Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
A Man of the Ton
By Frances (Fanny) Burney (Madame d’Arblay) (1752–1840)
From ‘Cecilia’

AT the door of the Pantheon they were joined by Mr. Arnott and Sir Robert Floyer, whom Cecilia now saw with added aversion; they entered the great room during the second act of the concert, to which, as no one of the party but herself had any desire to listen, no sort of attention was paid; the ladies entertaining themselves as if no orchestra was in the room, and the gentlemen, with an equal disregard to it, struggling for a place by the fire, about which they continued hovering till the music was over.  1
  Soon after they were seated, Mr. Meadows, sauntering towards them, whispered something to Mrs. Mears, who, immediately rising, introduced him to Cecilia; after which, the place next to her being vacant, he cast himself upon it, and lolling as much at his ease as his situation would permit, began something like a conversation with her.  2
  “Have you been long in town, ma’am?”  3
  “No, sir.”  4
  “This is not your first winter?”  5
  “Of being in town, it is.”  6
  “Then you have something new to see; oh charming! how I envy you!—Are you pleased with the Pantheon?”  7
  “Very much; I have seen no building at all equal to it.”  8
  “You have not been abroad. Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building here after seeing Italy.”  9
  “Does all happiness, then, depend upon sight of buildings?” said Cecilia, when, turning towards her companion, she perceived him yawning, with such evident inattention to her answer that, not choosing to interrupt his reverie, she turned her head another way.  10
  For some minutes he took no notice of this; and then, as if suddenly recollecting himself, he called out hastily, “I beg your pardon, ma’am, you were saying something?”  11
  “No, sir; nothing worth repeating.”  12
  “Oh, pray don’t punish me so severely as not to let me hear it!”  13
  Cecilia, though merely not to seem offended at his negligence, was then beginning an answer, when looking at him as she spoke, she perceived that he was biting his nails with so absent an air that he appeared not to know he had asked any question. She therefore broke off, and left him to his cogitation.  14
  Some time after, he addressed her again, saying, “Don’t you find this place extremely tiresome, ma’am?”  15
  “Yes, sir,” said she half laughing, “it is indeed not very entertaining!”  16
  “Nothing is entertaining,” answered he, “for two minutes together. Things are so little different one from another, that there is no making pleasure out of anything. We go the same dull round forever; nothing new, no variety! all the same thing over again! Are you fond of public places, ma’am?”  17
  “Yes, sir, soberly, as Lady Grace says.”  18
  “Then I envy you extremely, for you have some amusement always in your own power. How desirable that is!”  19
  “And have you not the same resources?”  20
  “Oh no! I am tired to death! tired of everything! I would give the universe for a disposition less difficult to please. Yet, after all, what is there to give pleasure? When one has seen one thing, one has seen everything. Oh, ’tis heavy work! Don’t you find it so, ma’am?”  21
  This speech was ended with so violent a fit of yawning that Cecilia would not trouble herself to answer it: but her silence as before passed unnoticed, exciting neither question nor comment.  22
  A long pause now succeeded, which he broke at last by saying, as he writhed himself about upon his seat, “These forms would be much more agreeable if there were backs to them. ’Tis intolerable to be forced to sit like a schoolboy. The first study of life is ease. There is indeed no other study that pays the trouble of attainment. Don’t you think so, ma’am?”  23
  “But may not even that,” said Cecilia, “by so much study become labor?”  24
  “I am vastly happy you think so.”  25
  “Sir?”  26
  “I beg your pardon, ma’am, but I thought you said—I really beg your pardon, but I was thinking of something else.”  27
  “You did very right, sir,” said Cecilia, laughing, “for what I said by no means merited any attention.”  28
  “Will you do me the favor to repeat it?” cried he, taking out his glass to examine some lady at a distance.  29
  “Oh no,” said Cecilia, “that would be trying your patience too severely.”  30
  “These glasses shew one nothing but defects,” said he; “I am sorry they were ever invented. They are the ruin of all beauty; no complexion can stand them. I believe that solo will never be over! I hate a solo; it sinks, it depresses me intolerably.”  31
  “You will presently, sir,” said Cecilia, looking at the bill of the concert, “have a full piece; and that I hope will revive you.”  32
  “A full piece! oh, insupportable! it stuns, it fatigues, it overpowers me beyond endurance! no taste in it, no delicacy, no room for the smallest feeling.”  33
  “Perhaps, then, you are only fond of singing?”  34
  “I should be, if I could hear it; but we are now so miserably off in voices, that I hardly ever attempt to listen to a song, without fancying myself deaf from the feebleness of the performers. I hate everything that requires attention. Nothing gives pleasure that does not force its own way.”  35
  “You only, then, like loud voices, and great powers?”  36
  “Oh, worse and worse!—no, nothing is so disgusting to me. All my amazement is that these people think it worth while to give concerts at all—one is sick to death of music.”  37
  “Nay,” cried Cecilia, “if it gives no pleasure, at least it takes none away; for, far from being any impediment to conversation, I think everybody talks more during the performance than between the acts. And what is there better you could substitute in its place?”  38
  Cecilia, receiving no answer to this question, again looked round to see if she had been heard; when she observed her new acquaintance, with a very thoughtful air, had turned from her to fix his eyes upon the statue of Britannia.  39
  Very soon after, he hastily arose, and seeming entirely to forget that he had spoken to her, very abruptly walked away.  40
  Mr. Gosport, who was advancing to Cecilia and had watched part of this scene, stopped him as he was retreating, and said, “Why, Meadows, how’s this? are you caught at last?”  41
  “Oh, worn to death! worn to a thread!” cried he, stretching himself and yawning; “I have been talking with a young lady to entertain her! oh, such heavy work! I would not go through it again for millions!”  42
  “What, have you talked yourself out of breath?”  43
  “No; but the effort! the effort!—Oh, it has unhinged me for a fortnight!—Entertaining a young lady!—one had better be a galley-slave at once!”  44
  “Well, but did she not pay your toils? She is surely a sweet creature.”  45
  “Nothing can pay one for such insufferable exertion! though she’s well enough, too—better than the common run—but shy, quite too shy; no drawing her out.”  46
  “I thought that was to your taste. You commonly hate much volubility. How have I heard you bemoan yourself when attacked by Miss Larolles!”  47
  “Larolles! Oh, distraction! she talks me into a fever in two minutes. But so it is for ever! nothing but extremes to be met with! common girls are too forward, this lady is too reserved—always some fault! always some drawback! nothing ever perfect!”  48
  “Nay, nay,” cried Mr. Gosport, “you do not know her; she is perfect enough, in all conscience.”  49
  “Better not know her then,” answered he, again yawning, “for she cannot be pleasing. Nothing perfect is natural,—I hate everything out of nature.”  50

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.