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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Humphrey Clinker is Presented to the Reader
By Tobias George Smollett (1721–1771)
 
From a letter to Sir Watkin Phillips, Bart., in ‘The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker’

DEAR SIR,—Without waiting for your answer to my last, I proceed to give you an account of our journey to London, which has not been wholly barren of adventure. Tuesday last, the squire took his place in a hired coach-and-four, accompanied by his sister and mine, and Mrs. Tabby’s maid, Winifred Jenkins, whose province it was to support Chowder on a cushion in her lap. I could scarce refrain from laughing when I looked into the vehicle, and saw that animal sitting opposite to my uncle, like any other passenger. The squire, ashamed of his situation, blushed to the eyes; and calling to the postilions to drive on, pulled the glass up in my face. I, and his servant John Thomas, attended them on horseback.  1
  Nothing worth mentioning occurred, till we arrived on the edge of Marlborough downs. There one of the fore-horses fell, in going down-hill at a round trot; and the postilion behind, endeavoring to stop the carriage, pulled it on one side into a deep rut, where it was fairly overturned. I had rode on about two hundred yards before; but hearing a loud scream, galloped back and dismounted, to give what assistance was in my power. When I looked into the coach, I could see nothing distinctly but the Jenkins, who was kicking her heels and squalling with great vociferation. All of a sudden, my uncle thrust up his bare pate, and bolted through the window as nimble as a grasshopper: the man (who had likewise quitted his horse) dragged this forlorn damsel, more dead than alive, through the same opening. Then Mr. Bramble, pulling the door off its hinges with a jerk, laid hold on Liddy’s arm, and brought her to the light, very much frightened but little hurt. It fell to my share to deliver our Aunt Tabitha, who had lost her cap in the struggle; and being rather more than half frantic with rage and terror, was no bad representation of one of the sister Furies that guard the gates of hell. She expressed no sort of concern for her brother, who ran about in the cold without his periwig, and worked with the most astonishing agility in helping to disentangle the horses from the carriage; but she cried in a tone of distraction,—“Chowder! Chowder! my dear Chowder! my poor Chowder is certainly killed!”  2
  This was not the case. Chowder, after having tore my uncle’s leg in the confusion of the fall, had retreated under the seat, and from thence the footman drew him by the neck; for which good office he bit his fingers to the bone. The fellow, who is naturally surly, was so provoked at this assault that he saluted his ribs with a hearty kick,—a benediction which was by no means lost upon the implacable virago, his mistress. Her brother, however, prevailed upon her to retire into a peasant’s house, near the scene of action, where his head and hers were covered; and poor Jenkins had a fit. Our next care was to apply some sticking-plaster to the wound in his leg, which exhibited the impression of Chowder’s teeth; but he never opened his lips against the delinquent. Mrs. Tabby, alarmed at this scene,—“You say nothing, Matt,” cried she; “but I know your mind—I know the spite you have to that poor unfortunate animal! I know you intend to take his life away!” “You are mistaken, upon my honor!” replied the squire with a sarcastic smile: “I should be incapable of harboring any such cruel design against an object so amiable and inoffensive, even if he had not the happiness to be your favorite.”  3
  John Thomas was not so delicate. The fellow, whether really alarmed for his life, or instigated by the desire for revenge, came in and bluntly demanded that the dog should be put to death, on the supposition that if ever he should run mad hereafter, he who had been bit by him would be infected. My uncle calmly argued upon the absurdity of his opinion; observing that he himself was in the same predicament, and would certainly take the precaution he proposed if he was not sure that he ran no risk of infection. Nevertheless Thomas continued obstinate; and at length declared that if the dog was not shot immediately, he himself would be his executioner. This declaration opened the flood-gates of Tabby’s eloquence, which would have shamed the first-rate oratress of Billingsgate. The footman retorted in the same style; and the squire dismissed him from his service, after having prevented me from giving him a good horsewhipping for his insolence.  4
  The coach being adjusted, another difficulty occurred. Mrs. Tabitha absolutely refused to enter it again unless another driver could be found to take the place of the postilion, who, she affirmed, had overturned the coach from malice aforethought. After much dispute, the man resigned his place to a shabby country-fellow, who undertook to go as far as Marlborough, where they could be better provided; and at that place we arrived about one o’clock, without further impediment. Mrs. Bramble, however, found new matter of offense, which indeed she had a particular genius for extracting at will from almost every incident in life. We had scarce entered the room at Marlborough, where we stayed to dine, when she exhibited a formal complaint against the poor fellow who had superseded the postilion. She said he was such a beggarly rascal that he had ne’er a shirt to his back; Mrs. Winifred Jenkins confirmed the assertion.  5
  “This is a heinous offense indeed,” cried my uncle; “let us hear what the fellow has to say in his own vindication.” He was accordingly summoned, and made his appearance, which was equally queer and pathetic. He seemed to be about twenty years of age, of a middling size, with bandy legs, stooping shoulders, high forehead, sandy locks, pinking eyes, flat nose, and long chin; his complexion was of a sickly yellow: his looks denoted famine; and … Mrs. Bramble, turning from him, said she had never seen such a filthy tatterdemalion, and bid him begone; observing that he would fill the room with vermin.  6
  Her brother darted a significant glance at her as she retired with Liddy into another apartment; and then asked the man if he was known to any person in Marlborough? When he answered that the landlord of the inn had known him from his infancy, mine host was immediately called, and being interrogated on the subject, said that the young fellow’s name was Humphrey Clinker; that he had been a love-begotten babe, brought up in the workhouse, and put out apprentice by the parish to a country blacksmith, who died before the boy’s time was out; that he had for some time worked under his hostler as a helper and extra postilion, till he was taken ill of the ague, which disabled him from getting his bread; that having sold or pawned everything he had in the world for his cure and subsistence, he became so miserable and shabby that he disgraced the stable, and was dismissed; but that he never heard anything to the prejudice of his character in other respects. “So that the fellow being sick and destitute,” said my uncle, “you turned him out to die in the streets?” “I pay the poor’s rate,” replied the other, “and I have no right to maintain idle vagrants, either in sickness or health; besides, such a miserable object would have brought a discredit upon my house.”  7
  “You perceive,” said the squire, turning to me, “our landlord is a Christian of bowels: who shall presume to censure the morals of the age when the very publicans exhibit such examples of humanity? Hark ye, Clinker, you are a most notorious offender,—you stand convicted of sickness, hunger, wretchedness, and want; but as it does not belong to me to punish criminals, I will only take upon me the task of giving a word of advice,—get a shirt with all convenient dispatch.”  8
  So saying, he put a guinea into the hand of the poor fellow, who stood staring at him in silence with his mouth wide open, till the landlord pushed him out of the room.  9
  In the afternoon, as our aunt stept into the coach, she observed with some marks of satisfaction that the postilion who rode next to her was not a shabby wretch like the ragamuffin who had drove them into Marlborough. Indeed, the difference was very conspicuous: this was a smart fellow, with a narrow-brimmed hat with gold cording, a cut bob, a decent blue jacket, leather breeches, and a clean linen shirt puffed above the waistband. When we arrived at the castle on Spinhill, where we lay, this new postilion was remarkably assiduous in bringing in loose parcels; and at length displayed the individual countenance of Humphrey Clinker, who had metamorphosed himself in this manner, by relieving from pawn part of his own clothes with the money he had received from Mr. Bramble.  10
  Howsoever pleased the rest of the company were with such a favorable change in the appearance of this poor creature, it soured on the stomach of Mrs. Tabby, who had not yet digested the affront. She tossed her nose in disdain, saying she supposed her brother had taken him into favor because he had insulted her with his obscenity; that a fool and his money were soon parted: but that if Matt intended to take the fellow with him to London, she would not go a foot farther that way. My uncle said nothing with his tongue, though his looks were sufficiently expressive; and next morning Clinker did not appear, so that we proceeded without farther altercation to Salthill, where we proposed to dine. There the first person that came to the side of the coach and began to adjust the footboard was no other than Humphrey Clinker. When I handed out Mrs. Bramble, she eyed him with a furious look, and passed into the house; my uncle was embarrassed, and asked peevishly what had brought him hither? The fellow said his Honor had been so good to him, that he had not the heart to part with him; that he would follow him to the world’s end, and serve him all the days of his life, without fee or reward.  11
  Mr. Bramble did not know whether to chide or to laugh at this declaration. He foresaw much contradiction on the side of Tabby; and on the other hand, he could not but be pleased with the gratitude of Clinker, as well as with the simplicity of his character. “Suppose I was inclined to take you into my service,” said he, “what are your qualifications? What are you good for?” “An’ please your Honor,” answered this original, “I can read and write, and do the business of the stable indifferent well. I can dress a horse, and shoe him, and bleed and rowel him;… I won’t turn my back on e’er a he in the county of Wilts. Then I can make hog’s puddings and hobnails, mend kettles and tin saucepans—” Here uncle burst out a-laughing; and inquired what other accomplishments he was master of. “I know something of single-stick and psalmody,” proceeded Clinker: “I can play upon the jew’s-harp, sing ‘Black-eyed Susan,’ ‘Arthur O’Bradley,’ and divers other songs; I can dance a Welsh jig, and ‘Nancy Dawson’; wrestle a fall with any lad of my inches when I’m in heart; and (under correction) I can find a hare when your Honor wants a bit of game.” “Foregad, thou art a complete fellow!” cried my uncle, still laughing: “I have a mind to take thee into my family. Prithee, go and try if thou canst make peace with my sister; thou hast given her much offense.”  12
  Clinker accordingly followed us into the room, cap in hand, where, addressing himself to Mrs. Tabitha,—“May it please your Ladyship’s Worship,” cried he, “to pardon and forgive my offenses, and with God’s assistance, I shall take care never to offend your Ladyship again. Do, pray, good, sweet, beautiful lady, take compassion on a poor sinner; God bless your noble countenance, I am sure you are too handsome and generous to bear malice. I will serve you on my bended knees, by night and by day, by land and by water; and all for the love and pleasure of serving such an excellent lady.”  13
  This compliment and humiliation had some effect upon Tabitha; but she made no reply; and Clinker, taking silence for consent, gave his attendance at dinner. The fellow’s natural awkwardness, and the flutter of his spirits, were productive of repeated blunders in the course of his attendance. At length he spilt part of a custard upon her right shoulder; and starting back, trod upon Chowder, who set up a dismal howl. Poor Humphrey was so disconcerted at this double mistake, that he dropt the china dish, which broke into a thousand pieces; then falling down upon his knees, remained in that posture, gaping with a most ludicrous aspect of distress. Mrs. Bramble flew to the dog, and snatching him in her arms, presented him to her brother, saying, “This is all a concerted scheme against this unfortunate animal, whose only crime is its regard for me;—here it is: kill it at once; and then you’ll be satisfied.”  14
  Clinker, hearing these words and taking them in the literal acceptation, got up in some hurry, and seizing a knife from the sideboard, cried, “Not here, an’t please your Ladyship,—it will daub the room: give him to me, and I’ll carry him into the ditch by the roadside.” To this proposal he received no other answer than a hearty box on the ear, that made him stagger to the other side of the room. “What!” said she to her brother, “am I to be affronted by every mangy hound that you pick up in the highway? I insist upon your sending this rascallion about his business immediately.” “For God’s sake, sister, compose yourself,” said my uncle; “and consider that the poor fellow is innocent of any intention to give you offense.” “Innocent as the babe unborn,” cried Humphrey. “I see it plainly,” exclaimed this implacable maiden: “he acts by your direction, and you are resolved to support him in his impudence. This is a bad return for all the services I have done you,—for nursing you in your sickness, managing your family, and keeping you from ruining yourself by your own imprudence: but now you shall part with that rascal or me, upon the spot, without farther loss of time; and the world shall see whether you have more regard for your own flesh and blood, or for a beggarly foundling taken from a dunghill.”  15
  Mr. Bramble’s eyes began to glisten, and his teeth to chatter. “If stated fairly,” said he, raising his voice, “the question is whether I have spirit to shake off an intolerable yoke by one effort of resolution, or meanness enough to do an act of cruelty and injustice to gratify the rancor of a capricious woman. Hark ye, Mrs. Tabitha Bramble! I will now propose an alternative in my turn: either discard your four-footed favorite, or give me leave to bid you eternally adieu; for I am determined that he and I shall live no longer under the same roof; and now to dinner with what appetite you may.” Thunderstruck at this declaration, she sat down in a corner; and after a pause of some minutes, “Sure I don’t understand you, Matt!” said she. “And yet I spoke in plain English,” answered the squire with a peremptory look. “Sir,” resumed this virago, effectually humbled, “it is your prerogative to command, and my duty to obey. I can’t dispose of the dog in this place; but if you’ll allow him to go in the coach to London, I give you my word he shall never trouble you again.”  16
  Her brother, entirely disarmed by this mild reply, declared she could ask him nothing in reason that he would refuse; adding, “I hope, sister, you have never found me deficient in natural affection!” Mrs. Tabitha immediately rose, and throwing her arms about his neck, kissed him on the cheek; he returned her embrace with great emotion. Liddy sobbed; Win Jenkins cackled; Chowder capered; and Clinker skipt about, rubbing his hands for joy of this reconciliation.  17
  Concord being thus restored, we finished our meal with comfort; and in the evening arrived in London, without having met with any other adventure. My aunt seems to be much mended by the hint she received from her brother. She has been graciously pleased to remove her displeasure from Clinker, who is now retained as a footman, and (in a day or two) will make his appearance in a new suit of livery; but as he is little acquainted with London, we have taken an occasional valet, whom I intend hereafter to hire as my own servant.
J. MELFORD.    
  18
 
 
CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY
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