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MUCH-A-DO ABOUT NOTHING;
THE SPECULATIONS OF A CONNOISSEUR.
And thus l've made a landscape of a post.—Dr. Syntar,
It was in one of the narrow gloomy streets of Wapping, that I observed over a window the emblem of some non-descript animal, whose colour was certainly not, in my judgment, in keeping with nature; for it was bright scarlet-a hue that belongs to no beast of the field, and is but sparingly vouchsafed to the creatures of the deep; the species coctus of the cancer being almost unique specimens of scarlet fish, as I have been informed; and I think I can rely upon the description given me of that species, to determine that this sign was not the representation of a coctus. Neither was it that of a flamingo uor parroquet, because in such a case, surely, the artist would have. accommodated it with wings, to distinguish it from the brute and fish genera, and if at all acquainted with the Linnæan system, he certainly would not have omitted those essential characteristics, the beak and claws. However, being of an inquisitive cast, and despising not to avail myself of knowledge whencesoever obtained, it struck me, that the owner of the house must be the person best acquainted with the genus and species of that animal, which he had procured to be represented over his door; and that some valuable information might be obtained from him, relative to this unknown denomination; or possibly that the original might be found within-an opinion in which I was much confirmed by reading on the entablature of the shop-window, The Original Barclay Perkins and Co's Entire Brown Stout Red Lion. So I determined, if possible, to see this strange-formed brown red lion, since that was the appellation which these ignorant classifiers assigned him. Accordingly I entered the narrow passage, and meeting with an intelligent girl, inquired for Barclay and Perkins, upon which she directed me into an adjoining apartment, requesting me to take a seat: I thought this extremely civil of her, and entered the parlour. It was a low room of a dingy appearance, over which a ruddy gloom was thrown by a slip of scarlet fustian that curtained the window; its walls were coloured with red ochre; here and there the ceiling was marked with : mezzo-tinto streaks, not unlike those sooty traces, which, in my col-, lege-days, I have pleased myself with branding upon the whitewashed walls of our cloisters and chapel-of-ease; the floor was well sanded, and covered with reddish chairs and tables, occupied by the members of the groupe which I am going to describe.
After my introduction I stood somewhat abashed, conning over the words that I should use to Messrs. Barelay and Perkins, and hoping that either of those gentlemen would relieve my embar
rassment by stepping forward, and smoothing the way to my inquiries. But no! scarce one of the six individuals moved more than an eyelid at my entrance. Each was seated apart at a small cross-legged table, with a pewter goblet before him. The attendant soon entered with a like vessel foaming over the brim, and placing it on a table similar to the rest, desired me to sit down. As I always conform to the customs of the locale in which I am, I obeyed her directions, and sat down, until I should learn something more of the ceremonies of the place. I could observe, that though my entrance had excited so little attention, that of the girl was attended with a considerable stir. I heard a confused clamour of “hear, hear,” just like the shouts we read of in the House of Commons, and I strained myself to catch any good thing that might be uttered; but no! the only articulate words which I could distinguish amidst a confused jingle of outlandish sounds, were Potuplis, Inanderpoot, Morale, Amutchkin, Porter, and Pot-O’Stout, mingled with cries of “hcar." Notwithstanding which direct appeal, the gentleman called upon declined coming forward; but all sat impatient, some rattling the empty bickers against the table, some grinding the sand with their feet, and some tapping the wood with their knuckles; all which symbols were as yet lost upon me, and I remained in a shiver of embarrassment, lest I should be called on for an inaugural speech, before I had witnessed any of the proceedings of the assembly. The usher of the pewter pots, however, who seemed to be familiar with these orgies, soon put an end to the clattering of the vessels, by supplying their place with brimming tankards like my own. Silence once more prevailed, interrupted only by an occasional guzzle and a loud whiff, as the fraternity paid their devoirs con amore to the pewter cornueopiæ before them. I too joined in the libation, and soon became wrapt in a brown study, that effaced all my curiosity respecting the monster, whose place in the system of beings I had come to investigate. The fact was, I felt myself in a strange conclave, and my whole curiosity turned
upon the characters of the taciturn party in the room. There was a sombre air prevalent in the countenances of them all, that affected me with sympathetie gloom: the lurid aspect of the room, and its russet furniture, were both calculated to impress strangers with an obscure, mysterious apprehension, which was not a little increased by the overcoming smell and smoke of mundungus. I never more fully agreed with King James in the infernal character of that herb;—for a time I thought myself in the Tartaric regions, and that the very malt-liquor which I drank, had all the narcotic and oblivious effect of the river Lethe; but I soon recovered myself, and more rationally conjectured, that the beings around, were magi, cabalists, sorcerers, illuminati, rosicrucians, or mystics of some sort or other.
The most striking figure, who occupied the remote corner of the room, was, if my conjecture is well founded, the chairman of the meeting. Independently of his authoritative look, there were other infallible symptoms of his superiority. He wore a triangular cockedhat, like that of a Chelsea pensioner, but vastly more imposing: in his left hand he held a staff of authority, with which he sometimes traced hieroglyphs upon the sand, at other times resting his extended arm upon it in a proud, majestic manner. A black robe, with puckered sleeves, added state and solemnity to his person. One of his legs was thrown across the other, and his muscular hody inclined backwards in an angle of supreme haughtiness. These were conclusive symptoms of presidency. But why was the meeting convened? why. were these proceedings carried on in silence, or by such masonic signs, as none but the initiated could unravel? I will explain why, but the reader must first attend patiently to the externals of the whole divan.
The name of the above personage, I have reason to suppose, was Potuplis, both from its precedence in the order of the summonscs, and from its analogy to Egyptian names, such as Potiphar; and in its termination, to Memphis, Sesostris.—His visage possessed all the Rembrandt-duskyness, shaded besides with reliefs and furrows, that greatly deepened its solemn cast. His nose was obtuse, his beard acute, and his eye-brows rectangular. A little glaring eye shone through each bushy cover-lid, like that of a shock-dog, giving to the beholder the idea of lurking treachery. His lips were firmly pressed against each other, as if he were a Pythagorean ascetic, or one of the Astomores; that mouthless people of whom Pliny speaks. The only movement in his face was an occasional spasm of contemptuousness, and a quick gliding of the iris from one to the other corner of his eye.
After having vicwed his general aspect, I took a trigonometrical survey of his countenance by means of a Lavater's quadrant. The facial angle F. T. E., or angle contained under right lines, from the forehead to the teeth and from the teeth to the cars, closely approximated to phiz. perf. or physiognomical perfection;
Iso the angle subtending the nose and upper lip was homologous to the facial angle, and denoted him, according to the same authority, a primordial genius. His nose indeed did not correspond in contour or dimensions, being of the undignified class, which the French term camus, and somewhat warty moreover, as must be admitted. I regretted this circumstance not a little, for the sake of seience; but one or two exceptions should not overturn an ingenious system; and when I recollected that Socrates and Confucius bad short noses, my veneration for the individual revived; especially when I considered that the shortness of his nose might at any time be mended by Taliacozzi's. operation, should its diminutiveness, according to Riolan and others, Prevent his obtaining orders in the Jewish or Roman priesthood; a layman, he might be better off without a long pullable handle to his face, in these profane modern times, when the nose is as little respected as the beard was in Lucian's days. We may remark obiter, that it must be a great pleasure to those who duly honour that primest feature of the human face, to see beards once more coming into fashion, and we recommend the wear of them to all those who value their noses, whether as the recipient organs of snuff, or the fulcra of spectacles, as undoubtedly the more pleasant and convenient gripe which a long beard presents, and will hereafter save many a nose from being pulled.
* See the the Man of Sin, p. 76; and Leviticus, cap. 21.
In Potuplis, the deficiency of this cardinal point, this great-ness, as the etymological Dr. Beddoes* calls it, was supplied by ample conch-like ears, which denoted him a man of acuteness and intelligence, as being possessed in profusion of the receptacles of acute and intelligent things, and though truly the ass can have as much said for him, yet Baptista Porta and others have asserted, that no man of intelligence ever was deficient of that symbol in all its bulk, unless he had undergone the pillorial operation.-Wherefore I hope one day to see the character of that organ vindicated also ; and not only it, but likewise the heart, the liver, the spleen, the pineal gland, &c. and that they will be readmitted to a share of the honour of secreting the soul, which is now monopolized, perceptions, passions, and all, by the brain. Why should not all the members of the body-corporation agree, as Menenius Agrippa recommended in another cause, and support the soul among them? Would not this furnish a larger field for philosophic speculation, and enable metoposcopy, nasology, and judicial astrology, to come once more into play along with their supplanting sister-science phrenology. The more aids we have for prying into one another's characters, the more easily shall we perform our special business in this life; since, according to Pore,
The proper study of mankind is man. In the present instance, had I been left to craniology alone, how should I have been able to pursue my proper study of Potuplis, seeing that my man would have required to have been studied through liis three-cornered hat, that obfuscated all his cerebral organs? I did, indeed, for fear of being reproached with careless observation, note down in my tablets, that the caul of the said hat was an obtruncated spheroid ; and therefore, that if there was any homogenity between it and the head which filled it, the zenithal organs of Potuplis must be exceedingly flat indeed. As for his brows, I have intimated before, that they were so shaggy and so puckered with loose plaits, that they would have required the exhibition of the razor and the scalp to render their bumps visible. I should therefore have studied in the dark, had I not been furnished with other equally good logs to sound the depths of this character by—but I beg the reader's pardon ; I have more figures to delineate, before I can give the result of my researches respecting him; and I pray his close attention, since his concurrence in
my deductions mainly rests upon his viewing the groupe with the same tutored eye as I did.
The figure on his left was a lank, bony, oversized man, whose legs were thrown forwards, and discovered a pair of naked shanks of colossal dimensions, terminating in small flat-bottomed boats or pontoons, for they were too vast to be termed shoes, though paved with large hob-nails; the exact order of which, I regret to say, escaped my attention. I was so perplexed with the magnitude of his foot, that had it not been for the size of his body, I should have unhesitatingly classed him with the sciapodous Scythians, of whom Ctesias speaks, who had nothing to do in hot weather, but lie down pleasantly in the shade, by holding up one foot between them and the sun.
Monthly Mag. July, 1796.
His attitude was that of supercilious contempt: he was sitting bolt upright, with his eye fixed keenly on the chairman ; with his right hand he alternately stroked his chin, and raised his bicker to his mouth; his left rested with its knuckles on his hip, and exposed its brown palm in full projection. How I longed for a telescope, to trace upon this chart all the minute lines and mazes of this man's life and adventures! As it was, I could perceive gapes and defiles, that iudicated great reverses. I began to think him some wandering prince like Ulysses, meditating mighty deeds in a beggar's disguise, for nothing but a Tartan frock enveloped his huge body, over which hung a belt, to which was appended a leathern wallet. On his head he bore, obliquely, a black bonnet with red selvage, which he carried with the high bearing of a morioned chieftain. His upper lip curled outwards, and was thatched raggedly with towey moustaches; his jetting cheek-bones served as a bulwark to his small grey eye, levelled point-blank against the foe; but the ornament of his face, the criterion of his nobility, was his august Cyrus-like* nose. Never was feature better developed—it would have served the Egyptianst as an hieroglyph for wisdom; and Dr. Johnson as the emblem of great sagacity, which he calls the nose of the mind. The author of Tremaine would have venerated its aristocratic magnitude-Sterne would have written a chapter upon it—the Persians would have made a king of the man attached to it; the Jews a high-priest; the cardinals a pope. It was, as Aretine apostrophizes his friend's nose, in his Nasea, veramente Re de nasi." I warrant, with Ambrose Paræus and Mr. Shandy, that no “ firmness and elastic repulsion of the nurse's breast" had prevented its expansion. The individual who bore this majestic nose, seemed fully aware of its significance; he was quite in character with his nose, and followed it in the moral sense of the phrase. His look was fierce and intimidating ; intrepid daring portrayed itself in his every gesture, even when charging his nose with the pungent dust from his horn-mull; and yet he must have been a patient, enduring man, for that, according to Bouchet** and Camerarius *t is the Hebraic metonomy for long-nose, (Exod. 34,) and wherever our scriptural paraphrase long-suffering is used, the Spaniards and Antwerpeans nse the literal expression long-nosed.If This nasal hero bore, apparently, the princely eastern name Inanderpoot, not much dissimilar to Rajapoot.
Near him sat, with his back turned to me, a most extraordinary figure, dressed in a red coat, the cape of which extended so high as not to allow me to perceive whether he had any head. So many peculiarities united in this strange animal, that had it not been for my reading, I never should have believed him one of the human species. Not that the want of head made any great difficulty with me, for I had St. Augustine's authority for the existence of such a
* Vide Dr. Garmann De Miraculis Mortuorum, p. 84. + Taliacotius. De Curtorum Chirurgia. # Boswell, v. iii. p. 599. § Taliacot. Garmann ut Suprā. Aretine's Nasea, p. 532 et seq. || Tristram Shandy, vol. 3, c. 38 and 41. *. Tom. 3, p. 110. ++ Horæ Subcesivæ, tom. 1, 253. 11 Idem.