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No. 269. TUESDAY, JANUARY 8.
Ævo rarissima nostro
OviD, Ars Am. i. 241.
I was this morning surprised with a great knocking at the door, when my landlady's daughter came up to me and told me there was a man below desired to speak with me.
asking her who it was, she told me it was a very grave elderly person, but that she did not know his name. I immediately went down to him, and found him to be the coachman of my worthy friend Sir Roger de Coverley. He told me that his master came to town last night, and would be glad to take a turn with me in Grays-Inn walks. As I was wondering in myself what had brought Sir Roger to town, not having lately received any letter from him, he told me that his master was come up to get a sight of Prince Eugene, and that he desired I would immediately meet him.'
The prince's mission to this country was no less popular than his victories—gained in association with Marlborough-had made his person. It was to urge the prosecution, with Austria, of the war against France in terms of the treaty of 1706; and to endeavour to restore to the queen's favour his great ally the duke, who had only four days before his arrival been dismissed with disgrace from all his employments. “Gratitude, esteem, the partnership in so many military operations," we read in Prince Eugene's Autobiography, “and pity for a person in disgrace, caused me to throw myself with emotion into Marlborough's arms."
Nothing could exceed the enthusiastic reception with which Eugene was greeted; and an adroit illustration of the eagerness of the public to behold bim, is the bringing Sir Roger up to London solely for that purpose, only two days after the prince's appearance.
“The Knight,” says the “Spec ;"* "* made me promise to get him a stand in some convenient place where he might have a full view of thit extraordinary man." This was in
I was not a little pleased with the curiosity of the old knight, though I did not much wonder at it, -having heard him say more than once in private discourse, that he looked upon Prince Eugenio (for so the knight always calls him) to be a greater man than Scanderbeg
fact a necessity; for whenever the prince ventured in the streets, he was beset by eager multitudes, from the evening of his arrival (5th January, 1712) till his departure.
While there was a chance of gaining over the illustrious envoy, the court party joined in the general homage, and on her birth-day, Anne gave the Prince a jewelled sword, valued at £4,500. Then Swift, at first sight, “ didn't think him an ugly faced fellow, but well enough; and a good shape.” (Journal, Jan. 13.) Eugene was not to be won; and persisted in passing most of his time with Marlborough: whom Harley, the lord treasurer, had just stripped of his title of general. One day at dinner, while Harley was plying the prir.ce with flattery and depreciating Marlborough, he called Eugene the first general in Europe. "If I am so," said the prince, “'tis to your lordship I am indebted for that distinction." Both by words and behaviour Prince Eugene firmly adhered to the cause he had come over to advance, and he fell into utter disrepute with the Tory or peace party. Then it was that Swift, eager as the rest, got a second glimpse of the great man; but the same pair of eyes jaundiced with party prejudice found him “plaguy yellow and literally ugly besides." (Journal, Feb. 10.)
Meanwhile the illustrious envoy was the idol of the populace and of the Whigs. He returned their idolatry by a pleasing affability in public, and by a variety of small but agreeable courtesies in private. Amongst these it must be noted that he stood sponsor to Steele's second son.
The Whig ladies professed to be in love with him, and returned a compliment often paid to themselves by making him their toast. In company, he had, according to Burnet, "a most unaffected modesty, and does scarcely bear the acknowledgements that all the world pay him."
His popularity was gall to the Tories, who with a too-prevalent and mean revenge set about showering libels upon him. On the 17th of March, Prince Eugene retired from this country: his disgust and disappointment slightly tempered by the kindness of the queen; who, at parting, gave him her portrait.
A running fire of squibs and pamphlets was kept up against the Torie: on account of their crioging reception and spiteful Csmissal of the illustrious visitor. One was advertised in No. 471 of the “Spectator" as
Prince Eugene not the man you took him for; or a Merry Tale of a Modern Hero. Price 6d."*
I was no sooner come into Grays-Inn walks," but I heard my friend upon the terrace hemming twice or thrice to himself with great vigour, for he loves to clear his pipes in good air (to make use of his own phrase) and is not a little pleased with any one who takes potice of the strength which he still exerts in his morning hems.
I was touched with a secret joy at the sight of the good old man, who before he saw me was engaged in conversation with a beggar-man that had asked an alms of him. I could hear my friend chide him for not finding out some work; but at the same time saw him put his hand in his pocket and give him six-pence.
Our salutations were very hearty on both sides, consisting of many kind shakes of the hand, and several affectionate looks which we cast upon one another. After which the knight told me my good friend his chaplain was very well, and much at my
Gray's Inn Gardens formed for a long time a fashionable promenade. The chief entrance to them was Fulwood's Rents, now a pent-up retreat for poverty; yet, in Sir Roger's day, no place was better adapted for "clearing his pipes in good air;" for scarcely a house intervened thence to Hampstead. A contemporary satirist (but who can scarcely be quoted without an apology) affords a graphic description of this promenade;"I found none but a parcel of Superannuated Debauchees huddled up in eloaks, frieze coats, and wadded gowns, to preserve their old carcasses from the sharpness of Hampstead air; creeping up and down in pairs and leashes no faster than the hand of a dial or a county convict going to execution; some talking of law, some of religion, and some of politics.-After I had taken two or three turns round, I sat myself down in the Upper Walk, where just before me on a stone pedestal was fixed an old rusty horizontal dial with the gnomon broke short off.” * The upper walk was the Terrace mentioned by the “Spectator.” Round this sun-dial, seats were arranged in a semicircle.
Gray's Inn Gardens were resorted to by less reputable characters than the beggars whom good Sir Roger scolded and relieved. Expert pick. pockets and plausible ring-droppers found easy prey there on crowded days. In the plays of the period, Gray's Inn Gardens are repeatedly mentioned as a place of assignation for clandestine lovers.—*
* Ward's London Spy, vol. i. p. 384.
service, and that the Sunday before, he had made a most incomparable sermon out of Doctor Barrow. 'I have left,' says he,'all my affairs in his hands, and being willing to lay an obligation upon him, have deposited with him thirty marks, to be distributed among his poor parishioners.'
He then proceeded to acquaint me with the welfare of Will Wimble. Upon which he put his hand into his fob, and presented me in his name with a tobacco stopper, telling me that Will had been busy all the beginning of the winter in turning great quan. tities of them; and that he made a present of one to every gentle. man of the country who has good principles, and smokes. He added, that poor Will was at present under great tribulation, for that Tom Touchy had taken the law of him for cutting some hazel sticks out of one of his hedges.
Among other pieces of news which the knight brought from his country seat, he informed me that Moll White was dead; and that about a month after her death the wind was so very high, tliat it blew down the end of one of his barns. part,' says Sir Roger, 'I do not think that the old woman bad any haud in it.'
He afterwards fell into an account of the diversions wbich had passed in his house during the holydays, for Sir Roger, after the laudable custom of his ancestors, always keeps open house at Christmas. I learned from him, that he had killed eight fat bogs for this season, that he had dealt about his chives very liberally amongst his neighbours, and that in particular he had sent a string of hog's puddings with a pack of cards to every poor family in the parish. I have often thought.' says Sir Roger, it happens very well that Christmas should fall out in the middle of
But for my
a Had marle. The archness of making a sermon out of Dr. Barror, will eserpe those who do not knwibat to make a sermon is the common pli ase for preaching. - II.
the winter. It is the most dead uncomfortable time of the year, when the poor people would suffer very much from their poverty and cold, if they had not good cheer, warm fires, and Christmas gainbols to support them. I love to rejoice their poor hearts at this season, and to see the whole village merry in my great hall. I allow a double quantity of malt to my small beer, and set it a running for twelve days to every one that calls for it. I have always a piece of cold beef and a mince-pye upon the table, and am wonderfully pleased to see my tenants pass away a whole evening in playing their innocent tricks, and smutting one another. Our friend Will Wimble is as merry as any of them, and shews a thousand roguish tricks upon these occasions.'
I was very much delighted with the reflection of my old friend, which carried so much goodness in it. He then launched out into the praise of the late act of parliament for securing the church of England,' and told me with great satisfaction, that he believed it already began to take effect: for that a rigid dissenter, who chanced to dine at his house on Christmas day, had been observed to eat very plentifully of his plumb porridge.
After having dispatched all our country matters, Sir Roger made several inquiries concerning the club, and particularly of bis old antagonist Sir Andrew Freeport. He asked me with a kind of smile, whether Sir Andrew had not taken the advantage of his absence, to vent among them some of his republican doctrines; but soon after gathering up his countenance into a more than ordinary seriousness, . Tell me truly,' says he, don't you think Sir Andrew had a hand in the pope's procession”. but with
1. The 10th Anne, cap. 2., “An Act for preserving the Protestant religion by better securing the Church of England as by law established,” &c. It was known popularly as the act of “ Occasional Conformity:"_*
* Each anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's accession (Nov. 17) was for many years celebrated by the citizens of London in a manner expressive of their detestation of the Church of Rome. A procession--at times