« PreviousContinue »
flinging a piece of roll at Herbert's head, “let us see that petition, or whatever it is, that the man dressed as a sailor gave you last night at the ball, will you ?"
“O it's up in my room,- I don't know where it is," said Herbert, pensively running his fingers through his hair.”
"Well, send for it, can't you? said Lord Charles, ringing the bell, and himself giving the order, when the servant came.
“I don't know whether this is it or not, my lord,” said the man when he returned.
“Here, let's see what it is,” said the latter, snatching it off the salver, and then added with a horselaugh as soon as he had looked at it, “pon my soul this is capital; hang me if I don't vote for this when I get into Parliament, and I'll make the governor do the same."
“What is it?" unanimously asked the whole party.
“Why, an address to both Houses of Parliament for the suppression of old woman of both sexes !"
Every one laughed except the dowager, who began to lour, till the amiable Herbert gallantly took her hand, and said, with his blandest smile, “I dare say, my dear mamma, it is very funny, and as there are no old women here we may venture to read it.”
" Come, read it, Herbert,” said Lord Charles, throwing it to him.
“I can't I hate reading out-do you read it, Saville ?"
“With all my heart,” said he and accordingly he read out what will be found in the next chapter.
AN ADDRESS TO BOTH HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT, FOR THE
SUPPRESSION OF OLD WOMEN OF BOTH SEXES.
"Multa senem circumveniunt incommoda."
“Ut mala quem scabies aut morbus regius urget,
Aut Fanaticus error, et iracunda Diana."
“Old women, priests, and poultry, have never enough."
My Lords and Gentlemen :-Deeply impressed as I am with the difficulties of the proposition I am about to lay before you, yet a glow of real patriotism, equally uninspired by a public dinner, or prompted by the hope of a place in the legislature, impels me without fear (though I can scarcely venture to hope without reproach) to offer to your consideration a few cogent reasons why, in the present session, you should seriously turn attention to the framing of a Bill for the Suppression of Old Women of Both Sexes. This is the real corporate reform of which the country stands in need, and until these most ancient, most respectable, but most detrimental corporations are " Schedule A'd,” the march of intellect is merely wearing out its shoes, performing the goose-step, and reform enacting the part of major-domo in the dust hole, cutting the air, and calling it a victory, as he removes harmless rubbish that is in nobody's way.
In the proposed bill, you, my lords, can have possibly nothing to fear for the safety of your “order;" nor you, gentlemen of the House of Commons, surely cannot suppose, that in any animadversions uttered against the antiquities of either sex the cap can fit you
as I promise you faithfully it will not be a mob-cap. The late William Cobbett, M. P. for Oldham, that
political mosaic, than whom no individual ever had less of the old woman about him, inasmuch as that the idiosyncrasy of the latter genius is an adamantine adhesiveness to a particular principle or opinion; whereas it is a well-known fact, that the late gridiron Solon scarcely ever broached the same opinions for two consecutive months. The late William Cobbett has in his “legacy to Peel,” asked the following questions :
“1. What will you now do with the House of Commons?
“2. What will you do with Ireland, and particularly with the church of Ireland ?
"3. What will you do with the church and the dissenters of England ?
64. On the destructive effects of funds and of paper money in England, France and America.
“5. What will you do with the tax-eaters called pensioners, sinecurists, grantees retired-allowance people, half-pay people, secret-service people, and the like?
“6. What will you do with the crown lands, and with the army, and especially with regard to the punishments in the army ?"
These are all important questions, no doubt-very important questions, but there is another still more important question, my lords and gentlemen, to be asked-ay, and to be answered too
What do you mean to do with the old women ?" And this query I take to be the very, nucleus of all those just quoted from the illustrious defunct.
A young gentleman, of equal veracity and vacuity, not long ago miscarried of a pamphlet, in which he tells you that “nothing can be done unless Whigs and Radicals alike see the imperative necessity of being united," never for a moment perceiving (owing to that moral obliquity for which he is so celebrated) how monstrous an issue might be the result of an union between such very near relations; but I tell you that nothing can be done till you see the imperative necessity of suppressing the old women of both sexes.
Before I search through the dim and shadowy light of past ages, amid the chaotic dust of buried empires, for the cause or causes of that supremacy and fiat-like sway which ancient ladies of both sexes seem to hold jure divino, or rather jus civile, over the affairs of this nether world, let it be clearly understood what I mean by the term “old woman." Never has it been, nor ever shall it be, employed by me in its vulgar and chronological sense ; for there are quite as many octogenarian Ninons in mind as in person. The old women that should come within the pale of the Supo pression Bill are like poets-they are born such-not made by any length of time whatever.
It is easy to perceive how the supremacy of the sisterhood has attained to its present colossal force, past ages having evidently awarded to them that precedence which the present seems to deem it sacrilege to dispute. One of the earliest explorers of far countries that respectable old lady Bushequins-mentions, that in Thebes a very rudely carved female statue had been excavated, playing on an instrument much resembling a viol or modern violin, and bear: ing marks of almost antideluvian antiquity, which clearly proves that, so far back as before the flood, old women played first fiddle. Nor was heaven itself free from their jurisdiction ; for an old Latin poet, in the reign of Tiberius, apostrophises the sun in the feminine gender, imploring her to be merciful in exerting her great influence over the fate of man; so that, allowing the sun to be feminine, even at that stage of the world she must have been a tolerably old lady.
Of the pernicious influence of old women in general, and ancient ladies in particular, there are a thousand instances on record. Alcibiades disfiguered the most beautiful dog in the world, by cutting off his tail, in order to turn the tongues of the Athenian old women from his own defects to those of his dog. The first sycophants that ever existed were also to be found among the old women; for, by the ancient laws of Athens, the exportation of figs was rendered criminal-the Attican figs being remarkably excellent, the Athenians did not choose that any foreigner should have the luxury of eating them. The prohibition was extremely ridiculous, but the Athenians were in earnest. Informers, therefore, were among them called "sycophants," from two Greek words signifying "fig," and "a discoverer.”* And the very first informer was an old woman, who, in bleaching yarn on the sea-shore, detected one Glaucus, a fisherman,
• See Plutarch de Curiositater
lading a vessel bound for Sicily with the forbidden fruit. From thenceforward this laudable office was chiefly monopolized by the Attican crones.
The Romans, on the contrary, though by no means despising Attic information, had, as it is well known, both a personal and political aversion for old women, always excepting Messala, the Roman senator, whó married Terrentia, (the widow of Cicero, Sallust, and half a dozen others,) in her extreme old age, merely for the sake of being talked about.
But by the Roman law we find different ages assigned for different purposes-as consular age, or that wherein a person might regularly hold the consulship, which was the forty-third year, so that he might sue for it in the forty-second-where it is to be observed, it was not necessary that either of those years should be expired, but only begun; besides that, men of extraordinary merit towards the republic were in this matter, exempt from ordinary laws: hence Corvinus was consul at twenty-three years of age, Scipio Æmilianus at thirty-six, and Pompey at thirtyfive; others broke through the laws by violence, as Caius Marius the younger, and Octavius Cæsar, who procured themselves to be made consuls before twenty years of age.
How different are all these wise juvenilities of the ancients to all our modern antiquities, when no man is deemed fit for high office in the state till he has become superannuated, alias an old woman, with the brilliant exception of William Pitt, the ablest statesman that England ever produced, who swayed the helm of state at two-and-twenty-a perfect political infant! And yet, my lords and gentlemen, the greatest enemy his memory and his measures have amongst you, I think, must acknowledge that there was no dentition of intellect apparent at any epoch of his career-nay, his bitterest opponent cannot but confess that he formed an Augustan era for England-for through him “all the world were taxed.”
But to return. Among the Romans even judiciary age, or that wherein a person was capable of sitting as judge, was not always the same; for, by the lex servilia Glauciæ, none were allowed to be chosen under fifty or above sixty, which is proof positive that sixty was the Rubicon that, once passed, left no eseape from old womanism; whereas with us, sixty is.
VOL. II. F,