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SIMEON SILVERTONE, ESQ.
“Now, by two-headed Janus, Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time."
Ir is a common complaint, and one that is frequently urged in excuse for the want of good modern dramas, that the present generation have not such marked and distinguishing charaeteristics, as we are accustomed to attribute to our forefathers. The characters and habits of mankind, say the supporters of this opinion, approach much more nearly, than was anciently the case—the broad line which used to separate one class and one profession from all others, no longer exists, and, consequently, when mankind, as they are found at present, are exhibited upon the stage, there is a want of that relief, that opposition of character and manners, which distinguished our rough, unpolished ancestors. Perhaps there may be some truth in this notion, but it is certainly carried too far when it is promulgated as an excuse for our unobserving or untalented dramatists, If there are not so many distinct classes of society, or if the barriers between the various classes have been broken down, still there exists an infinite variety of follies at which comedy, or satire, might take aimfooleries of which our ancestors, poor souls! were entirely ignorantpractices which they would have blushed to countenance-vanities of which they had too much good sense to be guilty. An instance of the truth of this observation, occurred to me a few days since, upon the occasion of my introduction to the gentleman whose honored name I have placed at the head of this paper. My friend, Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck, Jun., whom all the world knows to be the editor of this our National Magazine, called upon me one morning last week, and requested that I would become the bearer of a note to Mr. Simeon Silvertone, the purport of which was merely to inform him that we should be proud to grace our pages with any of the pure effusions of his classical muse. “ I would call upon him myself," said Jonathan, “ bụt I am retained in a cause at Guildhall, and we have a consultation this morning; besides, I should like you to see him-he is a good fellow, but somewhat strange.'
I accepted the office with pleasure; and, just as the clock struck one, sallied forth from chambers, and took at once the route towards Lower Grosvenor Street, which is honored by containing the residence of the illustrious Silvertone. I will not detain my readers by explaining to them in what manner I threaded the mazes of Covent Garden and Leicester Square, but, leaving them to guess at all these things, will rather beguile the time, which is necessarily occupied in meandering from Lincoln's Inn to Bond Street, by giving them a few hints concerning the Esquire whom I was about to visit.
The Silvertones came in with the Conqueror. There can be no
doubt about that; at least, I have no doubt about it, for I have seen a geneological tree deducing their origin from Argenteus Silvertoneus, who lived, I have forgotten where, a long time before the introduction of Christianity. This being established, it follows, of course, that they are highly respectable people; for, as the Conqueror brought over none but gentlefolks, all who can trace their pedigree up to his time, are respectable by hereditary right. Some poor envious rascals have endeavoured to dispute this fact, and wished to prove, by documentary evidence, that the grandfather of our friend Simeon was transported for life; but that is not of the least consequence—what would it matter if Simeon himself had been transported ? the Silvertones came in with the Conqueror, and therefore he must be respectable whether he will or not.
What station in life was occupied by the person who was dignified by being the father of Mr. Simeon, I cannot exactly say; I have heard, indeed, that he was a lamp-lighter, but I will not vouch for the fact, as I have not the very best authority for it; that is, I never heard it from the man himself, but it is currently reported that it was so, and I have not the least doubt that he was very excellent and expeditious in his calling. Simeon, who was, in his infancy, a very fine plump little fellow, engaged the attention, or some say that his mother, a short time before Simeon was born, engaged the attention, of an East Indian Nabob, who took a great fancy to the boy, gave him an excellent education, and, a few years ago, very conveniently departed this life, having previously made a will, whereby the house in Lower Grosvenor Street, and about £5000 per annum, came into the possession of our very highly respected friend. Simeon is--but stop, here we are at his door, I'll knock, and, if he is at home, we shall see what he is.
John, dressed in a very gay livery, admitted me to the parlor, and then left me, whilst he went to announce my arrival to his master, who was engaged “ in his study.” In a few moments I was ushered into the presence of the Silvertone himself, who received me with great politeness, and, as soon as I was seated, opened the note which I had brought him from my friend Oldbuck. Whilst he was perusing its contents, I had leisure to survey not only " the study,” into which I had been introduced, but also the person of its owner.
The room was a model of confusion-a perfect chaos-books, prints, maps, globes, papers, mathematical instruments, chemical apparatus, paintings, shells, stuffed birds, beasts, and fishes, antique busts and vases, cases of coins, gems, pieces of old china, and old armour, geneological trees, and a thousand other things, which would take one of our valuable pages even to enumerate, were strewed about upon shelves and tables, and upon the floor, in “ most admired disorder.” In the midst of all this beautiful, but somewhat tumultuous, medley, at a very splendid rose-wood desk, sat the noble Simeon himself, in person rather short and stout, with a round, selfsatisfied countenance-his hair disposed a la Byron, in such a manner, as to make it appear that he had a lofty forehead, although Mr. De
Ville once pronounced it to be remarkably low. His ugly grey eyes were extremely prominent, but by no means expressive-none of that fire and sparkle in them which prevent one looking at their owner
- he was altogether a very common-place person, although great pains had evidently been taken to show him off to the best advantage. His dress was extremely loose, and, as I thought, somewhat slovenly --a dirty grey frock, large trousers and slippers, gave him an updressed and neglectful appearance, which was added to by the absence of any neck-cloth-his shirt-collar being turned down upon his shoulders, and his throat quite bare.
“Mr. Penn,” said he, as he folded my friend Oldbuck's epistle, “ Mr. Penn, I wish you success." “ We must trust, sir," said I, in
" to the discrimination of the public.”
“ The discrimination of the public!" exclaimed Simeon, interrupting me,“ don't trust to the discrimination of the public: the public have no discrimination. Would you believe it, sir, I myself published a volume of poems not two years ago, and, with the exception of five-and-twenty copies, which were sold to stray customers, the whole impression remains on hand. Take my word for it, sir, the public have no discrimination at all. You will excuse my being in a passion-I can't help it, sir; Bruce, the traveller, used very frequently to get into a passion.”
I bowed in token of my entire excusal, which could not, indeed, be withheld, when so excellent a
was urged, and my passionate friend went on.
“I am not one of those frosty souls that nothing can thaw-I hate neglect-merit never can bear neglect. It killed Chatterton and Henry Kirke White-I never can submit to neglect.”
I bowed again, and Mr. Simeon proceeded.
“ I shall do what I can for you, but I can't promise you an article just now. I am engaged to write a few lines for Campbell. I began them this morning. I have been about them these two hours, and that's why you see me so completely en deshabille—I like to be free and unconfined. I never can write poetry when my throat is bound up with a neck-cloth: Byron never wore a neck-cloth when he wrote he didn't, indeed. I'll read what I have written; I think you'll say it is very good. I have been very happy in my thoughts and expressions this morning."
I remarked, I should feel delight in listening to his lines; upon which, assuming a vast deal of the sybilline fury, he read me the following:
“ I love the spring, when Nature from repose
I love the jar of ocean, earth, and air."
call very forcibly expressed. Nat. Lee is a favorite of mine, he has many very forcible expressions. In his Cæsar Borgia,' he says,
* Well could I curse away a winter's night,
That is a very forcible expression. Again he says,
• Were I in heaven, and saw him scorch'd in flames,
Lest I should cool his tongue.' That is extremely forcible. Dryden is sometimes forcible; he makes a dying emperor exclaim
And shoving back this earth, on which I sit,
I'll mount and scatter all the gods I hit.' That is very forcible, indeed; and so is my line,
• I love the jar of ocean, earth, and air,' ỹery sonorous and forcible, and very musical. I always compose to music. Here,” said he, taking up a violin, which I had not before noticed, “ here is my violin. I always walk about the room playing this instrument, and compose my lines in that manner. Curran was very fond of his violin-he used to play on it whilst meditating, and would compose voluntaries for hours together; so do I.”
I remarked, that it was very likely to have the effect of producing a state of mind consonant with the music.
Exactly so," said he, “ that is just it: if you had been here when I composed my last line, you would have heard such a “jar,' you see I have broken one of the strings. I am very fond of music:' Henry VIII., you know, loved music very much; so do I. They tell me, I am like some celebrated musicians in various particulars-Haydn always wrote his music on the finest paper, so do I write my poetry; see, it is embossed and gilt-edged, the very best."
Our conversation then turned upon the prospects and capabilities of our friend Oldbuck, and his indefatigable pursuit of certain studies without relaxation or abatement. “He should relax," said Mr. Silvertone, “ too much study weakens and overpowers the mind. I always take care never to study too much, but I always amuse myself; I'm very fond of making laces-Rousseau used to make laces, so do I: very pleasant amusement I assure you. But now about this Magazine, what shall I write for you? a sonnet? Sondets are very difficult to write. I once published some that were esteemed very excellent. Or shall it be a prose article? I am very fond of writing adventures. I always write them in the third person, Cæsar wrote his commentaries so-by the by, I'm thought to be very like Julius Cæsar: Pope was reckoned like him, and people say I am like Pope, only I am always smiling. I can't help it." Sir Thomas Moore had a smile on his countenance, and so have I-I am thought to be rather like Sir Thomas Moore."
Had any one been present to note my features at this moment, I will venture to assert, that the similarity to Sir Thomas Moore would have been found to have extended itself to me, as well as to my excellent friend; but alas! the smile which conceit and vanity contrived to raise, soon subsided, and with it the likeness to the firm and witty Chancellor has passed away. Whether Mr. Silvertone's features have, by dint of distortion, been screwed into a permanent resemblance either to “ the great Julius," or any other great man, is a matter of such infinite importance that I will not venture to decide upon it. Не, , however, is convinced that such is the case, and seems to imagine that his likeness to Sir Thomas Moore, at any event, does not consist in a mere similarity of features. “I wish I had gone to the bar,” said he, half soliloquising, “ I am sure I should have succeeded. I have an extraordinary development of the organ of language. You observe,” at the same time protruding his eyes almost out of their sockets, you observe how prominent my eyes are--wit, too, is very large. If l'had been amongst them, I would have made some of the prosy old rogues, who lord it over piles of briefs, of which they never read more than the fee on the back of them, shake
their thrones ; but alas! alas! it is now too late to give my country the benefit of my abilities."
With such “ bald, disjointed chat" did we consume a full hour, during which time the illustrious (as he ought to have been) Silvertone shewed, to demonstration, that there was no art, no science, that he could not master: no great man who ever lived, or who now creeps about upon the earth, that he does not resemble, either in talents, defects, or peculiarities. In truth, the eccentricities of great men seem to have been his study, and no sooner does he hear or read of any out-of-the-way custom that a celebrated genius ever practised, than he at once adopts it. He knocks at a door like Dr. Johnson pretends lameness that he may walk like Byron or Scott--leans his head upon his hand like Sterne-drinks gin and water because that volgarity was patronised by Byron—wears a cap like Sir Joshua Reynolds-smokes a pipe because Dr. Parr did so-distorts his mouth to resemble Brougham-plays the piano-forte, and sings his own (mis-called) melodies after the fashion of Thomas Moore laments that nature will not allow him to be as bald as Mr. Canning, and has serious intentions of becoming blind in order to resemble Milton and Homer.