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that failing, which disposes a person to obtrude upon others subjects of conversation relating to his own business, studies,
In this sense of the phrase, we should find pedants in every character and condition of life. Instead of a black coat and plain shirt, we should often see pedantry appear in an embroidered suit and Brussels lace; instead of being bedaubed with snuff, we should find it breathing perfumes; and, in place of a book-worm, crawling through the gloomy cloisters of an university, we should mark it in the state of a gilded butterfly, buzzing through the gay region of the drawing-room.
Robert Daisy, Esq., is a pedant of this last kind. When he tells you that his ruffles cost twenty guireas a pair; that his buttons were the first of the kind, made by one of the most eminent artists in Birmingham; that his buckles were procured by means of a friend at Paris, and are the exact pattern of those worn by the Comte d'Artois; that the loop of his hat was of his own contrivance, and has set the fashion to half a dozen of the finest fellows in town; when he descants on all these particulars, with that smile of self-complacency which sits for ever on his cheek, he is as much a pedant as his quondam tutor, who recites verses from Pindar, tells stories out of Herodotus, and talks for an hour on the energy of the Greek particles.
But Mr. Daisy is struck dumb by the approach of his brother, Sir Thomas, whose pedantry goes a pitch higher, and pours out all the intelligence of France and Italy, whence the young baronet is just returned, after a tour of fifteen months over all the kingdoms of the continent. Talk of music, he cuts you short with the history of the first singer at Naples; of painting, he runs you down with a description of the gallery at Florence; of architecture, he overwhelms you with the dimensions of St. Peter's, or the great church at Antwerp; or, if you leave the province of art altogether, and introduce the name of a river or hill, he instantly deluges
you with the Rhine, or makes you dizzy with the height of Etna or Mont Blanc.
Miss will have no difficulty of owning her great aunt to be a pedant, when she talks all the time of dinner on the composition of the pudding, or the seasoning of the mincepies; or enters into a disquisition on the figure of the damask tablecloth, with a word or two on the thrift of making one's own linen: but the young lady will be surprised when I inform her, that her own history of last Thursday's assembly, with the episode of Lady Di's feather, and the digression to the qualities of Mr. Frizzle, the hairdresser, was also a piece of downright pedantry.
Mrs. Caudle is guilty of the same weakness, when she recounts the numberless witticisms of her daughter Emmy, describes the droll figure her little Bill made yesterday at trying on his first pair of breeches, and informs us that Bobby has got seven teeth, and is just cutting an eighth, though he will be but nine months old next Wednesday, at six o'clock in the evening. Nor is her pedantry less disgusting, when she proceeds to enumerate the virtues and good qualities of her husband; though this last species is so uncommon, that it may, perhaps, be admitted into conversation for the sake of novelty.
There is pedantry in every disquisition, however masterly it may be, that stops the general conversation of the company. When Silius delivers that sort of lecture he is apt to get into, though it is supported by the most extensive information and the clearest discernment, it is still pedantry; and, while I admire the talents of Silius, I cannot help being uneasy at his exhibition of them. In the course of this dissertation, the farther a man proceeds, the more he seems to acquire strength and inclination for the progress. Last night, after supper, Silius began upon Protestantism, proceeded to the Irish rebellion, went through the Revolution, drew the character of King William, repeated anecdotes of Schomberg, and ended at a quarter past twelve, by delineat
ing the course of the Boyne, in half a bumper of port, upon my best table; which river, happening to overflow its banks, did infinite damage to my cousin Sophy's white satin petticoat.
In short, every thing, in this sense of the word, is pedantry which tends to destroy that equality of conversation which is necessary to the perfect ease and good-humour of the company. Every one would be struck with the unpoliteness of that person's behaviour, who should help himself to a whole plate of peas or strawberries which some friend had sent him for a rarity in the beginning of the season. Now, conversation is one of those good things of which our guests or companions are equally entitled to a share, as of any other constituent part of the entertainment; and it is as essential a want of politeness to engross the one as to monopolize the other.
Besides, it unfortunately happens, that we are very inadequate judges of the value of our own discourse, or the rate at which the dispositions of our company will incline them to hold it. The reflections we make, and the stories we tell, are to be judged of by others, who may hold a very different opinion of their acuteness or their humour. It will be prudent therefore to consider, that the dish we bring to this entertainment, however pleasing to our own taste, may prove but moderately palatable to those we mean to treat with it; and that to every man, as well as ourselves (except a few very humble ones), his own conversation is the plate of peas or strawberries.
V.—ON HUMAN GRANDEUR.
AN alehouse-keeper, near Islington, who had long lived at the sign of the French King, upon the commencement of the last war, pulled down his old sign, and put up that of the Queen of Hungary. Under the influence of her red face and golden sceptre he continued to sell ale, till she was no
longer the favourite of his customers; he changed her therefore, some time ago, for the King of Prussia, who may probably be changed, in turn, for the next great man that shall be set up for vulgar admiration.
In this manner the great are dealt out, one after the other, to the gazing crowd. When we have sufficiently wondered at one of them, he is taken in, and another exhibited in his room, who seldom holds his station long; for the mob are ever pleased with variety.
I must own, I have such an indifferent opinion of the vulgar, that I am ever led to suspect that merit which raises their shout; at least I am certain to find those great, and sometimes good men, who find satisfaction in such acclamations, made worse by it; and history has too frequently taught me, that the head which has grown this day giddy with the roar of the million, has, the very next, been fixed upon a pole.
There is scarce a village in Europe, and not one university, that is not furnished with its little great men. The head of a petty corporation, who opposes the designs of a prince, who would tyrannically force his subjects to save their best clothes for Sundays; the puny pedant, who finds one undiscovered quality in the polypus, or describes an unheeded process in the skeleton of a mole, and whose mind, like his microscope, perceives nature only in detail; the rhymer, who makes smooth verses, and paints to our imagination when he should only speak to our hearts; all equally fancy themselves walking forward to immortality, and desire the crowd behind them to look on. The crowd takes them at their word. Patriot, philosopher, and poet are shouted in their train. "Where was there ever so much merit seen? no times so important as our own! Ages yet unborn shall gaze with wonder and applause!" To such music the important pigmy moves forward, bustling and swelling, and aptly compared to a puddle in a storm.
I have lived to see great patriots, who once had crowds
hallooing after them wherever they went, who were bepraised by the newspapers-those echoes of the voice of the vulgar,—and yet they have long sunk into merited obscurity, with scarce even an epitaph left to flatter. A few years ago the herring-fishery employed all Grub-street; it was the topic in every coffee-house, and the burden of every ballad. We were to drag up oceans of gold from the bottom of the sea; we were to supply all Europe with herrings upon our own terms. At present we hear no more of all this. We have fished up very little gold that I can learn ; nor do we furnish the world with herrings as was expected. Let us wait but a few years longer, and we shall find all our expectations-a herring-fishery.
VI.—LADY LILLYCRAFT'S RETINUE.
In the first place, her ladyship has a pampered coachman, with a red face, and cheeks that hang down like dew-laps. He evidently domineers over her a little, with respect to the fat horses; and only drives out when he thinks proper, and when he thinks it will be "good for the cattle."
She has a favourite page to attend upon her person-a handsome boy of about twelve years of age, but a mischievous varlet, very much spoiled, and in a fair way to be a good-for-nothing.
He is dressed in green, with a profusion of gold cord and gilt buttons about his clothes. She always has one or two attendants of the kind, who are replaced by others as soon as they grow to fourteen years of age. She has brought two dogs with her also, out of a number of pets which she maintains at home. One is a fat spaniel, called Zephyr— though heaven defend me from such a zephyr! He is fed out of shape and comfort; his eyes are nearly strained out of his head; he wheezes with corpulency, and cannot walk without great difficulty. The other is a little, old, gray-muzzled curmudgeon, with an unhappy eye, that kindles like a coal,