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one-eyed monsters, and other hints of unapproachable savagedom? Or is it, after all, a very desirable or a very dignified position or one that contributes so very highly to one's selfrespect to look round you in every company, and feel that every man, woman, and child, who composes it, are your betters in some one or other point of view? I have no sympathy with the man who delights to be "king of his company;" neither, on the other hand, do I choose to be admitted upon sufferance into mine. I like good society, in a certain sense, as well perhaps as those who talk more about it, and, I flatter myself, can "behave myself before folk" without expending sixpence on the popular manual on that subject; but I like society also as a relaxation: even gods must unbend, and man has a good deal of the lower animal in him. It must be tiresome for the best-educated bear to be continually upon his hind-legs; I confess I like to get amongst my fellow-animals, and to go upon all-fours sometimes. I had rather have spent one evening with Counsellor Pleydell at "high jinks," than have dined ten times with that stiff and correct Colonel Mannering off the family plate, under the eyes of awfully respectable Barnes. And I am much mistaken if the great Novelist himself would not have agreed with me.
I have been irritated into this declaration partly by the sight of four large volumes On Solitude, by an old Swiss wiseacre, called Zimmermann (does one need to be told that he died of hypochondria-?) and of which the translation, from a French abridgment-fancy a Frenchman recommending solitude-was at one time a popular classic; read by young ladies, alternately, I should suppose, with Calebs in Search of a Wife, in order to prepare them for either destiny. Partly also, because, though the old Swiss doctor moped himself to death long ago, there is always a diseased tendency in the English mind to raise him up disciples. The old delusion is not extinct, only modified by change of times and habits. The
"Hermit hoar, in mossy cell," has long passed away from us, if he
VOL. LXXXIII.-NO. DX.
ever existed for mossy cells, and all such damp places, in an English climate, must always have been abominable. At all events, no one has any vocation for that kind of thing in our days. The only instance of a modern hermit, I believe, is at Cremorne, and he goes home to a hot supper about twelve, and is a very jolly fellow indeed from that time till any hour in the morning. Still, some people say they prefer solitude. They are "never so happy as when alone." No one doubts it. No one objects to it. It's a lawful taste, under limitations, if not a very useful or amiable one. But the point that provokes one is, that instead of being ashamed of it, and trying to conceal it as they would any other moral obliquity-as a taste for amateur shop-lifting, or any awkward propensity of that kind-these people parade it; they claim to be praised for it; they look down upon you with the most magnificent air of superiority. 'My mind to me a kingdom is," say they. Very well; rule it, and have done with it: I don't want to invade your kingdom. But don't usurp a regency over my mind. My mind is no kingdom: I don't want any such kingdom: I might as well be Robinson Crusoe. The man whom you borrow that fine sentiment from was in prison, and wisely made the best of it; he could sing another note when out of his cage. Travel through the world in your own sulky, if you will, but don't affect to sneer at our more social conveyances. Why on earth are you to be praised for a surly, inhospitable, uncompanionable disposition? It's selfishness, let me tell you, a good deal of it. You are too refined, forsooth, for this everyday life. You don't enjoy other people's happiness; their vulgar affairs and little interests bore a philosopher of your stamp, because you have never learnt the true human philosophy which drew down plaudits from a more enlightened audience than fills a modern lecture-room, albeit a heathen spoke it in a heathen theatre
"Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto-"
a philosophy which found its sanc
tion, remember, in a higher authority, where we are taught to be "all things to all men."
But to descend to my own confessions. I live in a country neighbourhood; and my country neighbours, I freely acknowledge, are not all shining lights- “mortal_men, mortal men." Still, as I said, I like society; and as the Englishman's social mood is his feeding hour, I like going out to dinner. I call it a bore, of course, in accordance with conventional usage; I profess myself a victim, discharging a painful duty to society; we must keep up our acquaintances, you know," &c. &c.—so I go-and I like it. Five miles of bad road brings me to Smith's door, and I can hear his jolly loud voice, and smell the roast beef, as we go in. I like Smith. You don't know Smith, my fastidious friend, and wouldn't care to know him. He is our country surgeon, fat, and not over-polished; doing a very good business with very hard work; and if ever you happen to break your leg in our hunting country, you'll be very glad to make Smith's acquaintance. But he is by no means what you call a perfect gentleman, my friend Smith. He laughs at the full natural compass of his voice over his dinner-table, though he is as gentle as a woman in a sick-room. He shakes you by the hand as if he meant it, and is apt to call a spade a spade. But I can tell you one thing he did the other day, which may give you a notion of his character: he refused his vote to his best patient, Lord, when his eldest son stood for the county, and when a good many of our squirearchy, and hierarchy too, who ought to have known better, put their principles and their politics in their pocket, because, "you see, one don't like to disoblige a neighbour;" and what perhaps surprised our local gossips still more, was that the Viscount did not on the next occasion send for that rising young Esculapius, who is now lecturing at our philosophical institution, and did ask Smith as usual to a comprehensive dinner-party. Smith is not a man of very great refinement. Not a very agreeable man, perhaps; his conversation is not what you call "improv
ing." He is not "a man of considerable information." His views on the India and China questions are scarcely to be called original, being a slight alteration and reproduction from those set forth in his weekly paper-not to be compared, in this respect, to those of my nearer neighbour and acquaintance, Mostyn Hastings, who is deep (or professes to be) in the secrets of our county member, Lord Gulliver, and hears from him
a good deal of what goes on in political circles"-generally having some profound piece of secret intelligence to produce for the benefit of our more aristocratic dinner-parties. To be sure, Mostyn's information, somehow or other, seldom turns out to be exactly the fact; but this makes no difference as to its piquancy at the time; while Smith's, being usually a week old, has the advantage of having had the lies sifted out of it. I should hardly venture to say as much in our neighbourhood, but I prefer Smith's conversation on the whole to Mostyn's. I don't know that he is any great wit, but we laugh a good deal when we are together, and enjoy ourselves, I fancy, in our ignorant way, quite as much as grander and more intellectual people. Then again there is Jones. I like Jones. I can go into Jones's house at any moment, and feel sure that he is glad to see me. Jones is bucolic and horticultural. If he is not in the house,
and he seldom is in fine weatherstill you seldom, if ever, get the answer "not at home." If he is not to be found in the garden, with his coat off, pruning his peaches, or cutting his asparagus, according to the time of year," Master's somewhere about, sir," and you find him with his bailiff among his pigs and sheep. I don't care for pigs or sheep, nor profess to be any judge of such matters; but I like to hear Jones dilate on their merits, because he evidently likes it so much, and it is a pleasure in these emasculate days to see a man enthusiastic about anything. And, to do him justice, he does not insist upon your riding all his hobbies. "Lunch? have you lunched? stay to dinner then? Must go home? nonsensesend a boy over, and tell them not to wait-dinner at five-must stay
haven't seen you here a long while. Mrs Jones quite complains of you." And, let me tell you, you may do worse than take Jones's pot-luck, as he calls it; his is not that niggard hospitality that never has a decent dinner, except when a week's notice is given beforehand, or that feels ashamed to set a friend down to the family table. You may not find the orthodox courses; but what you do find in his house will be good. Jones is not one of those uneducated animals who does not care what he eats or drinks, or one of those hypocritical starvelings who says he doesn't. Jones is a man who despises luncheon, and dinner is to him a serious everyday business not to be classed, like fashionable dinners, among the pomps and vanities of this wicked world. Of him it might be said, as of Syr Gareth of Orkney in the Morte d'Arthuronly that the heroes of our degenerate age lack the immortalising bard Knyghtely he ete his mete and egerly, and some said they never sawe a goodlyer man, nor so well of etynge." And as to a bottle of port-if you have still any stomach for that ancient beverage-you are safer a good deal at Jones's table than at my lord's, where I should not advise your drinking more than you can help. (You won't be pressed there, however don't be afraid it's not the fashion; and the wine is so doubtful, that it's a very wise arrangement.) Then as to conversation, Jones will tell you a good story about almost every man in the country suppose they do come over again sometimes-is a man bound to keep a memorandum of his audience at every anecdote ? and it must be a bad story that won't bear hearing twice. Suppose Jones does talk a good deal about his grandmother, you don't mean to call that bad style, I hope? Why, Lady Gulliver always talks of her aunt, the countess, and I would just as soon hear about one as the other, for I never saw either of them, and don't take a particle of interest in the sayings and doings of either, though I believe the dowager Jones did a good many kind things in her generation, which I never heard laid to the
charge of the deceased countess. And I can always relieve myself by a yawn in Jones's face, when he harps a little too long upon his family reminiscences-a yawn which I am reduced to all kinds of mean shifts to conceal in the presence of her ladyship.
But let no one suppose, from these pictures of my acquaintance, that ours is a very primitive circle, and that I have been digging out of a fossil state of society, left behind in the sweep of civilisation and refinement. Not at all. We march with the times. We have some most correct and fashionable visiting acquaintance. There is my very near neighbour, the Rev. Byron Brown. Never calls on any one before five; dines at seven-what he calls dining. For I confess it is one of those places where the duty of dining does not become a pleasure to me. does the thing in style-such style! The sort of thing has been described, over and over again, better than I can do it. Dinner for twelve; plenty to look at, and not much to eat. Staff-confidential servant, out of livery, to administer the champagne in infinitesimal doses; hired waiter, groom, and Buttons, tumbling over each other, and distributing gravy where least wanted. Wine passed round twice after dinner; then bad coffee, worse music (Italian, of course), carriages at ten. Judging from his public performances, I should calculate Byron's daily spread for himself and Mrs B. would be two mutton-chops, à la something, and a silver claret-jug-empty. How often have I longed to tell him, in the presence of his most honoured guest Hastings (Hon. Mostyn), of the jolly dinners I used to share, when a youngster at home for the vacation, with his father, old Boreas Brown, as he was fondly called (he had been in the navy, and sung a song about Boreas), when the pièce de resistance was commonly a boiled rump of beef, and such punch afterwards, and whist till any hour you pleased; and how my good old governor used to declare that one of his horses was ruined by always being kept waiting for that last rubber, that never did end when it
ought. I have longed often, I say, to enlighten Byron and his select friends with some of these reminiscences (for he was but a child himself in those days), but that it would be a shame to hurt his feelings, as it infallibly would he is not a bad fellow at bottom, after all, only deluded. Indeed, in such company I feel such doings ought not to be whispered. I creep into myself sometimes with shame when I think how unfit I am for the seat I occupy. I have to reason myself out of a feeling of actual guilt, when I think I could have enjoyed another glass of that port (it was poor old Boreas' stock, and will last Byron a long while) much more than Mrs Hastings' Italian squall; and if my carriage is five minutes after the regulation hour of ten, I shudder to think what that honourable lady would think of me, if she knew how often, within these same old walls, I had heard the chimes at midnight.
I sometimes am tempted to wish I could reverse the process of the sleepers of Ephesus, and sleep a generation or two back in the world. Some great geniuses are said to have been born in advance of their age. For my own part-being the reverse of a genius, I suppose-I think I must have come into the world too late at least by a lifetime. I miss the social life which I well remember even in the days of my boyhood. People are getting too grand, or too refined, or too spirituel (they like a French word), to enjoy themselves. Some allowance I am willing to make for a natural reaction. Sick and disgusted, and very reasonably, at the coarse animal bent of our forefathers' pleasures, and the excesses into which their social tempers and love of hospitality too often carried them, their descendants have made a rush into the opposite extreme. I have no desire to bring back the days when men staggered into drawing-rooms under their two bottles of wine. No rational being calls that enjoyment. Whist is not the serious business of life, as some of our grandfathers and grandmothers seemed to have supposed it, and there was a mixture of what was evil as well as what was good
in the "glasses round," which even fair lips were not ashamed to taste after a late supper. But is there no possible form of social life for Engfishmen, intermediate between the roystering boon-companionship of a Squire Western, and the miserable unhearty stuck-up form of intercourse (one has to invent epithets for it out of indignation, or borrow them from slang, so naturally unEnglish is it) which has of late years sprung up amongst our middle classes? Niggardly at once and expensive, encouraging, instead of kindly feeling and good-neighbourship, a petty pride and rivalry and affectation, catching at the shadow of a cold dignity and refinement, which they imagine to be the characteristics of superior station, instead of enjoying, heartily and thankfully, the wealth of social blessings which lie around them in their own. The state of isolation in which a man of moderate means, in most country neighbourhoods, lives and moves from year to year, is notorious; it would be pitiable, if it were not so often his own fault. By men of moderate means, I mean chiefly the village rector and the small landed proprietor. This latter class, indeed, for the same social reasons, has for some time been fast diminishing. As to the "professional man," as we call him, who has every right to take his place among them, it is one symptom of an unhealthy tone in English society that his position of late years has notoriously sunk. With some few exceptions, made in favour of the man and not of the profession, he is no longer met at the kind of table at which he was welcome fifty years ago. The lawyer who knows all our family secrets, in whose honour, though we have the bad taste to call him a rascal, we place a confidence which we seldom find abused; the surgeon to whose care and skill we trust our lives, our health, our family hopes, and, I may almost say, the honour of our wives and daughters,-these men we do all we can to force down into a class of society whose habits, whose tastes and therefore, we have a right to suppose, whose principles
are lower than our own. We com
plain of these men not being gentlemen, and we do all in our power to prevent their having one of the most essential qualifications, the believing themselves to be so. So the rector dwells in his little world, and finds his excitement and amusement (for excitement and amusement, I lay it down as a rule, every healthy mind must have) in a war with his dissenters, or, still better, with his neighbour and reverend brother; or in Church politics, narrowing his mind by the constant reading of his politico-religious Church newspaper, high or low, instead of enlarging it by the study of the wide-open book of humankind; and running up occasionally, if the railway station be handy, to his university or to town, like a miner for a breath of upper air. And the squire of limited acres and expanding family dwells in his little world also, or more probably does not dwell there, but, unable to afford his house in town for the season like his neighbour the M.P., or to surround himself, when at home in the country, like him, with a houseful of pleasant people-unless he be mad enough to ruin himself in the attempt-he betakes himself, with his pretty daughters, to the Continent in search of cheap living, cheap education, and, perhaps above all, cheap society. And the lawyer and the doctor, being of a companionable disposition, try, perhaps, to form a little world of their own, a sort of double hemisphere, and meet and chat over their bottle of port or their brandy-and-water, and discuss the tightness of the squire's exchequer, or the pattern of humility and Christian sympathy set before them by the rector's lady, not much to the improvement of their minds, or progress in their duty towards their neighbour; the lawyer perhaps with a mental anticipation of the time to come, when, a few years hence, if my lord's agency turns out as well as he hopes, he too shall become an independent gentleman, possibly take a lease of the squire's place, or buy it advantageously-for it is very likely to be in the market by that time-doubting whether he shall find it in his heart to do the correct thing, and cut his friend Bolus, but
determining, at all events, to show the rector that he's as good as he is, and fancying that he is to be a happier man when he has a high wall and pair of double gates to shut him out from the sight of his neighbours, and one or two gentlemen in plush to stand and watch him eat his dinner.
In short, the hearty genial old English life is fast disappearing: the kindly intercourse between house and house, which sweetened life for the young, and smoothed for a while the careful brows of the old, is dying away; and what we now call society is too often a mere sacrifice to appearances, an unreal puppet-like performance, which gives pleasure to very few, and imposes upon nobody. Unless our revenues will allow us to keep a pleasant set of guests at bed and board in the country, or we throw ourselves upon our club in town, we had best make ourselves as independent of our kind as may be.
One plea is, every one is so busy in these days in spite of Solomon's saying, that there is a time for all things," our modern wise men, by their own account, can hardly find time for anything. It is not only the unfortunate mechanic that is driven into a state of slavery by his fourteen hours of daily toil, and has a holiday so rarely that he does not know how to use it when it comes, but even what they in their ignorance would call the unproductive classes have not, if you will believe their own pitiable story, a moment to themselves. They are so busy always. In the name of the great Busybody, busy about what?"Seven hours to sleep, to healthful labour and all to
Ten to the world allow
Now the man to whom this distich is attributed is generally allowed to have brought something to pass in his generation. But I suppose the days have grown shorter since then. One remembers an old form of expression, "dropping in to see a friend : a barbarous idiom, adapted to the savage state of-may we call it society?-among our forefathers. I protest-with the exception of my