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Longer their being to support,
Mirth always should Good Fortune meet,
And though the Princess turn her back,
How say you, reader-do not these verses smack of the rough magnanimity of the old English vein? Do they not fortify like a cordial; enlarging the heart, and productive of sweet blood, and generous spirits, in the concoction? Where be those puling fears of death, just now expressed or affected ?-Passed like a cloud-absorbed in the purging sunlight of clear poetry-clean washed away by a wave of genuine Helicon, your only Spa for these hypochondries-And now another cup of the generous! and a merry New Year, and many of them to you all, my masters!
MRS. BATTLE'S OPINIONS ON WHIST.
“A CLEAR fire, a clean hearth, and the rigour of the game." This was the celebrated wish of old Sarah Battle (now with God), who, next to her devotions, loved a good game of whist. She was none of your lukewarm gamesters, your half-and-half players, who have no objection to take a hand, if you want one to make up a rubber; who affirm that they have no pleasure in winning; that they like to win one game and lose another; that they can while away an hour very agreeably at a cardtable, but are indifferent whether they play or no; and will desire an adversary, who has slipped a wrong card, to take it up and play another. These insufferable triflers are the curse of a table. One of these flies will spoil a whole pot. Of such it may be said that they do not play at cards, but only play at playing at them.
Sarah Battle was none of that breed. She detested them, as I do, from her heart and soul, and would not, save upon a striking emergency, willingly scat herself at the same table with them. She loved a thorough-paced partner, a determined enemy. She took, and gave, no concessions. She hated favours. She never made a revoke, nor ever passed it over in her adversary without exacting the utmost forfeiture. She fought a good fight: cut and thrust. She held not her good sword (her cards) "like a dancer." She sate bolt upright; and neither showed you her cards, nor desired to see yours.
All people have their blind side--their superstitions; and I have heard her declare, under the rose, that hearts was her favourite suit.
I never in my life-and I knew Sarah Battle many of the best years of it-saw her take out her snuff-box when it was her turn to play; or snuff a candle in the middle of a game; or ring for a servant, till it was fairly over. She never introduced, or connived at, miscellaneous conversation during its process. As she emphatically observed, cards were cards; and if I ever saw unmingled distaste in her fine last-century countenance, it was at the airs of a young gentleman of a literary turn, who had been with difficulty persuaded to take a hand; and who, in his excess of candour, declared, that he thought there was no harm in unbending the mind now and then, after serious studies, in recreations of that kind! She could not bear to have her noble occupation, to which she wound up her faculties, considered in that light. It was her business, her duty, the thing she came into the world to do,-and she did it. She unbent her mind afterwards, over a book.
Pope was her favourite author: his Rape of the Lock her favourite work. She once did me the favour to play over with me (with the cards) his celebrated game of Ombre in that poem; and to explain to me how far it agreed with, and in what points it would be found to differ from, tradrille. Her illustrations were apposite and poignant; and I had the pleasure of
would say, and must have an uniformity of array to distinguish them: but what should we say to a foolish squire, who should claim a merit from dressing up his tenantry in red jackets, that never were to be marshalled-never to take the field?-She even wished that whist were more simple than it is; and, in my mind, would have stripped it of some appendages, which in the state of human frailty, may be venially, and even commendably, allowed of. She saw no reason for the deciding of the trump by the turn of the card. Why not one suit always trumps?—Why two, colours, when the mark of the suits would have sufficiently distinguished them without it ?—
"But the eye, my dear Madam, is agreeably refreshed with the variety. Man is not a creature of pure reason he must have his senses delightfully appealed to. We see it in Roman Catholic countries, where the music and the paintings draw in many to worship, whom your quaker spirit of unsensualising would have kept out.-You yourself have a pretty collection of paintings-but confess to me, whether, walking in your gallery at Sandham, among those clear Vandykes, or among the Paul Potters in the ante-room, you ever felt your bosom glow with an elegant delight, at all comparable to that you have it in your power to experience most evenings over a wellarranged assortment of the court cards ?—the pretty antic habits, like heralds in a procession -the gay triumph-assuring scarlets-the contrasting deadly-killing sables-the 'hoary majesty of spades'-Pam in all his glory!—
sending the substance of them to Mr. Bowles; but I suppose they came too late to be inserted among his ingenious notes upon that author. Quadrille, she has often told me, was her first love; but whist had engaged her maturer esteem. The former, she said, was showy and specious, and likely to allure young persons. The uncertainty and quick shifting of partners —a thing which the constancy of whist abhors; -the dazzling supremacy and regal investiture of Spadille-absurd, as she justly observed, in the pure aristocracy of whist, where his crown and garter give him no proper power above his brother-nobility of the Aces ;-the giddy vanity, so taking to the inexperienced, of playing alone; above all, the overpowering attractions of a Sans Prendre Vole,-to the triumph of which there is certainly nothing parallel or approaching, in the contingencies of whist ;—all these, she would say, make quadrille a game of captivation to the young and enthusiastic. But whist was the solider game: that was her word. It was a long meal; not, like quadrille, a feast of snatches. One or two rubbers might co-extend in duration with an evening. They gave time to form rooted friendships, to cultivate steady enmities. She despised the chance-started, capricious, and ever fluctuating alliances of the other. The skirmishes of quadrille, she would say, reminded her of the petty ephemeral embroilments of the little Italian states, depicted by Machiavel: perpetually changing postures and connexions; bitter foes to-day, sugared darlings to-morrow; kissing and scratching in a breath; -but the wars of whist were comparable to the long, steady, deep-rooted, rational, antipathies of the great French and English nations. A grave simplicity was what she chiefly admired in her favourite game. There was nothing silly in it, like the nob in cribbagenothing superfluous. No flushes—that most irrational of all pleas that a reasonable being can set up that any one should claim four by virtue of holding cards of the same mark and colour, without reference to the playing of the game, or the individual worth or pretensions of the cards themselves! She held this to be a work of Chinese artist, unconscious of their solecism; as pitiful an ambition at cards as symbol, or as profanely slighting their true alliteration is in authorship. She despised application as the arrantest Ephesian journeysuperficiality, and looked deeper than the man that turned out those little shrines for the colours of things.-Suits were soldiers, she goddess)—exchange them for little bits of
"All these might be dispensed with; and with their naked names upon the drab pasteboard, the game might go on very well, pictureless. But the beauty of cards would be extinguished for ever. Stripped of all that is imaginative in them, they must degenerate into mere gambling. Imagine a dull deal board, or drum head, to spread them on, instead of that nice verdant carpet (next to nature's), fittest arena for those courtly combatants to play their gallant jousts and turneys in!Exchange those delicately-turned ivory markers
leather (our ancestors' money) or chalk and a slate !"
The old lady, with a smile, confessed the soundness of my logic; and to her approbation of my arguments on her favourite topic that evening, I have always fancied myself indebted for the legacy of a curious cribbage-board, made of the finest Sienna marble, which her maternal uncle (old Walter Plumer, whom I have elsewhere celebrated) brought with him from Florence :-this, and a trifle of five hundred pounds, came to me at her death.
The former bequest (which I do not least value) I have kept with religious care; though she herself, to confess a truth, was never greatly taken with cribbage. It was an essentially vulgar game, I have heard her say,-disputing with her uncle, who was very partial to it. She could never heartily bring her mouth to pronounce "Go" or "That's a go." She called it an ungrammatical game. The pegging teased her. I once knew her to forfeit a rubber (a five-dollar stake,) because she would not take advantage of the turn-up knave, which would have given it her, but which she must have claimed by the disgraceful tenure of declaring "two for his heels." There is something extremely genteel in this sort of self-denial. Sarah Battle was a gentlewoman born.
Piquet she held the best game at the cards for two persons, though she would ridicule the❘ pedantry of the terms-such as pique-repique -the capot-they savoured (she thought) of affectation. But games for two, or even three, she never greatly cared for. She loved the quadrate, or square. She would argue thus: -Cards are warfare: the ends are gain, with glory. But cards are war, in disguise of a sport: when single adversaries encounter, the ends proposed are too palpable. By themselves, it is too close a fight; with spectators, it is not much bettered. No looker-on can be interested, except for a bet, and then it is a mere affair of money; he cares not for your uck sympathetically, or for your play.-Three are still worse; a mere naked war of every man against every man, as in cribbage, without league or alliance; or a rotation of petty and contradictory interests, a succession of heartless leagues, and not much more hearty infractions of them, as in tradrille.-But in square games (she meant whist), all that is possible to be
attained in card-playing is accomplished. There are the incentives of profit with honour, common to every species-though the latter can be but very imperfectly enjoyed in those other games, where the spectator is only feebly a participator. But the parties in whist are spectators and principals too. They are a theatre to themselves, and a looker-on is not wanted. He is rather worse than nothing, and an impertinence. Whist abhors neutrality, or interests beyond its sphere. You glory in some surprising stroke of skill or fortune, not because a cold-or even an interested-bystander witnesses it, but because your partner sympathises in the contingency. You win for two. You triumph for two. Two are exalted. Two again are mortified; which divides their disgrace, as the conjunction doubles (by taking off the invidiousness) your glories. Two losing to two are better reconciled, than one to one in that close butchery. The hostile feeling is weakened by multiplying the channels. War becomes a civil game.-By such reasonings as these the old lady was accustomed to defend her favourite pastime.
No inducement could ever prevail upon her to play at any game, where chance entered into the composition, for nothing. Chance, she would argue-and here again, admire the subtlety of her conclusion ;-chance is nothing, but where something else depends upon it. It is obvious that cannot be glory. What rational cause of exultation could it give to a man to turn up size ace a hundred times together by himself? or before spectators, where no stake was depending ?-Make a lottery of a hundred thousand tickets with but one fortunate number-and what possible principle of our nature, except stupid wonderment, could it gratify to gain that number as many times successively, without a prize ?-Therefore she disliked the mixture of chance in backgammon, where it was not played for money. She called it foolish, and those people idiots, who were taken with a lucky hit under such circumstances. Games of pure skill were as little to her fancy. Played for a stake, they were a mere system of over-reaching. Played for glory they were, amere setting of one man's wit, his memory, or combination-faculty rather-against another's; like a mock-engagement at a review, bloodless and profitless. She could not conceive a game
wanting the spritely infusion of chance, the handsome excuses of good fortune. Two people playing at chess in a corner of a room, whilst whist was stirring in the centre, would inspire her with insufferable horror and ennui. Those well-cut similitudes of Castles, and Knights, the imagery of the board, she would argue, (and I think in this case justly,) were entirely misplaced and senseless. Those hard head-contests can in no instance ally with the fancy. They reject form and colour. A pencil and dry slate (she used to say) were the proper arena for such combatants.
To those puny objectors against cards, as nurturing the bad passions, she would retort, that man is a gaming animal. He must be always trying to get the better in something or other-that this passion can scarcely be more safely expended than upon a game at cards that cards are a temporary illusion; in truth, a mere drama; for we do but play at being mightily concerned, where a few idle shillings are at stake, yet, during the illusion, we are as mightily concerned as those whose stake is crowns and kingdoms. They are a sort of dream-fighting; much ado; great battling, and little bloodshed; mighty means for disproportioned ends; quite as diverting, and a great deal more innoxious, than many of those more serious games of life, which men play, without esteeming them to be such.
With great deference to the old lady's judgment on these matters, I think I have experi
enced some moments in my life, when playing at cards for nothing has even been agreeable. When I am in sickness, or not in the best spirits, I sometimes call for the cards, and play a game at piquet for love with my cousin Bridget Bridget Elia.
I grant there is something sneaking in it; but with a tooth-ache, or a sprained ankle,— when you are subdued and humble,—you are glad to put up with an inferior spring of action. There is such a thing in nature, I am convinced, as sick whist.
I grant it is not the highest style of manI deprecate the manes of Sarah Battle-she lives not, alas! to whom I should apologise.
At such times, those terms which my old friend objected to, come in as something admissible. I love to get a tierce or a quatorze, though they mean nothing. I am subdued to an inferior interest. Those shadows of winning
That last game I had with my sweet cousin (I capotted her)—(dare I tell thee, how foolish I am?)-I wished it might have lasted for ever, though we gained nothing, and lost nothing, though it was a mere shade of play: I would be content to go on in that idle folly for ever. The pipkin should be ever boiling, that was to prepare the gentle lenitive to my foot, which Bridget was doomed to apply after the game was over: and, as I do not much relish appliances, there it should ever bubble. Bridget and I should be ever playing.
I HAVE no ear.
A CHAPTER ON EARS.
Mistake me not, reader-nor imagine that I am by nature destitute of those exterior twin appendages, hanging ornaments, and (architecturally speaking) handsome volutes to the human capital. Better my mother had never borne me.-I am, I think, rather delicately than copiously provided with those conduits; and I feel no disposition to envy the mule for his plenty, or the mole for her exactness, in those ingenious labyrinthine inlets-those indispensable side-intelligencers.
Neither have I incurred, or done any thing to incur, with Defoe, that hideous disfigurement, which constrained him to draw upon assurance to feel "quite unabashed," and at ease upon that article. I was never, I thank my stars, in the pillory; nor, if I read them aright, is it within the compass of my destiny, that I ever should be.
When therefore I say that I have no ear, you will understand me to mean-for music. To say that this heart never melted at the concord of sweet sounds, would be a foul
self-libel. "Water parted from the sea" never fails to move it strangely. So does "In infancy." But they were used to be sung at her harpsichord (the old-fashioned instrument in vogue in those days) by a gentlewoman-the gentlest, sure, that ever merited the appellation-the sweetest-why should I hesitate to name Mrs. S-, once the blooming Fanny Weatheral of the Temple who had power to thrill the soul of Elia, small imp as he was, even in his long coats; and to make him glow, tremble, and blush with a passion, that not faintly indicated the day-spring of that absorbing sentiment which was afterwards destined to overwhelm and subdue his nature quite for Alice Wn. I even think that sentimentally I am disposed to harmony. But organically I am incapable of a tune. I have been practising "God save the King" all my life; whistling and humming of it over to myself in solitary corners; and am not yet arrived, they tell me, within many quavers of it. Yet hath the loyalty of Elia never been impeached.
I am not without suspicion, that I have an undeveloped faculty of music within me. For thrumming, in my wild way, on my friend A.'s piano, the other morning, while he was engaged in an adjoining parlour,-on his return he was pleased to say, "he thought it could not be the maid!" On his first surprise at hearing the keys touched in somewhat an airy and masterful way, not dreaming of me, his suspicions had lighted on Jenny. But a grace, snatched from a superior refinement, soon convinced him that some being-technically perhaps deficient, but higher informed from a principle common to all the fine arts-had swayed the keys to a mood which Jenny, with all her (less cultivated) enthusiasm, could never have elicited from them. I mention this as a proof of my friend's penetration, and not with any view of disparaging Jenny.
scarce know what to say I am ignorant of. I hate, perhaps, by misnomers. Sostenuto and adagio stand in the like relation of obscurity to me; and Sol, Fa, Mi, Re, is as conjuring as Baralipton.
It is hard to stand alone in an age like this, -(constituted to the quick and critical perception of all harmonious combinations, I verily believe, beyond all preceding ages, since Jubal stumbled upon the gamut,) to remain, as it were, singly unimpressible to the magic influences of an art, which is said to have such an especial stroke at soothing, elevating, and refining the passions.-Yet, rather than break the candid current of my confessions, I must avow to you, that I have received a great deal more pain than pleasure from this so cried-up faculty.
I am constitutionally susceptible of noises. A carpenter's hammer, in a warm summer noon, will fret me into more than midsummer madness. But those unconnected, unset sounds are nothing to the measured malice of music. The ear is passive to those single strokes ; willingly enduring stripes while it hath no task to con. To music it cannot be passive. It will strive-mine at least will-'spite of its inaptitude, to thrid the maze; like an unskilled eye painfully poring upon hieroglyphics. I have sat through an Italian Opera, till, for sheer pain, and inexplicable anguish, I have rushed out into the noisiest places of the crowded streets, to solace myself with sounds, which I was not obliged to follow, and get rid of the distracting torment of endless, fruitless, barren attention! I take refuge in the unpretending assemblage of honest common-life sounds;—and the purgatory of the Enraged Musician becomes my paradise.
I have sat at an Oratorio (that profanation of the purposes of the cheerful playhouse) watching the faces of the auditory in the pit (what a contrast to Hogarth's Laughing Audience!) immoveable, or affecting some faint emotion
Scientifically I could never be made to understand (yet have I taken some pains) what a note in music is; or how one note should differ-till (as some have said, that our occupations from another. Much less in voices can I distinguish a soprano from a tenor. Only sometimes the thorough-bass I contrive to guess at, from its being supereminently harsh and disagreeable. I tremble, however, for my misapplication of the simplest terms of that which I disclaim. While I profess my ignorance, I
in the next world will be but a shadow of what delighted us in this) I have imagined myself in some cold Theatre in Hades, where some of the forms of the earthly one should be kept up, with none of the enjoyment; or like that
-Party in a parlour
All silent, and all DAMNED.