Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

command a view both of the company and of the
stage. He had never been in our present house be-
fore, and allowed that in size and convenience it ex-
ceeded the old one, though he would not grant so
much as the lady and I demanded on that score. I
know,' said he, you are in the right; but one don't
easily get rid of first impressions ; I can't make you
conceive what a play was to me some tifty years ago,
with what feelings I heard the last music begin, nor
how
my

heart beat when it ceased.'—- Why, it is very true, colonel,' said the lady, one can't retain those feelings always.'— It is something,' said I, "to have had them once.' Why, if I may judge from the little I have seen,' replied the colonel, your young folks have no time for them now-a-days; their pleasures begin so early, and come so thick:-“ 'Tis the way to make the most of their time.' Pardon me, madam,' said he, 'I don't think so: 'tis like the difference between your hot-house

asparagus

and my garden ones; the last have their green and their white; but the first is tasteless from the very top.' The lady had not time to study the allusion ; for her company began to come into the box and continued coming in during all the first act of the comedy. On one side of Colonel Caustic sat a lady with a Lunardi hat; before him was placed one with a feathered headdress. Lunardi and the Feathers talked and nodded to one another about an appointment at a milliner's next morning. I sat quite behind, as is my custom, and betook myself to meditation. The colonel was not quite so patient; he tried to see the stage, and got a flying vizzy now and then; but in the attempt he got such a whisk from Miss Feathers on one cheek, and such a poke from the wires of Miss Lunardi on t'other, that he was fain to give up the matter of seeing ;-as to hearing it was out of the question.

I hope, colonel, you have been well entertained,

[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]

said the mistress of the box, at the end of the act. • Wonderfully well,” said the colonel. -- That La Mash is a monstrous comical fellow!'-'Oh! as to that, madam, I know nothing of the matter: in your ladyship’s box one is quite independent of the players.? -He made a sign to me: I opened the box door, and stood waiting for his coming with me.—- Where are you going, colonel?' said the lady, as he stepped over the last bench. To the play, madam,” said he, bowing, and shutting the door.

For that purpose we went to the pit, where, though it was pretty much crowded, we got ourselves seated in a very centrical place. There is something in Colonel Čaustic's look and appearance, not so much of the form only, but the sentiment of good breeding, that it is not easy to resist showing him any civility in one's power. While we stood near the door, a party in the middle of one of the rows beckoned to us, and let us know that we might find room by them; and the colonel, not without many scruples of complaisance, at last accepted the invitation.

We had not long been in possession of our place before the second act began. We had now an opportunity of hearing the play, as though the conversation in the box we had left, which by this time was reinforced with several new performers, was about as loud as that of the players, we were nearer to the talkers in front than those behind us. When the act was over, I repeated Lady 's interrogatory as to the colonel's entertainment. 'I begin,' said he, putting his snuff-box to his nose, to find the inattention of my former box-fellows not quite so unreasonable.'- Our

company of this season,' said a brother officer, who sat near us, to Colonel Caustic, is a very numerous one; they can get up any new play in a week.'—'I am not so much surprised, sir,' replied the colonel, ‘at the number of your players, as I am

This is a very

tell me 80;

at the number of the audience.'— Most of the new performers are drafts from the English and Irish stages.'- From the awkward division of them, I presume.'-- You are a severe critic, sir,' replied the officer; but the house has been as full as you see it every night these three weeks.'~I can easily believe it,' said the colonel.

As the play went on, the colonel was asked his opinion of it by this gentleman and one or two more of his neighbours. He was shy of venturing his judgment on the piece; they were kind enough to direct him how to form one.

favourite comedy, sir, and has had a great run at Drury-lane. Why, gentlemen,' said he, 'I have no doubt of the comedy being an excellent comedy, since you

and to be sure those gentlemen and ladies who make up the dramatis personæ of it say a number of good things, some of them not the worse for having been said last century by Joe Miller; but I am often at a loss to know what they would be at, and wish for a little of my old friend Bayes's insinuation to direct me.'- You mean, sir, that the plot is involved.'— Pardon me, sir, not at all; 'tis a perfectly clear plot, 'as clear as the sun in the cucumber,' as Anthonio in Venice Preserved says. The hero and heroine are to be married, and they are at a loss how to get it put off till the fifth act.'* You will see, sir, how the last scene will wind it up.'— Oh! I have no doubt, sir, that it will end at the dropping of the curtain.'

Before the dropping of the curtain, however, it was not easy to attend to that winding up of the plot which was promised us. Between gentlemen coming into the house from dinner parties, and ladies going out of it to evening ones, the disorder in the boxes, and the calling to order in the pit, the business of the comedy was rather supposed than followed ; and the

actors themselves seemed inclined to slur it a little, being too well bred not to perceive that they interrupted the arrangement of some of the genteelest part of their audience.

When the curtain was down, I saw Colonel Caustic throw his eye round the house with a look which I knew had nothing to do with the comedy. After a silence of two or three minutes, in which I did not choose to interrupt him, “ Amidst the various calculations of lives,' said he, “is there any table for the life of a beauty?'- I believe not,' said I, smiling; 'there is a fragility in that, which neither Price nor Maseres ever thought of applying figures to.'—'Tis a sort of mortality, continued the colonel, which, at such a time as this, at the ending of some public entertainment, I have often thought on with a very melancholy feeling. An old bachelor like me, who has no girls of his own, except he is a very peevish fellow, which I hope I am not, looks on every one of these young creatures in some measure as a daughter; and when I think how many children of that sort I have lost—for there are a thousand ways of a beauty's dying-it almost brings tears into my eyes. Then they are so spoiled while they do live. Here I am as splenetic as before I was melancholy. Those flower-beds we see, so fair to look on, what useless weeds are suffered to grow up with them!

I do not think, colonel, that the mere flower part is left uncultivated.' -- Why, even as to that, 'tis artificially forced before its time. A woman has a character even as a beauty. A beauty, a toast, a

merely considered as such, has a sort of professional character, which it requires some sense and accomplishments to maintain. Now-a-days, there are so many irregulars who practise at fifteen, without a single requisite except mere outside!—if we go a little farther, and consider a woman as something

fine woman,

more than a beauty; when we regard the sex as that gentle but irresistible power that should mould the world to a finer form; that should teach benignity to wisdom, to virtue grace, humanity to valour; when we look on them in less eminent, but not less useful points of view, as those dii penates, those household deities, from whom man is to find comfort and protection, who are to smooth the ruggedness of his labours, the irksomeness and cares of business; who are to blunt the sting of his sorrows, and the bitterness of his disappointment !-You think me a fool for declaiming thus.'No, upon my soul, don't I; I hope you think better of me than to suppose so.'

- But I may come down from my declamation, Yonder are a set, fluttering in that box there, young, to be sure, but they will never be older, except in wrinkles—I don't suppose they have an idea in their heads beyond the colour of a ribbon, the placing of a feather, or the step of a cotillon !- And yet they may get husbands. If it please God, said I. And be the mothers of the next generation.'

- Tis to be hoped: --Well, well, old Caustic will be in his grave by that time.'

There was what Shakspeare calls a humorous sadness' in the thought, at which I did not well know whether to smile or be sorrowful. But on the whole, it was one I did not choose to press too close

I feel that I begin to love this old man exceedingly; and having acquired him late, I hope I shall not lose him soon.

2.

on.

« PreviousContinue »