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Hail then, my brother! with love's laughing tears,
And blessings on thy solemn phiz, I greet thee;
Thou canst not think how I rejoice to meet thee!
SKETCHES AND RECOLLECTIONS, NO. 1.
Dick Ferret. 6 Yea, from the table of my memory."-SHAKSPEARE. It is by no means a pleasant thing to be stared and pointed at as an object of singularity. Fops and coxcombs are of a different opinion ; but since (thanks to an unaspiring tailor, and just so much of common sense as serves to protect me from knocking my head against every post I see,) I am not a member of either of those ancient fraternities, I have felt with extreme acuteness the inconvenience of my position. In society public or private, in the streets, at the theatre, at table, at the club, have I been subjected to this annoyance. Often, when opportunity has served, I have approached a glass, expecting to find that some wag had taken advantage of my "innocent sleep" to black my face, or pin a napkin to my coat, or stick pens, porcupine-wise, in my hair-the most approved witticisms of your practical Congreves : but such has not proved to be the case; and too proud or too indolent to enquire, I might still have remained ignorant of the cause of my attracting, for some time past, such pointed and distressing notice, but for the visit, the other morning, of our friend Dick Ferret. I say our friend, because every body knows Dick, and Dick knows every body ; but for the enlightenment of the few nobodies who are unacquainted with him, I will give a slight sketch of his person and character.
Dick, I take it, is about six-and-twenty, though I have heard it asserted that he is considerably older. He is tall, standing about six feet two and a half inches; and if I am not inclined to agree with those who would rank him in “the first order of fine forms,” it is because he is somewhat too slim, in proportion to his height. His face is thin, and “ sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought;" and his hair, which is ravenblack, falls in profuse ringlets over his shoulders. His eye is small, but dark, intelligent, piercing; and almost seems to possess the wonderful power of looking at, over, under, into, and through you at a single glance. This feature is strikingly indicative of an alleged quality of his mind, which will presently be noticed. His gait is measured, slow, and solemn. With respect to dress, he is negligent in the extreme; I had almost said slovenly. This, in my opinion, is the only point at which Dick lies open to rebuke; for of his moral and social qualities, it may truly be said they are without a flaw. His piety is unsullied by the slightest tinge of moroseness; his abstemiousness—for he never tastes but of one dish, nor ventures beyond a second glass of winerenders him not unindulgent towards those who more easily yield to the allurements of the table. He is good-humoured, good-natured, and well-meaning. His learning is, perhaps, more varied than profound ; his mind is stored with facts and anecdotes accumulated in the course of his two voyages round the world, and three pedestrian journeys over Europe and Asia; and since, in addition to all this, like Desdemona, he “sings, plays, and dances well :" it will readily be admitted that his accomplishments are amply sufficient for the pleasurable purposes of society. The only drawback to their display is a natural reservedness, amounting almost to shyness, which it will sometimes require all the ingenuity of his friends, by a gradual and dexterous drawing-out, to overcome. Now, were I to stop here, it might be said that I had drawn a faultless monster ; in justice, therefore, to our friend, I must reduce him to within the limits of human perfection. I have already alluded to an alleged quality of his mind, and that is—Inquisitiveness. I say alleged, because I, for my own part, am unwilling to admit its existence at least, as a distinguishing trait in his character. All men are desirous of obtaining knowledge and information; all men are anxious to know what is going on in the world; all men, to attain these ends, must, in some way or other, ask questions, or, to use the other 'term, be inquisitive; and where is the real difference between pumping a book or a newspaper at your breakfast, and pumping your friends and acquaintance at any time later in the day? The difference, if any there be, is in the manner, not in the thing; and Dick's manner is all-to-nothing the best, inasmuch as it is less trying to the eyes than poring over small print. It proves nothing that R one day, finding amongst the visiting cards on his table a small scråp of paper with merely a note of interrogation marked on it, said to his servant—"If Mr. Ferret should call again, I shall be happy to see him ;" and even if it did, Dick is so rich in good qualities, that he can well afford so trilling a set-off against them.
I was busy arranging some papers, when Dick Ferret entered my room. Scarcely bad he taken his seat ere I was convinced, by his look and manner, that his good-natured soul was agonized by the necessity imposed on him, by his ardent and sincere friendship for me, of communicating something which he knew must occasion me pain or uneasiness. Dick (unlike your meddling tale-bearers, who fetch and carry with a malicious intent), disdaining the petty arts of bint, insinuation, and innuendo, went directly to the point, and, with his customary frankness, thus he began :
“My dear fellow, you-I-a-hem!-you are a sensitive man, and pay more attention to such things than they deserve. For my part, I don't believe it, and so I said at the time."
* What time? and what don't you believe ?"
“ There, now! I knew it would make you uneasy. You are wrong; it is not worth your attention. Besides, if people do point at you as a person affecting singularity, how can you help it? But mind, I don't say they do ; I merely say if they do.”
'" To speak the truth, Ferret, I have fancied as much for some time past, and shall be glad if you can acquaint me with the cause of it."
“There, again ! Now you are wrong-1 must use the liberty of a friend to tell you you are very wrong. Why need you care about it? It isn't pleasant, to be sure, but one can't go all over London to stop people's tongues. As to the cause, as I said at the time, every man has
a right, in these matters, to do as he likes. But, between ourselves, I didn't think it friendly on his part to urge the subject against you in the way he did ; and so I told him.”
" Then you are acquainted with the cause? And to whom do you allude ?"
“Nobody-nothing. Now mind, I know nothing, and I have told you nothing, so you have heard nothing from me. A-hem! Have you seen our friend Willoughby lately?” .
“A week ago. We shall dine together to-morrow.”
“Shall you !!! Well-I am glad of it very glad. I don't like to see old friendships broken up. I know you did entertain a very great regard for him, and so did he for you, I know he did -and, indeed, so he ought, for you have rendered him some services."
“ Nothing of any importance. But what is this to lead to ?" . .
“ But I tell you you have, and you know it; and you'll be good friends again one of these days, notwithstanding."
“ Notwithstanding what?”
“Pooh, pooh! you must not notice it-when you meet, you must give him your hand as usual-I tell you, you must. Every body knows Willoughby: he does not mean half the ill-natured things he says; and he is sorry for it when he has said them. But then the mischief is done,-Eh? Yet he is a good fellow at bottom, and you must not mind this. You will dine with him to-morrow, notwithstanding, Or does he dine with you ?-or perhaps you are to meet somewhere? Where ?"
“Now, Ferret, you have led me to suspect that Willoughby has said sonjething to my discredit; it was at your option whether or not to remain silent upon the subject altogether; but since you have chosen to say so much, I consider you bound to declare all you know."
“Say! what have I said? I have said nothing. Can you imagine I would go about repeating what I hear at a private table ?"
"No; for the certain penalty for such a proceeding would be your exclusion from such table ever after.“ But, as I have already intimated, you have said either too much or too little, and have now bound yourself to "
" Again I tell you, you are wrong to be in the least annoyed at it; for what was there in it, after all ? Nothing--a-hem!-at least, there would have been nothing in it had he said it to me, privately. But between ourselves and this I say to you as a friend-he oughtn't to have said it in the presence of ten others, all friends and acquaintance ot' your's— for every one of them will find a different motive for your conduct-there he was wrong, and so I told him at the time."
"And in what point is my conduct open to so many and various opinions ?”
“What need you care about their opinions? You are not obliged to print your · Life' unless you think proper."
“Print my. Life!' what in the sacred name of Foolery do you mean?"
" I said so ; the very thing I said. But you know Willoughby's way when he gets a crotchet into his head-he runs wild-there is no stopping him. He said it was a d-d piece of affectation—that you purposely abstained from so doing in order to render yourself conspicuous -singular ; that, except yourself, there was not a man, woman, or child past the age of twenty but had published his, her, or ils - Memoirs,' - Life and Times,'' Reminiscences,' or Personal Narrative,' at the very least; that it was the fashion, the mania, the frenzy of the times ; that nothing but your immeasurable vanity prevented your doing as others did, and that when this means of exciting notice was exhausted, you would be seen walking about the streets dressed in a pink silk coat, red-heeled shoes, and a feather-rimmed hat."
So, now the murder was out-the grievance I have complained of was explained. ." And Willoughby did really make such a charge against me?" said I.
“Why now, my dear fellow-you don't know it from me I have told you nothing—what have I said ?--you mustn't say I told you this. Besides, he is your friend; he meant it for the best, and you ought to follow his advice."
“ But, even were I so inclined, I have scarcely any thing to relate worth listening to."
“ Pooh, pooh! you have, I know you have, and you know it too. You have lived a good deal in the world ; have seen and known many remarkable people; and have in your possession many curious letters. I know you have--haven't you? Yes, yes, you must-Eh?”
“Psha! I despise the pettifogging process of nightly recording the conversations of the day; of noting down the careless joke, or the halfserious ball-jesting opinion heedlessly thrown off at the convivial board; of accumulating letters intended only for the friendly eye; and all this for the purpose (a purpose of doubtful propriety, at the best,) of filling a quarto to be published at the first convenient opportunity.”
“I didn't say a quarto.”
“I won't quarrel with you about the size : make it an octavo-a duodecimo, if you will, my objection is the same; nor would it be lessened by thrusting portraits and autographs into the book." : “Your portrait ! my dear fellow, I said nothing about your portrait. But will you think of the matter ?", · Perceiving that my sincere and excellent friend had the subject deeply at heart, and, at the same time, to put an end to the conversation, I told him I would consider of it. “ But for Willoughby," added I, “ who has exhibited this, my foible, in the worst possible point of view, I have done with him.'
"There you are wrong," said Ferret; “ he meant no harm; and when you meet, you must shake hands with him as usual. He is your friend-1 know he is; but he has a dangerous tongue, and I told him 80. I can't bear to see old friends disunited; and after a few months or so, when the affair bas blown over, he'll be sorry for what he said, and I shouldn't wonder to see you as good friends again as ever."
“Well, that is as it may be. But one word at parting, Ferret. I have promised you that I will consider of this subject, but don't mention to any one that you have even hinted the matter to me."
“Not a soul. You know me ;-hear, see, and say nothing, is the rule of my life. I never ask questions, I never repeat what I hear. And you, my dear fellow-I have told you nothing about our friend Willoughby ---you know nothing from me. Don't mention my name in the business-promise me."
“ I promise. Good morning, Dick.”
The instant I was left to myself, I wrote a formal note to my friend Willoughby, declining the pleasure of meeting him on the following day. (By the by, we have met since, and I understand he is utterly at a loss to account for my evident coldness towards him; but being under a promise of secrecy to our friend Ferret, I am not at liberty to enlighten him as to the cause.)
Scarcely had I sealed my note when in came Am .
“Oh, I just now met our friend Ferret, who told me in confidence. But I agree with him : Memoirs and Correspondence, in three volumes, quarto, will lead the public to expect too much."
Before I had time to reply, Mr. B entered the room.
“I have just parted with our friend Ferret. I like your title : • Mems. on Men, and Thoughts on Things ;' but I am quite of his opinion--stuffing it all into one volume small octavo, will be looked upon as a sorry piece of mock-modesty."
Next came C
“ Better late than never,” said Mr. C ;" I commend you for the intention, although you are somewhat late in the field. You must not be angry with our good friend Ferret for trusting me with the secretI hold it confidentially, and it shall go no farther. But I can't help agreeing with him-not as to publishing in eight volumes octavo, because if you can fill them pleasantly there will be no harm done--but the portrait-(and he mentioned this with unfeigned concern, for he is a warm friend of your's,)-placing, as a frontispiece, a portrait of yourself in a red velvet cap, with the fore-finger of your left-hand pressing your temples, a pen as big as an ostrich feather in your right-hand, and your right foot resting on a pea-green satin cushion, is— I agree with him-an instance of vanity-excuse my frankness-to be equalled only by the absurdity-pardon the word-of announcing your Voyages, Travels, Life, and Adventures,' as intended for the use of schools !"
I had no time for explanation or reply, for I was visited in rapid succession by D- , E- , - , - , and the rest of the alphabet, each with a different version of a story which was not absolutely untrue, inasmuch as it had the very slightest possible foundation in truth.
“This is unendurable,” exclaimed I; “you all know our friend Ferret; he is incapable of uttering a falsehood, but his imagination is peculiarly constructed. He is what I would call a beau-idealist; he sees and hears things as they are; he describes aad relates them as they ought to be. You show him an acorn, he thinks of an oak, he describes a forest. 'Tis thus he has led you into error upon the present occasion. He suggested to me the necessity of my following the fashion of Life-andTimes-writing; I gave no positive promise that I would. But admitting that I did, I admit no more than that the stuff, the ground-work, is my own; for the exquisite and elaborate embroidery- the three quartos, the eight octavos, the velvet cap, and pea-green satin cushion, I am indebted to his-beau-idealism. I never even thought of aspiring to the dignity of a volume. The most I ever contemplated was to furnish, from time to time, to the lighter pages of the New Monthly, a few • Sketches' (of character) and Recollections' of persons and events.