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anything, for I know it is but a play; and if it were really a ghost, it could do one no harm at such a distance, and in so much company; and yet, if I was frightened, I am not the only person.” “Why, who," cries Jones, “dost thou take to be such a coward here beside thyself?” “Nay, you may call me coward, if you will; but if that little man there upon the stage is not frightened, I never saw any man frightened in my life. Ay, ay; go along with you! Ay, to be sure! Who's fool, then? Will you? Lud have mercy upon such foolhardiness! Whatever happens, it is good enough for you. Follow you! I'd follow the devil as soon. Nay, perhaps it is the devil—for they say he can put on what likeness he pleases. Oh, here he is again! No farther! No, you have gone far enough already; farther than I'd have gone for all the king's dominions." Jones offered to speak, but Partridge cried, “Hush, hush, dear sir! don't you hear him?” And during the whole speech of the ghost he sat with his eyes fixed partly on the ghost, and partly on Hamlet, and with his mouth open; the same passions which succeeded each other in Hamlet succeeding likewise in him.
When the scene was over, Jones said, “Why, Partridge, you exceed my expectations. You enjoy the play more than I conceived possible." "Nay, sir," answered Partridge, “if you are not afraid of the devil, I can't help it; but, to be sure, it is natural to be surprised at such things, though I know there is nothing in them. Not that it was the ghost that surprised me, neither; for I should have known that to have been only a man in a strange dress; but when I saw the little man so frightened himself, it was that which took hold of me." “And dost thou imagine then, Partridge,” cries Jones, "that he was really frightened?" "Nay, sir," said Partridge, “ did not you yourself observe afterward, when he found it was his own father's spirit, and how he was murdered in the garden, how his fear forsook him by degrees, and he was struck dumb with sorrow, as it were, just as I should have been had it been my own case? But hush! Oh, la! what noise is that? There he is again. Well, to be certain, though I know there is nothing at all in it, I am glad I am not down yonder where those men are."
During the second act Partridge made very few remarks. He greatly admired the fineness of the dresses; nor could he help observing upon the king's countenance. “Well," said he,“ how people may be deceived by faces! Nulla fides fronti is, I find, a true saying. Who would think, by looking in the king's face, that he had ever committed a murder ?” He then inquired after the ghost; but Jones, who intended he should be surprised, gave him no other satisfaction than, “That he might possibly see him again soon, and in a flash of fire."
Partridge sat in fearful expectation of this; and now, when the ghost made his next appearance, Partridge cried out, “There, sir, now; what say you now; is he frightened now, or no? As much frightened as you think me—and, to be sure, nobody can help some fears—I would not be in so bad a condition as-what's his name?-Squire Hamlet is there, for all the world. Bless me, what's become of the spirit? As I am a living soul, I thought I saw him sink into the earth.” “Indeed, you saw right,” answered Jones. "Well, well,” cried Partridge, “I know it's only a play; and, besides, if there were anything in all this, Madame Miller would not laugh so; for as to you, sir, you would not be afraid, I believe, if the devil were here in person. There, there; aye, no wonder you are in such a passion! Shake the vile, wicked wretch to pieces. If she were my own mother I should serve her so. To be sure, all duty to a mother is forfeited by such wicked doings. Aye, go about your business; I hate the sight of you!”
Our critic was now pretty silent till the play which Hamlet introduces before the king. This he did not at first understand, till Jones explained it to him; but he no sooner entered into the spirit of it, then he began to bless himself that he had never committed murder. Then turning to Mrs. Miller, he asked her, “If she did not imagine the king looked as if he was touched; though he is,” said he, “a good actor, and doth all he can to hide it. Well, I would not have so much to answer for as that wicked man there hath, to sit upon a much higher chair than he sits upon. No wonder he ran away. For your sake I'll never trust an innocent face again.”
The grave-digging scene next engaged the attention of Partridge, who expressed much surprise at the number of skulls thrown upon the stage. To which Jones answered,
That it was one of the most famous burial-places about town.” “No wonder, then,” cries Partridge, “that the place is haunted. But I never saw in my life a worse grave-digger. I had a sexton, when I was clerk, that would have dug three graves while he is digging one. The fellow handles a spade as if it was the first time he had ever had one in his hand. Aye, aye, you may sing. You had rather sing than work, I believe." Upon Hamlet's taking up the skull, he cried out, “Well, it is strange to see how fearless some men are. I never could bring myself to touch anything belonging to a dead man on any account. He seemed frightened enough, too, at the ghost, I thought."
Little more worth remembering occurred during the play, at the end of which Jones asked him, " Which of the players he had liked best.” To this he answered, with some appearance of indignation at the question, "The king, without doubt.” “Indeed, Mr. Partridge," says Mrs. Miller, "you are not of the same opinion with the town; for they are all agreed that Hamlet is acted by the best player who ever was on the stage." "He the best player ! " cries Partridge, with a contemptuous sneer, “Why, I could act as well as he myself. I am sure, if I had seen a ghost, I should have looked in the very same manner, and done just as he did. And then, to be sure, in that scene, as you called it, between him and his mother, where you told me he acted so fine, why, any manthat is, any good man—that had such a mother would have done exactly the same. I know you are only joking with me; but, indeed, madam, though I was never at a play in London, yet I have seen acting before in the country. The king for my money! He speaks all his words distinctly, half as loud again as the other. Anybody may see he is an actor."
Essay on Nothing
The great antiquity of Nothing is apparent from its being so visible in the accounts we have of the beginning of every nation. This is very plainly to be discovered in the first pages, and sometimes books, of all general historians; and, indeed, the study of this important subject fills up the whole life of an antiquary, it being always at the bottom of his inquiry, and is commonly at last discovered by him with infinite labour and pains.
As it is extremely hard to define Nothing in positive terms, I shall therefore do it in negative. Nothing, then, is not Something. And here I must object to a third error concerning it, which is, that it is in no place—which is an indirect way of depriving it of its existence; whereas, indeed, it possesses the greatest and noblest place upon this earth, viz., the human brain. But, indeed, this mistake has been sufficiently refuted by many very wise men, who, having spent their whole lives in the contemplation and pursuit of Nothing, have at last gravely concluded that there is Nothing in this world.
Farther, as Nothing is not something, so everything which is not Something is Nothing; and wherever Something is not, Nothing is a very large allowance in its favour, as must appear to persons well skilled in human affairs.
For instance, when a bladder is full of wind, it is full of Something; but when that is let out we aptly say that there is Nothing in it. The same may be as justly asserted of a man as of a bladder. However well he may be bedaubed with lace or with title, yet if he have not Something in him we may predicate the same of him as of an empty bladder. ...
Nothing may be seen, as is plain from the relation of persons who have recovered from high fevers, and perhaps may be suspected from some, at least, of those who have seen apparitions, both on earth and in the clouds. Nay, I have often heard it confessed by men, when asked what they saw at such a place and time, that they saw Nothing. ...
Nothing may be heard, of which the same proofs may be given as of the foregoing. That Nothing may be tasted and smelt, is not only known to persons of delicate palates and nostrils. How commonly do we hear that such a thing smells or tastes of Nothing! The latter I have heard asserted of a dish composed of five or six savoury ingredients.