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for who can doubt the statistics of one who has read the leading article in the Morning Post for six weeks running? In the late war with Russia, however, his political reading was sadly hampered, for the tall Muscovite words rose in, the columns of the newspapers, like an army advancing in columns against his intellect, and compelled him to skip over the names of many a Russian general, town, and village, who figured in polysyllables as long as the petitions for reform, which have been lately presented to the House of Commons.
I should be ashamed of myself, were I to omit the mention of his taste in painting, which is principally founded on the shilling catalogue of the Exhibitions, and the floating opinions of the connoisseurs. He is optically exact in the breadth and length of the miniatures, nor is his skill in the names of the artists contemptible; but he is much shocked at the indecencies of the statues, and observes that Venus should never be without the feminine accompaniment of a flannel petticoat. Hercules, he says, would look well in a frock coat; nor would Apollo be disfigured by the addition of a well-curled periwig.
As a sportsman, he ranks in the first class; a station conferred on him from his Easter achievements at Epping. On this immortal Monday,
he starts, well fenced in leather breeches, from Cheapside; but mounting on the wrong side of his hunter, salutes the gutter with headlong speed, disdainful of attitude. On reaching the forest, his Rozinante, alarmed at the multitudinous tally-hos, takes an unusual fancy to gate-leaping. Away goes our Nimrod-hat on one side-gloves on the other himself picturesquely independent of both. On the first of September, he commences his shooting excursions. The slaughter of cats is marvellous, and many an old country woman, hotly peppered a posteriori, is reminded of her latter end. On the first day, he bags a cock, two hens, and a sucking-pig; but, taking desperate aim at a rook, shoots the wig off his grandfather's head, and concludes by the murder of a scarecrow.
I have sundry marvels to relate, touching his fashionable information. He regularly reads every new novel, and makes a point of digesting the contents of the circulating libraries in every wateringplace that he visits. Bad, good, or indifferent, it is all the same; one must read, and though, as the poet says, "a little learning is a dangerous thing," it is still a fashionable requisite. With the Scotch novels he is particularly taken, and is of opinion, that Ivanhoe is exceeding pretty, and that the conflagration of Front de Beuf's castle, would burn
well at Sadler's Wells. With the author, he professes to be unacquainted, but be he who he may, man, woman, or thing, he must be a prodigy of learning. But what puzzles him cruelly, is the great novelist's description of scenery; for how can beauty exist in the highlands, when they are at least five hundred miles distant from Eastcheap?
His poetical canons are equally singular; he has himself been a rhymester in his day, and once indited some thundering stanzas to his first love, in which he compared her bloom to the tints of a winter cabbage. The damsel, however, disliked the allusion, and was only reconciled in consequence of hearing him assert, "that poets succeed better in fiction than in truth."
On the drama he is profoundly acute: Pizzaro he conceives to be catching, but is dissatisfied with the want of genius in the last pantomime. Of the capabilities of Mr. Liston's face, he can detail wonders, and always sits in the pit, when Lubin Log is the hero of the night. The imitations of that funny fellow, Yates, he dubs vastly like; and his songs teem with poetry; Shakspeare too, is prodigious fine, but then he is familiar and coarse at times; for instance, Lear had no right to ask any, one to unbutton his waistcoat, or tell the storm to "rumble its belly full, and spit;" wonders how
the dramatist could be so indelicate. With respect to the modern alterations of the tragedy, they are very fine; and so delighted is he with the storm, that he actually encores it, in order that he may have the most for his money.
He is a great observer of fasts and feasts, and once cut a friend, for inviting him to a Christmas dinner without the customary accompaniment of a plum pudding. Occasionally, however, he dubitates whether it is correct to kiss a girl under the misseltoe, when the Vestal manners of the day refuse to sanction such effrontery. But twelfth-cake still maintains its ground, in despite of the courtly contempt for its appurtenances; and the twenty-ninth of September is a privileged day, because, as it comes only once a year, he may eat to suffocation of its symbol, a Michaelmas goose. On the first of April, he most sacredly makes fools of his family, and by day break, they are awakened by the sound of robbers, to be jeered for their timidity at breakfast. His sisters too receive letters from imaginary lovers; and the postman confirms his epistolary prowess in many an extra ramble.
And such is the character, and such are the pursuits of the nice young man of modern day. Whether merchant, lawyer, or soldier, the ruling principles are the same, though the mode of action
may vary. I have selected the city beau for my description, because the common-place character is more indigenous to the counting-house, than to the camp, or the courts of law. This is easily accounted for; the education of the one is usually homely; of the other respectable, and as the mind strengthens by cultivation but weakens by neglect, the merchant has few opportunities of enlarging his stock of ideas, though he may enlarge his stock of goods, or of correcting the inherent weaknesses of nature. To such a character the world is a huge counting-house where the cleverest member is the best hand at a bargain. In vain for him nature unfolds her stores; the ocean gale is only viewed as the wind that wafts his ships to port, and despite of its sublime associations, the tempest is a nuisance, inasmuch as it wrecks a cargo. To the beauty of external nature, he is constitutionally blind; his loveliest prospect is from the window that overlooks the counting-house; his finest eminence is the site of Ludgate Hill; his most picturesque declivities, the vale of Holborn. In society he is a cypher which married to its kindred unit, begets in quantity what it wants in quality; and in every respect he is one of those insignificant individuals, the fact of whose existence we might forget, if their appearance did not bring it to our mind.