« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
home at the dinner hour, for instance, expecting some savory mess, and to find one quite tasteless and sapidless. Butter ill melted that commonest of kitchen failures — puts me beside my tenor. The author of the “ Rambler” used to make inarticulate animal noises over a favorite food. Was this the music quite proper to be preceded by the grace? or would the pious man have done better to postpone his devotions to a season when the blessing might be contemplated with less perturbation? I quarrel with no man's tastes, nor would set my thin face against those excellent things, in their way, jollity and feasting. But as these exercises, however laudable, have little in them of grace or gracefulness, a man should be sure, before he ventures so to grace them, that, while he is pretending his devotions otherwhere, he is not secretly kissing his hand to some great fish, — his Dagon, - with a special consecration of no ark but the fat-tureen before him. Graces are the sweet preluding strains to the banquets of angels and children ; to the roots and severer repasts of the Chartreuse ; to the slender, but not slenderly acknowledged, refection of the poor anıl humble man : but at the heaped-up boards of the pampered and the luxurious they become of dissonant mood, less timed and tuned to the occasion, methinks, than the noise of those better befitting
organs would be which children hear tales of at Hog's Norton. We sit too long at our meals, or are too curious in the study of them, or too disordered in our application to them, or engross too great a portion of those good things (which should be common) to our share, to be able with any grace to say grace. To be thankful for what we grasp exceeding our proportion is to add hypocrisy to injustice. A lurking sense of this truth is what makes the performance of this duty so cold and spiritless a service at most tables. In houses where the grace is as indispensable as the napkin, who has not seen that never-settled question arise as to who shall say it; while the good man of the house and the visitor clergyman, or some other guest belike of next authority from years or gravity, shall be bandying about the office between them as a matter of compliment, each of them not unwilling to shift the awkward burden of an equivocal duty from his own shoulders ?
I once drank tea in company with two Methodist divines of different persuasions, whom it was my fortune to introduce to each other for the first time that evening. Before the first cup was handed round, one of these reverend gentlemen put it to the other, with all due solemnity, whether he chose to say anything. It seems it is the custom with some sectaries to put up a short prayer before this meal also. His reverend brother did not at first quite apprehend him, but, upon an explanation, with little less importance he made answer that it was not a custom known in his church ; in which courteous evasion the other acquiescing for good manners' sake, or in compliance with a weak brother, the supplementary or tea-grace was waived altogether. With what spirit might not Lucian have painted two priests of his religion playing into each other's hands the compliment of performing or omitting a sacrifice,
the hungry god meantime, doubtful of his incense, with expectant nostrils hovering over the two flamens, and (as between two stools) going away in the end without his supper!
A short form upon these occasions is felt to want reverence ; a long one, I am afraid, cannot escape the charge of impertinence. I do not quite approve of the epigrammatic conciseness with which that equivocal wag (but my pleasant school-fellow) C. V. L., when importuned for a grace, used to inquire, first slyly leering down the table, “ Is there no clergyman here ?” significantly adding, " thank G-." Nor do I think our old forni at school quite pertinent, where we were used to preface our bald bread-and-cheese
suppers with a preamble connecting with that humble blessing a recognition of benefits the most awful and overwhelming to the imagination which religion has to offer. Non tunc illis erat locus. I remember we were put to it to reconcile the phrase "good creatures,” upon which the blessing rested, with the fare set before us, wilfully understanding that expression in a low and animal sense, till some one recalled a legend, which told how, in the golden days of Christ's
, the young Hospitallers were wont to have smoking joints of roast meat upon their nightly boards, till some pious benefactor, commiserating the decencies, rather than the palates, of the children, commuted our flesh for garments, and gave us — horresco referens — trousers instead of mutton.
Y acquaintance with the pleasant M creature whose loss we all deplore my was but slight.
My first introduction to E., which afterwards ripened into an acquaintance a little on this side of intimacy, was over a counter of the Leamington Spa Library, then newly entered upon by a branch of his family. E., whom nothing misbecame, – to auspicate, I suppose, the filial concern, and set it a-going with a lustre, — was serving in person two damsels fair, who had come into the shop ostensibly to inquire for some new publication, but in reality to have a sight of the illustrious shopman, hoping soine conference. With what an air did he reach down the volume, dispassionately giving his opinion upon the worth of the work in question, and launching out into a dissertation on its comparative merits with those of certain