« ПретходнаНастави »
Such were the reflections that naturally arose while I sat at the Boar’s-head tavern, still kept at Eastcheap. Here, by a pleasant fire, in the very room where old sir Johụ Falstaff cracked his jokes, in the very chair which was sometimes honoured by prince Henry, and sometimes polluted by his immoral, merry companions, I sat and ruminated on the follies of youth: wished to be yonng again; but was resolved to make the best of life while it lasted, and now and then compared past and present times together. I considered myself as the only living representative of the old knight; and transported my imagination back to the times when the prince and he gave life to the revel, and made even debauchery not disgusting. The room also conspired to throw my reflections back into antiquity: the oak floor, the Gothic windows, and the ponderous chimney-piece, had long withstood the tooth of time: the watchman had gone twelve: my companions bad all stolen off, and none now remained with me but the landlord. From him I could have wished to know the history of a tavern that had such a long succession of customers; I could not help thinking that an account of this kind would be a pleasing contrast of the manners of different ages; but my landlord could give me no information. He continued to doze, and sot, and tell a tedious story, as most other landlords usually do; and, though he said nothing, yet was never silent; one good joke followed another good joke, and the best joke of all was generally begun towards the end of a bottle. I found at last, however, his wine and bis conversation operate by degrees: he insen. sibly began to alter his appearance. His cravat seemed quilled into a ruff, and bis breeches swelled into a far ale. I now fancied him changing sexes; and, as my eyes began to close in slumber, I imagined my fat landlord actually converted into as fat a landlady. However, sleep made but few changes in my situation ; the tavern, the apartment, and the table, continued as before; nothing suffered mutation but my host, who was fairly altered into a gentlewoman, whom I knew to be dame Quickly, mistress of this tavern in the days of sir John; and the liquor we were drinking, which seemed converted into sack and sugar.
• My dear Mrs. Quickly, cried I, (för I knew her perfectly well at first sight). 'I am heartily glad to see you. How have you left Falstaff, Pistol, and the rest of our friends below stairs? Brave and hearty, I hope ?'—'In good sooth,' replied she, “he did deserve to live for ever; but he maketh foul work on't where he hath flitted. Queen Proserpine and he have quarrelled, for his attempting a rape upon her divinity; and were it not that she still had bowels of compassion, it more than seems pro. bable he migbt have been now sprawling in Tartarus.'
I now found that spirits still preserve the frailties of the flesh; and that, according to the laws of cri. ticism and dreaming, ghosts have been known to be guilty of even more than Platonic affection: where. fore, as I found her too much moved on such a topic to proceed, I was resolved to change the subject; and desiring she would pledge me in a bumper, observed with a sigh, that our sack was nothing now to what it was in former days. “Ah, Mrs. Quickly, those were merry times when you drew sack for prince Henry: men were twice as strong, and twice as wise, and much braver, and ten thousand times more charitable, than now, Those were the times! The battle of Agincourt was
a victory indeed! Ever since that, we have only heen degenerating; and I have lived to see the day when drinking is no longer fashionable. When men wear clean shirts, and women show their necks and arms, all are degenerated, Mrs. Quickly; and we shall probably, in another century, be fritted away into beaux or monkeys. Had you been on earth to see what I have seen, it would congeal all the blood in your body (your soul 'I mean). Why, our very nobility now have the in tolerable arrogance, in spite of what is every day remonstrated from the press; our very nobility, I say, have the assurance to frequent assemblies, and presame to be as merry as the vulgar. See, my very friends have scarce manhood enough to sit till eleyen: and I only am left to make a night on't. Pr'ythee do me the favour to console me a Itttle for their absence by the story of your own adven. tures, or the history of the tavern where we are now sitting. I fancy the narrative may have something singular.'
· Observe this apartment,' interrupted my com. panion, ' of neat device and excellent workmanship
In this room I have lived, child, woman, and ghost, more than three hundred years : I am ordered by Plato to keep an annual register of every transaction that passeth here; and I have whilom compiled three hundred tomes, which eftsoons may be submitted to thy regards.'- None of your whiloms or eftsoons, Mrs. Quickly, if you please,' I replied ; 'I know you can talk every wbit as well as I can; for, as you have lived here so long, it is, but natural to suppose you should learn the conversation of the company. Believe me, dame, at best, you have neither too much sense, nor too much language, to spare; so give me both as well as you can: but first, my service to you; old women should water their clay a little now and then; and now to your story'
• The story of my own adventures, replied the vision,' is but short and unsatisfactory; for, believe me, Mr. Rigmarole, believe me, a woman with a butt of sack at her elbow is never longlived. Sir John's death afflicted me to such a degree, that I sincerely believe, to drown sorrow, I drank more liquor myself than I drew for my customers: my grief was sincere, and the sack was excellent. The prior of a neighbouring convent (for onr priors then had as much power as a Middlesex justice now), he, I say, it was who gave me a license for keeping a disorderly house; apon condition that I should never make hard bargains with the clergy; that he should bave a bottle of sack every morning, and the liberty of confessing which of my girls he thought proper in private every night. I had continued for several years to pay this tribute ; and he, it must be confessed, continued as rigoronsly to exact it. I grew old insensibly; my customers continued, however, to compliment my looks while I was by, but I could hear them say, I was wearing when my back was turned. The prior, however, still was constant, and so were half his convent; but one fatal morn. ing he missed the usual beverage, for I had incau. tiously drank over.night the last bottle myself. What will you have on't? The very next day Doll Tearsheet and I were sent to the house of correc tion, and accused of keeping a low bawdy-house. In short, we were so well purified there 'with stripes, mortification, and penance, that we were afterwards utterly unfit for worldly conversation: though sack would have me, had I stuck to it, yet I soon died for want of a drop of something comfortable, and fairly left my body to the care of the beadle.
* Such is my own history; but that of the tavern, where I have ever since been stationed, affords greater variety. In the history of this, which is one of the oldest in London, yon may view the different manners, pleasures, and follies of men, at different periods.-You will find mankind neither better nor worse now than formerly: the vices of an uncivilised people are generally more detestable, though not so frequent, as those in polite so ciety. It is the same luxury which formerly stuffed your alderman with plum-porridge, and now crams him with turtle. It is the same low ambition that formerly induced a courtier to give up his religion to please his king, and now persuades him to give up his conscience to please his minister. It is the same vanity that formerly stained our ladies' cheeks and necks with woad, and now paints them with carmine. Your ancient Briton formerly powdered his hair with red earth, like brick-dust, in order to appear frightful: your modern Briton cuts his hair on the crown, and plasters it with hogså-lard and four; and this to make him look killing. It is the same vanity, the same folly, and the same vice, only appearing different, as viewed through the glass of fashion. In a word, all mankind are a
* Sare the woman is dreaming, interrupted I. None of your reflections, Mrs. Quickly, if you love me; they only give me the spleen. Tell me your history at once. I love stories, but hate reasoning.'
. If you please then, sir,' returned my companion, "PH read you an abstract, which I made, of the three hundred volumes I mentioned just now :