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sharpness of repartee, glances of satire, and bear away the upper part in every concert. I cannot, however, but observe, that when a man is not disposed to hear music, there is not a more disagreeable sound in harmony, than that of a violin.
There is another musical instrument, which is more frequent in this nation than in any other ; I mean your bassviol, which grumbles in the bottom of the concert, and with a surly, masculine sound strengthens the harmony, and tempers the sweetness of the several instruments that play along with it. The bass-viol is an instrument of a quite 10 different nature to the trumpet, and may signify men of rough sense, and unpolished parts, who do not love to hear themselves talk, but sometimes break out with an agreeable bluntness, unexpected wit, and surly pleasantries, to the no small diversion of their friends and companions. In short, I look upon every sensible, true-born Briton to be naturally a bass-viol.
As for your rural wits, who talk with great eloquence and alacrity of foxes, hounds, horses, quickset hedges, and sixbar gates, double ditches, and broken necks, I am in doubt 20 whether I should give them a place in the conversable world. However, if they will content themselves with being raised to the dignity of hunting-horns, I shall desire for the future that they may be known by that name.
I must not here omit the bagpipe species, that will entertain you from morning to night with the repetition of a few notes, which are played over and over, with the perpetual humming of a drone running underneath them. These are your dull, heavy, tedious story-tellers, the load and burthen of conversations, that set up for men of importance, by know- 30 ing secret history, and giving an account of transactions, that whether they ever passed in the world or not, doth not signify an halfpenny to its instruction, or its welfare. Some have observed, that the northern parts of this island are more particularly fruitful in bagpipes.
There are so very few persons who are masters in every
kind of conversation, and can talk on all subjects, that I do not know whether we should make a distinct species of them ; nevertheless, that my scheme may not be defective, for the sake of those who are endowed with such extraordinary talents, I shall allow them to be harpsichords, a kind of music which every one knows is a concert by itself.
As for your passing bells, who look upon mirth as criminal, and talk of nothing but what is melancholy in itself, and
mortifying to human nature, I shall not mention them. 10 I shall likewise pass over in silence all the rabble of man
kind, that crowd our streets, coffee-houses, feasts, and public tables. I cannot call their discourse conversation, but rather something that is practised in imitation of it. For which reason, if I would describe them by any musical instrument, it should be by those modern inventions of the bladder and string, tongs and key, marrowbone and cleaver.
My reader will doubtless observe, that I have only touched here upon male instruments, having reserved my female con
cert to another occasion. If he has a mind to know where 20 these several characters are to be met with, I could direct
him to a whole club of drums ; not to mention another of bagpipes, which I have before given some account of in my description of our nightly meetings in Sheer Lane. The lutes may often be met with in couples upon the banks of a crystal stream, or in the retreats of shady woods and flowery meadows; which for different reasons are likewise the great resort of your hunting-horns. Bass-viols are frequently to be found over a glass of stale beer and a pipe of tobacco ;
whereas those who set up for violins, seldom fail to make 30 their appearance at Will's once every evening.
meet with a trumpet anywhere on the other side of Charing Cross.
That we may draw something for our advantage in life out of the foregoing discourse, I must entreat my reader to make a narrow search into his life and conversation, and upon his leaving any company, to examine himself seriously,
You may whether he has behaved himself in it like a drum or a trumpet, a violin or a bass-viol ; and accordingly endeavour to mend his music for the future. For my own part, I must confess, I was a drum for many years ; nay, and a very noisy one, till having polished myself a little in good company, I threw as much of the trumpet into my conversation as was possible for a man of an impetuous temper, by which mixture of different musics, I look upon myself, during the course of many years, to have resembled a tabor and pipe. I have since very much endeavoured at the sweetness of the lute; 10 but in spite of all my resolutions, I must confess with great confusion, that I find myself daily degenerating into a bagpipe; whether it be the effect of my old age, or of the company I keep, I know not. All that I can do, is to keep a watch over my conversation, and to silence the drone as soon as I find it begin to hum in my discourse, being determined rather to hear the notes of others, than to play out of time, and encroach upon their parts in the concert by the noise of so tiresome an instrument.
I shall conclude this paper with a letter which I received 20 last night from a friend of mine, who knows very well my notions
the evening at his house, with a select company of friends, in the following words : “ DEAR ISAAC,
I intend to have a concert at my house this evening, having by great chance got a harpsichord, which I am sure will entertain you very agreeably. There will be likewise two lutes and a trumpet : let me beg you to put yourself in tune, and believe me,
30 Your very faithful servant,
IV. ADVENTURES OF A SHILLING.
November 11, 1710.
Per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum,
Through various hazards and events we move. -DRYDEN.
From my own Apartment, November 10. I was last night visited by a friend of mine, who has an inexhaustible fund of discourse, and never fails to entertain his company with a variety of thoughts and hints that are altogether new and uncommon. Whether it were in complaisance to my way of living, or his real opinion, he advanced
the following paradox, “That it required much greater talents 10 to fill up and become a retired life, than a life of business.”
Upon this occasion he rallied very agreeably the busy men of the age, who only valued themselves for being in motion, and passing through a series of trifling and insignificant actions. In the heat of his discourse, seeing a piece of money lying on my table, “I defy (says he) any of these active persons to produce half the adventures that this twelvepenny piece has been engaged in, were it possible for him to give us an account of his life.”
My friend's talk made so odd an impression upon my 20 mind, that soon after I was a-bed I fell insensibly into a most
unaccountable reverie, that had neither moral nor design in it, and cannot be so properly called a dream as a delirium.
Methoughts the shilling that lay upon the table reared itself upon its edge, and turning the face towards me, opened its mouth, and in a soft silver sound, gave me the following account of his life and adventures :
“I was born (says he) on the side of a mountain, near a little village of Peru, and made a voyage to England in an
ingot, under the convoy of Sir Francis Drake. I was, soon 30 after my arrival, taken out of my Indian habit, refined, naturalized, and put into the British mode, with the face of Queen Elizabeth on one side, and the arms of the country on the other. Being thus equipped, I found in me a wonderful inclination to ramble, and visit all parts of the new world into which I was brought. The people very much favoured my natural disposition, and shifted me fast from hand to hand, that before I was five years old, I had travelled into almost every corner of the nation. But in the beginning of my sixth year, to my unspeakable grief, I fell into the hands of a miserable old fellow, who clapped me into an iron 10 chest, where I found five hundred more of my own quality who lay under the same confinement. The only relief we had, was to be taken out and counted over in the fresh air every morning and evening. After an imprisonment of several years, we heard somebody knocking at our chest, and breaking it open with a hammer. This we found was the old man's heir, who, as his father lay a dying, was so good as to come to our release : he separated us that very day. What was the fate of my companions I know not: as for myself, I was sent to the apothecary's shop for a pint of sack. 20 The apothecary gave me to an herb-woman, the herb-woman to a butcher, the butcher to a brewer, and the brewer to his wife, who made a present of me to a nonconformist preacher. After this manner I made my way merrily through the world; for, as I told you before, we shillings love nothing so much as travelling. I sometimes fetched in a shoulder of mutton, sometimes a play-book, and often had the satisfaction to treat a Templar at a twelvepenny ordinary, or carry him, with three friends, to Westminster Hall.
“In the midst of this pleasant progress which I made from 30 place to place, I was arrested by a superstitious old woman, who shut me up in a greasy purse, in pursuance of a foolish saying, “That while she kept a Queen Elizabeth's shilling about her, she should never be without money. I continued here a close prisoner for many months, till at last I was exchanged for eight and forty farthings.