Page images
PDF
EPUB

miss generally went to play at hot-cockles and btindman's buff in the parlour ; and when the young folks (for they seldom played at hot-cockles when grown old) were tired of such amnsements, the gentlemen entertained miss with the history of their greyhounds, bear-baitings, and victories at cudgelplaying. If the weather was fine, they ran at the ring, or shot at butts, while miss held in her hand a riband, with which she adorned the conqueror. Her mental qualifications were exactly fitted to her external accomplishments. Before she was fifteen, she could tell the story of Jack the Giant-Killer; could name every mountain that was inhabited by fairies; knew a witch at first sight; and could re. peat four Latin prayers without a prompter. Her dress was perfectly fashionable; her arms and her hair were completely covered; a monstrous muff was put round her neck, so that her head seemed like that of John the Baptist placed in a charger. In short, when completely equipped, her appearance was so very modest, that she discovered little more than her nose. These were the times, Mr. Rigma. role, when every lady that had a good nose might set up for a beauty ; when every woman that could tell stories might be cried up for a wit.'- I am as much displeased at those dresses which conceal too much, as at those which discover too much: I am equally an enemy to a female dunce, or a female pedant.'

. Yon may be sure that miss chose a husband with qualifications resembling her own; she pitched upon a courtier equally remarkable for hunting and drinking, who had given several proofs of his great virility among the daughters of his tenants and do. mestics. They fell in love at first sight (for such was the gallantry of the times), were married, cam

to court, and madam appeared with superior quali. fications. . The king was struck with her beauty. All property was at the king's command ; the bus. band was obliged to resign all pretensions in his wife to the sovereign whom God anointed, to com. mit adultery where he thought proper. The king loved her for some time; but, at length, repenting of his misdeeds, and instigated by his father con. fessor, from a principle of conscience, removed her from his levee to the bar of this tavern, and took a new mistress in her stead. Let it not surprise you to bebold the mistress of a king degraded to so humble an office. As the ladies had no mental accomplishments, a good face was enough to raise them to the royal couch; and she who was this day a royal mistress, might the next, when her beauty palled upon enjoyment, be doomed to infamy and want.

• Under the care of this lady, the tavern grew into great reputation; the courtiers had not yet learned to game, but they paid it off by drinking; drunkenness is ever the vice of a barbarous, and gaming of a luxurious age. They had not such frequent entertainments as the moderns have, but were more expensive and more luxurious in those they had. All their fooleries were more elaborate, and more admired by the great and vulgar, than now. A courtier has been known to spend bis whole fortune at a single combat ; a king, to mortgage his domi. nions to furnish out the frippery of a tournament. There were certain days appointed for riot and debauchery, and to be sober at such times was reputed a crime. Kings themselves set the example; and I have seen monarchs in this room drunk before the entertainment was half concluded. These were the times, sir, when kings kept mistresses, and got drunk in public; they were too plain and simple in those happy times to hide their vices, and act the kypocrite, as now.'— Lord, Mrs. Quickly!' interrupting her, ' I expected to hear a story, and here you are going to tell me I know not what of times and vices ; pr'ythee let me entreat thee once more to wave reflections, and give thy history without deviation.'

• No lady upon earth,' continued my visionary correspondent,' knew how to puff off her damaged wine or women with more art than she. When these grew flat, or those paltry, it was but changing the names; the wine became excellent, and the girls agreeable. She was also possessed of the en. gaging leer, the chuck under the chin, winked at a double-entendre, could nick the opportunity of calling for something comfortable, and perfectly understood the distinct 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 at a modern bagpio.-Witness, ye powers of debauchery! how often I have been present at the various appearances of drunkenness, riot, guilt, and brutality. A tavern is a true pic. ture of human infirmity; in history we find only one side of the age exbibited to our view; but in the accounts of a tavern we see every age equally ab • surd and equally vicious.

Upon this lady's decease, the tavern was successively occupied by adventurers, builies, 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 primero, not

[ocr errors]

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. Panl, 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 you then any cause to regret being born in the times you now live in, 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 own hours of amusement and dissipation, we shall find them more sensual, more entirely devoted to pleasure, and infinitely more selfish,

• The last hostess of note I found 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 neighbours, 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 scandal of former time; 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, in. deed! when even women could not scold in safety.

• Since her time the tavern underwent several revolutions, according 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 harbouring whigs, and the next infamous for a retreat to tories. Some years ago it was in bigh 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 Home other hearer; I am determined to hearken only to stories.'

I had scarce coucladed, when my eyes and ears seemed opened to my landlord, who had been all this while giving me an account of the repairs be had made in the house, and was now got into the story of the cracked glass in the dining-room.

ON QUACK DOCTORS.

WHATEVER may be the merits of the English

in other sciences, they seem peculiarly excellent in the art of healing. There is scarcely a disor

« PreviousContinue »