« السابقةمتابعة »
monkeys rather than human creatures. What was still worse, their manners were more displeasing than their appearance. When my daughter ran up, with tears of joy in her eyes, to embrace her brother, he held her from him, and burst into an immoderate fit of laughter at something in her dress that appeared to him ridiculous. He was joined in the laugh by his younger brother, who was pleased, however, to say, that the girl was not ill-looking, and, when taught to put on her clothes, and to use a little rouge, would be tolerable.
Mortified as I was at this impertinence, the partiality of a parent led me to impute it, in a great measure, to the levity of youth; and I still flattered myself that matters were not so bad as they appeared to be. In these hopes I sat down to dinner. But there the behaviour of the young gentlemen did not, by any means, tend to lessen my chagrin: there was nothing at table they could eat; they ran out in praise of French cookery, and seemed even to be adepts in the science: they knew the component ingredients of the most fashionable ragoos and fricandeaus, and were acquainted with the names and characters of the most celebrated practitioners of the art in Paris.
To stop this inundation of absurdity, and, at the same time, to try, the boys farther, I introduced some topics of conversation, on which they ought to have been able to say something. But, on these subjects, they were perfectly mute; and I could plainly see their silence did not proceed from the modesty and diffidence natural to youth, but from the most perfect and profound ignorance. They soon, however, took their revenge for the restraint thus imposed on them. In their turn they began to talk of things, which, to the rest of the company, were altogether unintelligible. After some conver
sation, the drift of which we could not discover, they got into a keen debate on the comparative merit of the Dos de puce, and the Puce en Couches; and, in the course of their argument, used words and phrases which to us were equally incomprehensible as the subject on which they were employed. Not long after my poor girl was covered with confusion, on her brother's asking her, if she did not think the Cuisse de la Reine the prettiest thing in the world? But, Sir, I should be happy, were I able to say, that ignorance and folly, bad as they are, were all I had to complain of. I am sorry to add, that my young men seem to have made an equal progress in vice. It was but the other day I happened to observe to the eldest, that it made me uneasy to see his brother look so very ill; to which he replied, with an air of the most easy indifference, that poor Charles had been a little unfortunate in an affair with an opera-girl at Paris; but, for my part, added he, I never ran those hazards, as I always confined my amours to women of fashion.
In short, Sir, these unfortunate youths have returned ignorant of every thing they ought to know; their minds corrupted, and their bodies debilitated, by a course of premature debauchery. I can easily see that I do not possess either their confidence or affection; and they even seem to despise me for the want of those frivolous accomplishments on which they value themselves so highly. In this situation, what is to be done? Their vanity and conceit make them incapable of listening to reason or advice; and to use the authority of a parent, would probably be as ineffectual for their improvement, as to me it would be unpleasant.
I have thus, Sir, laid my case before you, in hopes of being favoured with your sentiments upon it. Possibly it may be of some benefit to the public,
by serving as a beacon to others in similar circum. stances. As to myself, I hardly expect you will be able to point out a remedy for that affliction which preys upon the mind, and, in all likelihood, will shorten the days, of
Your unfortunate humble servant,
NOTES TO CORRESPONDENTS.
Vitreus's favours have been received, and shall be duly attended to.
A Letter signed A. Z. and an Essay subscribed D. are under consideration.
On Wednesday next (Tuesday being appointed for the day of the National Fast) will be published N° 5.
No 5. WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 1779.
PEDANTRY, in the common sense of the word, means an absurd ostentation of learning and stiffness of phraseology, proceeding from a misguided knowledge of books, and a total ignorance of men.
But I have often thought, that we might extend its signification a good deal farther; and, in general, apply it to that failing, which disposes a person to obtrude upon others subjects of conversation relating to his own business, studies, or amusement.
In this sense of the phrase, we should find pedants in every character and condition of life. Instead of a black coat and a plain shirt, we should often see pedantry appear in an embroidered suit and Brussels
lace; instead of being bedaubed with snuff, we should find it breathing perfumes; and, in place of a book-worm, crawling through the gloomy cloisters of a university, we should mark it in the state of a gilded butterfly, buzzing through the gay region of the drawing-room.
Robert Daisey, Esq. is a pedant of this last kind. When he tells you that his ruffles cost twenty guineas a pair; that his buttons were the first of the kind made by one of the most eminent artists in Birmingham; that his buckles were procured by means of a friend at Paris, and are the exact pattern of those worn by the Comte d'Artois; that the loop of his hat was of his own contrivance, and has set the fashion to half-a-dozen of the finest fellows in town: when he descants on all these particulars, with that smile of self-complacency which sits for ever on his cheek, he is as much a pedant as his quondam tutor, who recites verses from Pindar, tells stories out of Herodotus, and talks for an hour on the energy of the Greek particles.
But Mr. Daisey is struck dumb by the approach of his brother Sir Thomas, whose pedantry goes a pitch higher, and pours out all the intelligence of France and Italy, whence the young Baronet is just returned, after a tour of fifteen months over all the kingdoms of the continent. Talk of music, he cuts you short with the history of the first singer at Naples; of painting, he runs you down with a description of the gallery at Florence; of architecture, he overwhelms you with the dimensions of St. Peter's, or the great church at Antwerp; or, if you leave the province of art altogether, and introduce the name of a river or hill, he instantly deluges you with the Rhine, or makes you dizzy with the height of Etna or Mont Blanc.
Miss will have no difficulty of owning her great
aunt to be a pedant, when she talks all the time of dinner on the composition of the pudding, or the seasoning of the mince-pies; or enters into a disquisition on the figure of the damask table-cloth, with a word or two on the thrift of making one's own linen; but the young lady will be surprised when I inform her, that her own history of last Thursday's assembly, with the episode of Lady Di's feather, and the digression to the qualities of Mr. Frizzle the hair-dresser, was also a piece of downright pedantry.
Mrs. Caudle is guilty of the same weakness, when she recounts the numberless witticisms of her daughter Emmy, describes the droll figure her little Bill made yesterday at trying on his first pair of breeches, and informs us, that Bobby has got seven teeth, and is just cutting an eighth, though he will be but nine months old next Wednesday at six o'clock in the evening. Nor is her pedantry less disgusting, when she proceeds to enumerate the virtues and good qualities of her husband; though this last species is so uncommon, that it may, perhaps, be admitted into conversation for the sake of variety.
Muckworm is the meanest of pedants, when he tells you of the scarcity of money at present, and that he is amazed how people can afford to live as they do; that, for his part, though he has a tolerable fortune, he finds it exceedingly difficult to command cash for his occasions; that trade is so dead, and debts so ill paid at present, that he was obliged to sell some shares of bank stock to make up the price of his last purchase; and had actually countermanded a service of plate, else he should have been obliged to strike several names out of the list of his weekly pensioners; and that this apology was sustained t'other day by the noble company (giving you a list of three or four peers, and their families) who