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THE SOUTH-SEA HOUSE.
READER, in thy passage from the Bank- wainscots hung with pictures of deceased where thou hast been receiving thy half-yearly governors and sub-governors, of queen Anne, dividends (supposing thou art a lean annuitant and the two first monarchs of the Brunswick like myself)—to the Flower Pot, to secure a dynasty ;-huge charts, which subsequent displace for Dalston, or Shacklewell, or some other coveries have antiquated ; dusty maps of Mexthy suburban retreat northerly,--didst thou ico, dim as dreams,—and soundings of the Bay never observe a melancholy-looking, handsome, of Panama ! The long passages hung with brick and stone edifice, to the left—where buckets, appended, in idle row, to walls, whose Threadneedle-street abuts upon Bishopsgate ? substance might defy any, short of the last, I dare say thou hast often admired its magni- conflagration :—with vast ranges of cellarage ficent portals ever gaping wide, and disclosing under all, where dollars and pieces-of-eight to view a grave court, with cloisters, and pillars, once lay, an “ unsunned heap,” for Mammon with few or no traces of goers-in or comers-out to have solaced his solitary heart withal,La desolation something like Balclutha’s.* long since dissipated, or scattered into air at
This was once a house of trade,-a centre of the blast of the breaking of that famous busy interests. The throng of merchants was
BUBBLE. here—the quick pulse of gain—and here some Such is the South-SEA HOUSE. At least, forms of business are still kept up, though the such it was forty years ago, when I knew it,soul be long since fled. Here are still to be a magnificent relic! What alterations may seen stately porticos; imposing staircases, have been made in it since, I have had no offices roomy as the state apartments in palaces opportunities of verifying. Time, I take for -deserted, or thinly peopled with a few granted, has not freshened it. No wind has straggling clerks; the still more sacred in- resuscitated the face of the sleeping waters. teriors of court and committee-rooms, with A thicker crust by this time stagnates upon it. venerable faces of beadles, door-keepers— The moths, that were then battening upon its directors seated in form on solemn days (to obsolete ledgers and day-books, have rested proclaim a dead dividend), at long worm-eaten from their depredations, but other light genetables, that have been mahogany, with tar- rations have succeeded, making fine fretwork nished gilt-leather coverings, supporting massy among their single and double entries. Layers silver inkstands long since dry ;—the oaken of dust have accumulated (a superfætation of * I passed by the walls of Balclutha, and they were
dirt !) upon the old layers, that seldom used to be disturbed, save by some curious finger, now
and then, inquisitive to explore the mode of public offices that I have had to do with since. book-keeping in Queen Anne's reign ; or, with They partook of the genius of the place! less hallowed curiosity, seeking to unveil some They were mostly (for the establishment did of the mysteries of that tremendous Hoax, not admit of superfluous salaries) bachelors. whose extent the petty peculators of our day | Generally (for they had not much to do) persons look back upon with the same expression of of curious and speculative turn of mind. incredulous admiration, and hopeless ambition Old-fashioned, for a reason mentioned before. of rivalry, as would become the puny face of Humourists, for they were of all descriptions ; modern conspiracy contemplating the Titan and, not having been brought together in early size of Vaux's superhuman plot.
life (which has a tendency to assimilate the Peace to the manes of the BUBBLE! Silence members of corporate bodies to each other), and destitution are upon thy walls, proud house, but, for the most part, placed in this house in for a memorial !
ripe or middle age, they necessarily carried Situated as thou art, in the very heart of into it their separate habits and oddities, unstirring and living commerce,-amid the fret qualified, if I may so speak, as into a common and fever of speculation—with the Bank, and stock Hence they formed a sort of Noah's the 'Change, and the India-house about thee, ark. Odd fishes. A lay-monastery. Domestic in the hey-day of present prosperity, with their retainers in a great house, kept more for show important faces, as it were, insulting thee, their than use. Yet pleasant fellows, full of chatpoor neighbour out of business — to the idle and and not a few among them had arrived at conmerely contemplative,-to such as me, old siderable proficiency on the German flute. house ! there is a charm in thy qniet :-a ces
The cashier at that time was one Evans, % sation-a coolness from business-an indolence Cambro-Briton. He had something of the almost cloistral—which is delightful! With choleric complexion of his countrymen stamped what reverence have I paced thy great bare on his visage, but was a worthy sensible man rooms and courts at eventide! They spoke of at bottom. He wore his hair, to the last, powthe past the shade of some dead accountant, dered and frizzed out, in the fashion which I with visionary pen in ear, would fit by me, remember to have seen in caricatures of what stiff as in life. Living accounts and accountants were termed, in my young days, Maccaronies, puzzle me. I have no skill in figuring. But He was the last of that race of beaux. Melanthy great dead tomes, which scarce three choly as a gib-cat over his counter all the degenerate clerks of the present day could lift forenoon, I think I see him, making up his from their enshrining shelves—with their old cash (as they call it) with tremulous fingers, as fantastic flourishes, and decorative rubric inter- if he feared every one about him was a defaulter; lacings—their sums in triple columniation set in his hypochondry ready to imagine himself down with formal superfluity of ciphers—with one ; haunted, at least, with the idea of the pious sentences at the beginning, without which possibility of his becoming one; his tristful our religious ancestors never ventured to open visage clearing up a little over his roast neck a book of business, or bill of lading—the costly of veal at Anderton's at two (where his picture vellum covers of some of them almost per- still hangs, taken a little before his death by suading us that we are got into some better desire of the master of the coffee-house, which library, — are very agreeable and edifying he had frequented for the last five-and-twenty spectacles. I can look upon these defunct years), but not attaining the meridian of its dragons with complacency. Thy heavy odd- animation till evening brought on the hour of shaped ivory-handled pen-knives (our ancestors tea and visiting. The simultaneous sound of had everything on a larger scale than we have his well-known rap at the door with the stroke hearts for) are as good as anything from Her- of the clook announcing six, was a topic of culaneum. The pounce-boxes of our days have never-failing mirth in the families which this gone retrograde.
dear old bachelor gladdened with his presence. The very clerks which I remember in the Then was his forte, his glorified hour! How South Sea House-I speak of forty years
back would he chirp, and expand, over a muffin ! -had an air very different from those in the IIow would he dilate into secret history! His countryman, Pennant himself, in particular, it as a piece of defensive armour only, no insult could not be more eloquent than he in relation likewise could reach you through it. Decus et to old and new London—the site of old theatres, solamen. churches, streets gone to decay—where Rosa- Of quite another stamp was the then accountmond's Pond stood—the Mulberry-gardens, ant, John Tipp. He neither pretended to high and the Conduit in Cheap—with many a pleasant blood, nor, in good truth, cared one fig about anecdote, derived from paternal tradition, of the matter. He “ thought an accountant the those grotesque figures which Hogarth has im- greatest character in the world, and himself mortalized in his picture of Noon,—the worthy the greatest accountant in it.” Yet John was descendants of those heroic confessors, who, not without his hobby. The fiddle relieved his flying to this country, from the wrath of Louis vacant hours. He sang, certainly, with other the Fourteenth and his dragoons, kept alive notes than to the Orphean lyre. He did, indeed, the flame of pure religion in the sheltering scream and scrape most abominably. His fine obscurities of Hog-lane, and the vicinity of the suite of official rooms in Threadneedle-street, Seven Dials!
which, without anything very substantial apDeputy, under Evans, was Thomas Tame. pended to them, were enough to enlarge a man's He had the air and stoop of a nobleman. You notions of himself that lived in them, (I know would have taken him for one, had you met not who is the occupier of them now,) resounded him in one of the passages leading to West- fortnightly to the notes of a concert of“ sweet minster-hall. By stoop, I mean that gentle breasts,” as our ancestors would have called bending of the body forwards, which, in great them, culled from club-rooms and orchestras-men, must be supposed to be the effect of an chorus singers-first and second violoncelloshabitual condescending attention to the appli- double basses—and clarionets-who ate his cations of their inferiors. While he held you cold mutton, and drank his punch, and praised in converse, you felt strained to the height in his ear. He sate like Lord Midas
them. the colloquy. The conference over, you were But at the desk Tipp was quite another sort of at leisure to smile at the comparative insigni- creature. Thence all ideas, that were purely ficance of the pretensions which had just awed amental, were banished. You could not you. His intellect was of the shallowest order. speak of anything romantic without rebuke. It did not reach to a saw or a proverb. His Politics were excluded. A newspaper was mind was in its original state of white paper. thought too refined and abstracted. The whole A sucking-babe might have posed him. What duty of man consisted in writing off dividend was it then ? Was he rich? Alas, no! Thomas warrants. The striking of the annual balance Tame was very poor. Both he and his wife in the company's books(which, perhaps, differed looked outwardly gentiefolks, when I fear all from the balance of last year in the sum of was not well at all times within. She had a 251. 1s. 6d.) occupied his days and nights for a neat meagre person, which it was evident she month previous. Not that Tipp was blind to had not sinned in over-pampering ; but in its the deadness of things (as they call them in veins was noble blood. She traced her descent, the city) in his beloved house, or did not sigh by some labyrinth of relationship, which I for a return of the old stirring days when never thoroughly understood,-much less can South Sea hopes were young---(be was indeed explain with any heraldic certainty at this equal to the wielding of any the most intricate time of day,—to the illustrious, but unfortunate accounts of the most flourishing company in house of Derwentwater. This was the secret these or those days) :—but to a genuine ac of Thomas's stoop. This was the thought—the countant the difference of proceeds is as nothing. sentiment—the bright solitary star of your The fractional farthing is as dear to his heart lives,-ye mild and happy pair,—which cheered as the thousands which stand before it. He is you in the night of intellect, and in the obscurity the true actor, who, whether his part be a prince of
your station! This was to you instead of or a peasant, must act it with like intensity. riches, instead of rank, instead of glittering With Tipp form was everything. His life was attainments : and it was worth them altogether. formal. His actions seemed ruled with a ruler. You insulted none with it; but, while you wore His pen was not less erring than his heart,
He made the best executor in the world; he and Sawbridge, and Bull, and Dunning, and was plagued with incessant executorships ac- Pratt, and Richmond,—and such small policordingly, which excited his spleen and soothed tics.his vanity in equal ratios. He would swear A little less facetious, and a great deal more (for Tipp swore) at the little orphans, whose obstreperous, was fine rattling, rattle-headed rights he would guard with a tenacity like the Plumer. He was descended,--not in a right grasp of the dying hand, that commended their line, reader, (for his lineal pretensions, like his interests to his protection. With all this there personal, favoured a little of the sinister bend,) was about hiin a sort of timidity-(his few from the Plumers of Hertfordshire. So tradition enemies used to give it a worse name)—a some- gave him out; and certain family features not thing which, in reverence to the dead, we will a little sanctioned the opinion. Certainly old place, if you please, a little on this side of the Walter Plumer (his reputed author) had been heroic. Nature certainly had been pleased to a rake in his days, and visited much in Italy, endow John Tipp with a sufficient measure of and had seen the world. He was uncle, the principle of self-preservation. There is a bachelor-uncle to the fine old whig still living, cowardice which we do not despise, because it who has represented the county in so many has nothing base or treacherous in its elements ; successive parliaments, and has a fine old manit betrays itself, not you : it is mere tempera- sion near Ware. Walter flourished in George ment; the absence of the romantic and the the Second's days, and was the same who was enterprising ; it sees a lion in the way, and will summoned before the House of Commons about not, with Fortinbras, “ greatly find quarrel in a business of franks, with the old Duchess of a straw,” when some supposed honour is at Marlborough. You may read of it in Johnstake. Tipp never mounted the box of a stage- son's Life of Cave. Cave came off cleverly in coach in his life ; or leaned against the rails of that business. It is certain our Plumer did a balcony; or walked upon the ridge of a nothing to discountenance the rumour. He parapet; or looked down a precipice; or let rather seemed pleased whenever it was, with off a gun; or went upon a water-party ; or all gentleness, insinuated. But, besides his would willingly let you go, if he could have family pretensions, Plumer was an engaging helped it: neither was it recorded of him, that fellow, and sang gloriously.for lucre, or for intimidation, he ever forsook Not so sweetly sang Plumer as thou sangest, friend or principle.
mild, child-like, pastoral M-; a flute's Whom next shall we summon from the breathing less divinely whispering than thy dusty dead, in whom common qualities become Arcadian melodies, when, in tones worthy of uncommon? Can I forget thee, Henry Man, Arden, thou didst chant that song sung by the wit, the polished man of letters, the author, Amiens to the banished Duke, which proclaims of the South Sea House? who never enteredst the winter wind more lenient than for a man thy office in a morning, or quittedst it in mid- to be ungrateful. Thy sire was old surly day--(what didst thou in an office ?)—without M—the unapproachable church-warden of some quirk that left a sting! Thy gibes and Bishopsgate. He knew not what he did, when thy jokes are now extinct, or survive but in he begat thee, like spring, gentle offspring of two forgotten volumes, which I had the good blustering winter :-only unfortunate in thy fortune to rescue from a stall in Barbican, not ending, which should have been mild, concilithree days ago, and found thee terse, fresh, atory, swan-like. epigrammatic, as alive. Thy wit is a little gone Much remains to sing. Many fantastic shapes by in these fastidious days—thy topics are rise up, but they must be mine in private:staled by the “new-born gauds” of the time: | already I have fooled the reader to the top of -but great thou used to be in Public Ledgers, his bent ;-else could I omit that strange and in Chronicles, upon Chatham, and Shel- creature Woollett, who existed in trying the burne, and Rockingham, and Howe, and Bur- question, and bought litigations ? — and still goyne, and Clinton, and the war which ended stranger, inimitable, solemn Hepworth, from in the tearing from Great Britain her re- whose gravity Newton might have deduced the bellious colonies,—and Keppel, and Wilkes, law of gravitation. Ilow profoundly would he