The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. VIIX: British
Bramble and Barton at Court
By Tobias George Smollett (17211771)
From Humphrey Clinker
MEDFORD TO PHILLIPS: TWO days ago Barton persuaded my uncle and me to accompany him to St. Jamess, where he undertook to make us acquainted with the persons of all the great men in the kingdom. And, indeed, there was a great assemblage of distinguished characters, for it was a high festival at court. Our conductor performed his promise with great punctuality. He pointed out almost every individual of both sexes, and generally introduced them to our notice with a flourish of panegyric. Seeing the king approach, There comes, said he, the most amiable sovereign that ever swayed the sceptre of England: the deliciæ humani generis, Augustus in patronising merit, Titus Vespasian in generosity, Trajan in beneficence, and Marcus Aurelius in philosophy.
You know the duke: that illustrious hero, who trod rebellion under his feet, and secured us in possession of everything we ought to hold dear, as Englishmen and Christians. Mark what an eyehow penetrating, yet specific! What dignity in his mien! What humanity in his aspect! Even malice must own that he is one of the greatest officers in Christendom.
Yes, very sensible! Very spirited! said my uncle, interrupting him. But seethe queen! Ha, theres the queen! Let me seelet me seewhere are my glasses? Ha! theres meaning in that eye! Theres sentiment! Theres expression! Well, Mr. Barton, what figure do you call next?
What! the Caledonian luminary that lately blazed so bright in our hemisphere? Methinks at present it glimmers through a fog; like Saturn without his ring, bleak, and dim, and distant. Ha! theres the other great phenomenon, the Grand Pensionary, that weathercock of patriotism, that veers about in every point of the political compass, and still feels the wind of popularity in his tail. He, too, like a portentous comet, has risen again above the court horizon; but how long he will continue to ascend it is not easy to foretell, considering his great eccentricity. Who are those two satellites that attend his motions?
To their characters, said Mr. Bramble, I am no stranger. One of them, without a drop of red blood in his veins, has a cold, intoxicating vapour in his head, and rancour enough in his heart to inoculate and affect a whole nation. The other is, I hear, intended for a share in the administration, and the pensionary vouches for his being duly qualified. The only instance I ever heard of his sagacity was his deserting his former patron when he found him declining in power and in disgrace with the people. Without principle, talent, or intelligence, he is ungracious as a hog, greedy as a vulture, and thievish as a jackdaw; but, it must be owned, he is no hypocrite. He pretends to no virtue, and takes no pains to disguise his character. His ministry will be attended with one advantage: no man will be disappointed by his breach of promise, as no mortal ever trusted to his word. I wonder how Lord first discovered this happy genius, and for what purpose Lord has now adopted him. But one would think that, as amber has power to attract dirt, and straws, and chaff, a minister is endued with the same kind of faculty, to lick up every knave and blockhead in his way.
His eulogium was interrupted by the arrival of the old Duke of N, who, squeezing into the circle with a busy face of importance, thrust his head into every countenance, as if he had been in search of somebody to whom he wanted to impart something of great consequence. My uncle, who had been formerly known to him, bowed as he passed; and the duke, seeing himself saluted so respectfully by a well-dressed person, was not slow in returning the courtesy. He even came up, and, taking him cordially by the hand, My dear friend, Mr. A, said he, I am rejoiced to see you. How long have you been come from abroad? How did you leave our good friends, the Dutch? The King of Prussia dont think of another war, eh? Hes a great king, a great conquerora very great conqueror! Your Alexanders and Hannibals were nothing at all to him, sir! Corporals, drummers, dross, mere trashdamned trash, eh?
His Grace being by this time out of breath, my uncle took the opportunity to tell him he had not been out of England, that his name was Bramble, and that he had the honour to sit in the last parliament but one of the late king, as representative for the borough of Dymkymraig.
No more he is, no more he isha, ha, ha! exclaimed the duke. There you gave me a scratch, good Mr. Bramble. Ha, ha, ha! Well, I shall be glad to see you at Lincolns Inn Fields. You know the way. Times are altered. Though I have lost the power, I retain the inclination. Your very humble servant, good Mr. Blackberry!