Слике страница



AFTER our travellers had dined, the conversation was renewed by the English gentleman's repeating Goldsmith's celebrated lines on Burke:

" Who, too deep for his hearers, still went on refining,

And thought of convincing, whilst they thought of dining ;
In short, 'twas his fate, unemploy'd or in place, sir,
To eat mutton cold, and cut blocks with a razor.”

" What humour and wit there are in that poem of Goldsmith's ! and where is there any thing equal to his - Traveller ?'" Irishman.

.-" Yet this is the man who used to be the butt of the company for his bulls.”

Englishman.-“No, not for his bulls, but for blurting out opinions in conversation that could not stand the test of Dr. Johnson's critical powers. But what would become of the freedom of wit and humour if every word that came out of our mouths were subject to the tax of a professed critic's censure, or if every sentence were to undergo a logical examination? It would be well for Englishmen if they were a little more inclined, like your open-hearted countrymen, to blurt out their opinions freely."

Scotchman.—“I cannot forgive Dr. Johnson for calling Goldsmith an inspired idiot ; I confess I see no idiotism, but much inspiration, in his works."

Irishman.-"But we must remember, that if Johnson did laugh at Goldsmith, he would let no one else laugh at him, and he was his most sincere and active friend. The world would, perhaps, never have seen the « Vicar of Wakefield' if Johnson had not recommended it to a bookseller; and Goldsmith might have died in gaol if the doctor had not got him a hundred pounds for it, when poor Goldsmith did not know it was worth a shilling. When we recollect this, we must forgive the doctor for calling him, in jest, an inspired idiot.”

Scotchman.—“Especially as Goldsmith has wit enough to bear him up against a thousand such jests."

Englishman.—“ It is curious to observe how nearly wit and absurdity are allied. We may forgive the genius of Ireland if he sometimes

• Leap his light courser o'er the bounds of taste.'

Even English genius is not always to be restrained within the strict limits of common sense. For instance, Young is witty when he says,

How would a miser startle to be told
Of such a wonder as insolvent gold.'

But Johnson is, I am afraid, absurd when he says,

"Turn from the glittering bribe your scornful eye,
Nor sell for gold what gold can never buy.'”

“One case, to be sure, must be excepted,” said the Irishman; “a patriot may sell his reputation, and the purchaser get nothing by it. But, gentlemen, I have just recollected an example of an Irish bull in which are all the happy requisites, incongruity, confusion, and laughable confusion, both in thought and expression. When sir Richard Steele was asked, how it happened that his countrymen made so many bulls, he replied, “It is the effect of climate, sir; if an Englishman were born in Ireland, he would make as many." Scotchman.

-“This is an excellent bull, I allow; but I think I can match it.”

Englishman. :-" And if he can, you will allow yourself to be fairly vanquished ?”

Irishman.—“Most willingly."

Scotchman.-" Then I shall owe my victory to our friend Dr. Johnson, the leviathan of English literature. In his celebrated preface to Shakspeare he

says, that he has not only shown human nature as it acts in real exigences, but as it would be found in situations to which it cannot be exposed. These are his own words, I think I remember them accurately.”

The English gentleman smiled, and our Hibernian acknowledged that the Scotchman had fairly gained the victory “My friends,” added he, I cannot pretend to be convinced against my will,' I certainly am not of the same opinion still.' -there are such things as practical bulls : did you never hear of the Irishman who ordered a painter to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

But stay draw his picture, and to represent him standing behind a tree?”

Englishman.—“No: but I have heard the very same story told of an Englishman. The dealers in good jokes give them first to one nation and then to another, first to one celebrated character and then to another, as it suits the demand and fashion of the day: just as our printsellers, with a few touches, change the portrait of general Washington into the head of the king of France, and a capital print of sir Joshua Reynolds into a striking likeness of the Monster.

“But I can give you an instance of a practical bull that is not only indisputably English, but was made by one of the greatest men that England ever produced, sir Isaac Newton, who, after he had made a large hole in his study-door for his cat to creep through, made a small hole beside it for the kitten. You will acknowledge, sir, that this is a good practical bull.”

“ Pardon me,” said the Hibernian, “ we have still some miles further to go, and, if you will give me leave, I will relate "an Hibernian tale,' which exemplifies some of the opinions held in this convérsation.

The Scotch and English gentlemen begged to hear the story, and he began in the following manner,



Sir John Bull was a native of Ireland, bred and born in the city of Cork. His real name was Phelim O’Mooney, and he was by profession a stocah, or walking gentleman ; that is, a person who is too proud to earn his bread, and too poor to have bread without earning it. He had always been told that none of his ancestors had ever been in trade or business of any kind, and he resolved, when a boy, never to demean himself and family, as his elder brother had done, by becoming a rich merchant. When he grew up to be a young man he kept this spirited resolution as long as he had a relation or friend in the world who would let him hang upon them ; but when he was shaken off by all, what could he do but go

into business? He chose the most genteel, however; he became a wine merchant. I'm only a wine merchant, said he to himself, and that is next door to being nothing at all. His brother furnished his cellars; and Mr. Phelim O'Mooney, upon the strength of the wine that he had in his cellars, and of the money he expected to make of it, immediately married a wife, set up a gig, and gave excellent dinners to men who were ten times richer than he even ever expected to be. In return for these excel

« ПретходнаНастави »