Nescit equo rudis
Haerere ingenuus puer,
Venarique timet; ludere doctior,
Seu Graeco jubeas trocho,
Seu malis vetitâ legibus aleâ. HOR. Lib. iii. Ode xxiv. 54.
Nor knows our youth, of noblest race,
To mount the manag’d steed, or urge the chace;
More skill’d in the mean arts of vice,
The whirling troque, or law-forbidden dice. FRANCIS.
TO THE RAMBLER.
Favours of every kind are doubled when they are speedily conferred. This is particularly true of the gratification of curiosity. He that long delays a story, and suffers his auditor to torment himself with expectation, will seldom be able to recompense the uneasiness, or equal the hope which he suffers to be raised.
For this reason, I have already sent you the continuation of my pupil’s history, which, though it contains no events very uncommon, may be of use to young men who are in too much haste to trust their own prudence, and quit the wing of protection before they are able to shift for themselves.
When he first settled in London, he was so much bewildered in the enormous extent of the town, so confounded by incessant noise, and crowds, and hurry, and so terrified by rural narratives of the arts of sharpers, the rudeness of the populace, malignity of porters, and treachery of coachmen, that he was afraid to go beyond the door without an attendant, and imagined his life in danger if he was obliged to pass the streets at night in any vehicle but his mother’s chair.
He was therefore contented, for a time, that I should accompany him in all his excursions. But his fear abated as he grew more familiar with its objects; and the contempt to which his rusticity exposed him from such of his companions as had accidentally known the town longer, obliged him to dissemble his remaining terrours.
His desire of liberty made him now willing to spare me the trouble of observing his motions; but knowing how much his ignorance exposed him to mischief, I thought it cruel to abandon him to the fortune of the town. We went together every day to a coffee-house, where he met wits, heirs, and fops, airy, ignorant, and thoughtless as himself, with whom he had become acquainted at card-tables, and whom he considered as the only beings to be envied or admired. What were their topicks of conversation, I could never discover; for, so much was their vivacity repressed by my intrusive seriousness, that they seldom proceeded beyond the exchange of nods and shrugs, an arch grin, or a broken hint, except when they could retire, while I was looking on the papers, to a corner of the room, where they seemed to disburden their imaginations, and commonly vented the superfluity of their sprightliness in a peal of laughter. When they had tittered themselves into negligence, I could sometimes overhear a few syllables, such as—solemn rascal—academical airs—smoke the tutor— company for gentlemen!—and other broken phrases, by which I did not suffer my quiet to be disturbed, for they never proceeded to avowed indignities, but contented themselves to murmur in secret, and, whenever I turned my eye upon them, shrunk into stillness.
He was, however, desirous of withdrawing from the subjection which he could not venture to break, and made a secret appointment to assist his companions in the persecution of a play. His footman privately procured him a catcall, on which he practised in a back-garret for two hours in the afternoon. At the proper time a chair was called; he pretended an engagement at lady Flutter’s, and hastened to the place where his critical associates had assembled. They hurried away to the theatre, full of malignity and denunciations against a man whose name they had never heard, and a performance which they could not understand; for they were resolved to judge for themselves, and would not suffer the town to be imposed upon by scribblers. In the pit, they exerted themselves with great spirit and vivacity; called out for the tunes of obscene songs, talked loudly at intervals of Shakespeare and Jonson, played on their catcalls a short prelude of terrour, clamoured vehemently for a prologue, and clapped with great dexterity at the first entrance of the players.
Two scenes they heard without attempting interruption; but, being no longer able to restrain their impatience, they then began to exert themselves in groans and hisses, and plied their catcalls with incessant diligence; so that they were soon considered by the audience as disturbers of the house; and some who sat near them, either provoked at the obstruction of their entertainment, or desirous to preserve the author from the mortification of seeing his hopes destroyed by children, snatched away their instruments of criticism, and, by the seasonable vibration of a stick, subdued them instantaneously to decency and silence.
To exhilarate themselves after this vexatious defeat, they posted to a tavern, where they recovered their alacrity, and, after two hours of obstreperous jollity, burst out big with enterprize, and panting for some occasion to signalize their prowess. They proceeded vigorously through two streets, and with very little opposition dispersed a rabble of drunkards less daring than themselves, then rolled two watchmen in the kennel, and broke the windows of a tavern in which the fugitives took shelter. At last it was determined to march up to a row of chairs, and demolish them for standing on the pavement; the chairmen formed a line of battle, and blows were exchanged for a time with equal courage on both sides. At last the assailants were overpowered, and the chairmen, when they knew then-captives, brought them home by force.
The young gentleman, next morning, hung his head, and was so much ashamed of his outrages and defeat, that perhaps he might have been checked in his first follies, had not his mother, partly in pity of his dejection, and partly in approbation of his spirit, relieved him from his perplexity by paying the damages privately, and discouraging all animadversion and reproof.
This indulgence could not wholly preserve him from the remembrance of his disgrace, nor at once restore his confidence and elation. He was for three days silent, modest, and compliant, and thought himself neither too wise for instruction, nor too manly for restraint. But his levity overcame this salutary sorrow; he began to talk with his former raptures of masquerades, taverns, and frolicks; blustered when his wig was not combed with exactness; and threatened destruction to a tailor who had mistaken his directions about the pocket.
I knew that he was now rising again above control, and that his inflation of spirits would burst out into some mischievous absurdity. I therefore watched him with great attention; but one evening, having attended his mother at a visit, he withdrew himself, unsuspected, while the company was engaged at cards. His vivacity and officiousness were soon missed, and his return impatiently expected; supper was delayed, and conversation suspended; every coach that rattled through the street was expected to bring him, and every servant that entered the room was examined concerning his departure. At last the lady returned home, and was with great difficulty preserved from fits by spirits and cordials. The family was despatched a thousand ways without success, and the house was filled with distraction, till, as we were deliberating what further measures to take, he returned from a petty gaming-table, with his coat torn and his head broken; without his sword, snuff-box, sleeve-buttons, and watch.
Of this loss or robbery, he gave little account; but, instead of sinking into his former shame, endeavoured to support himself by surliness and asperity. “He was not the first that had played away a few trifles, and of what use were birth and fortune if they would not admit some sallies and expenses?” His mamma was so much provoked by the cost of this prank, that she would neither palliate nor conceal it; and his father, after some threats of rustication which his fondness would not suffer him to execute, reduced the allowance of his pocket, that he might not be tempted by plenty to profusion. This method would have succeeded in a place where there are no panders to folly and extravagance, but was now likely to have produced pernicious consequences; for we have discovered a treaty with a broker, whose daughter he seems disposed to marry, on condition that he shall be supplied with present money, for which he is to repay thrice the value at the death of his father.
There was now no time to be lost. A domestick consultation was immediately held, and he was doomed to pass two years in the country; but his mother, touched with his tears, declared, that she thought him too much of a man to be any longer confined to his book, and he therefore begins his travels to-morrow under a French governour.
I am, &c.