt him, and his words rolled not with the shallow impetuosity of a torrent, but deeply and fluently, like the copious current of the Nile : he took up the topic of religion in his course, and though palsy shook his head, he looked so terrible in Christian armour, and dealt his stroke with so much force and judgment, that Infidelity, in the persons of several petty skirmishers, sneaked away from before him. One little fellow however had wriggled his chair nearer and nearer to him, and kept baying at him whilst he was speaking, perpetually crying out—“Give me leave to observe-not to interrupt you, Sir,- That is extremely well, but in answer to what you say~'-All this had been going

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »