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above all, dress, furnished the material. The length of no paragraph was to exceed seven lines. Shorter they might be, but they must be poignant.
A fashion of flesh, or rather pink coloured hose for the ladies, luckily coming up at the juncture when we were on our probation for the place of chief jester to S.'s paper, established our reputation in that line. We were pronounced a “capital hand.” Oh the conceits which we varied upon red in all its prismatic differences ! from the trite and obvious flower of Cytherea, to the flaming costume of the lady that has her sitting upon “ many waters.” Then there was the collateral topic of ankles. What an occasion to a truly chaste writer, like ourself, of touching that nice brink, and yet never tumbling over it, of a seemingly ever approximating something “not quite proper;" while, like a skilful posture-master, balancing between decorums and their opposites, he keeps the line, from which a hair's breadth deviation is destruction ; hovering in the confines of light and darkness, or where “ both seem either;" a hazy, uncertain delicacy; Autolycuslike in the play, still putting off his expectant auditory with " Whoop, do me no harm, good man !" Bui, above all, that conceit arrided us most at that time, and still tickles our midriff to remember, where, allusively to the flight of Astræaultima Cælestům terras reliquit—we pronounced-in reference to the stockings still—that Modesty, TAKING HER FINAL LEAVE OF MORTALS, HER ASCENT TO THE HEAVENS BY THE TRACT OF THE GLOWING IN
This might be called the crowning conceit; and was esteemed tolerable writing in those days.
But the fashion of jokes, with all other things, passes away; as did the transient mode which had so favoured us. The ankles of our fair friends in a few weeks began to reassume their whiteness, and left us scarce a leg to stand upon. Other female whims followed, but none, methought, so pregnant, so invitatory of shrewd conceits, and more than single meanings.
Somebody has said, that to swallow six cross-buns daily, consecutively for a fortnight, would surfeit the stoutest digestion. But to have to furnish as many jokes daily, and that not for a fortnight, but for a long twelvemonth, as we were constrained to do, was a little harder exaction. “Man goeth forth to his work until the evening”—from a reasonable hour in the morning, we presume it was meant. Now, as our main occupation took us up from eight till five every day in the city ; and as our evening hours, at that time of life, had generally to do with anything rather than business, it follows,
LAST BLUSH WAS VISIBLE IN HER
that the only time we could spare for this manufactory of jokes-our supplementary livelihood, that supplied us in every want beyond mere bread and cheese—was exactly ihat part of the day which (as we have heard of No Man's Land) may be fitly denominated No Man's Time; that is, no time in which a man ought to be up, and awake, in. To speak more plainly, it is that time, of an hour, or an hour and a half's duration, in which a man, whose occasions call him up so preposterously, has to wait for his breakfast.
Oh those headaches at dawn of day, when ai five, or haii past five in summer, and not much later in the dark seasons, we were compelled to rise, having been perhaps not above four hours in bed-(for we were no go-to-beds with :he lamb, though we anticipated the lark ofttimes in her rising—we liked a parting cup at midnight, as all young men did before these effeminate times, and to have our friends about us—we were not constellated under Aquarius, that watery sign, and therefore incapable of Bacchus, cold, washy, bloodless we were none of your Basilian water-sponges, nor had taken our degrees at Mount Ague—we were right toping Capulets, jolly companions, we and they)—but to have to get up, as we said before, curtailed of hall our fair sleep, fasting, with only a dim vista of refreshing Bohea in the distance—to be necessitated to rouse ourselves at the detested rap of an old hag of a domestic, who seemed to take a diabolical pleasure in her announcement that it was “ time to rise;" and whose chappy knuckles we have often yearned to amputate, and string them up at our chamber door, to be a terror to all such unseasona. ble rest-breakers in future.
“Facil” and sweet, as Virgil sings nad been the “ descending" of the over-night, balmy the first sinking of the heavy head upon the pillow; but to get up as he goes on to say,
“Revocare gradus, superasque evadere ad auras"
and to get up, moreover, to make jokes with malice prepended - there was the “ labour," there the “ work."
No Egyptian taskmaster ever devised a slavery like to that, our slavery No fractious operants ever turned out for half the tyranny which this necessity exercised upon us. Half a dozen jests in a day, (bating Sundays too,) why, it seems nothing! We make twice the number every day in cur lives as a matter of course, and claim no Sabbatical exemptions. But then they come into our head. But when the head has to go out to them—when the mountain must go to Mohammed Reader, try it for once, only for one short twelvemonth
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It was not every week that a fashion of pink stockings came up; but mostly, instead of it, some rugged, untractable subject; some topic impossible to be contorted into the risible ; some feature, upon which no smile could play; some flint, from which no process of ingenuity could procure a distillation. There they lay; there your appointed tale of brickmaking was set before you, which you must finish, with or without straw, as it happened. The craving dragon—the public-like him in Bel's temple-must be fed; it expected its daily rations; and Daniel and ourselves, to do us justice, did the best we could on this side bursting him.
While we were wringing out coy sprightliness for the Post, and writhing under the toil of what is called “easy writing," Bob Allen, our quondam schoolfellow, was tapping his impracticable brains in a like service for the “ Oracle." Not ihat Robert troubled himself much about wit. graphs had a sprightly air about them, it was sufficient. He carried this nonchalance so far at last, that a matter of intelligence, and that no very important one, was not seldom palmed
, upon his employers for a good jest ; for example's sake" Walking yesterday morning casually down Snow Hill, who should we meet but Mr. Deputy Humphreys ! we rejoice to add, that the worthy deputy appeared to enjoy a good state of health. We do not remember cver to have seen hini look better.'
This gentleman, so surprisingly met upon Snow Hill, from some peculiarities in gait or gesture, was a constant butt for mirth to the small paragraph-mongers of the day; and our friend thought that he might have his fling at him with the rest. We met A. in Holborn shortly after this extraordinary rencounter, which he told with tears of satisfaction in his eyes, and chuckling at the anticipated effects of its announcement next day in the paper. We did not quite comprehend where the wit of it lay at the time; nor was it easy to be detected when the thing came out, advantaged by type and letter-press. He had better have met anything that morning than a common council man. His services were shortly after dispensed with, on the plea that his paragraphs of late had been deficient in point. The one in question, it must be owned, had an air, in the opening especially, proper to awaken curiosity; and the sentiment, or moral, wears the aspect of humanity and good neighbourly feeling. But somehow the conclusion was not judged altogether to answer to the magnificent promise of the premises. We traced our friend's pen afterward in the “ True Briton,” the “Star,” the “ Traveller”—from all which he was successively dismissed, the proprietors having " no further occasion for his services." Nothing was easier
than to detect him. When wit failed, or topics ran low, there constantly appeared the following –“It is not generally known that the three blue balls at the pawnbrokers' shops are the ancient arms of Lombardy. The Lombards were the first money-brokers in Europe."
Bob has done more to set the public right on this important point of blazonry than the whole college of heralds.
The appointment of a regular wit has long ceased to be a part of the economy of a morning paper. Editors find their own jokes, or do as well without them. Parson Este and Topham brought up the set custom of “ witty paragrahs” first in the “World.” Boaden was a reigning paragraphist in his day, and succeeded poor Allen in the Oracle. But, as we said, the fashion of jokes passes away; and it would be difficult to discover in the biographer of Mrs. Siddons, any traces of that vivacity and fancy which charmed the whole town at the commencement of the present century. Even the prelusive delicacies of the present writer-the curt “ Astræan allusion"-would be thought pedantic and out of date in these days.
From the office of the Morning Post, (for we may as well exhaust our newspaper reminiscences at once,) by change of property in the paper, we were transferred, mortifying exchange! to the office of the Albion Newspaper, late Rackstrow's Museum, in Fleet-street. What a transition-froin a handsome apartment, from rosewood desks, and silver inkstands, to an office--no office, but a den rather, but just redeemed from the occupation of dead monsters, of which it seemed redolent—from the centre of loyalty and fashion to a focus of vulgarity and sedition ! Here in murky closet, inadequate from its square contents to the receipt of the two bodies of editor and humble paragraph-maker together at one time, sat, in the discharge of his new editorial functions, (the “ Bigod” of Elia,) the redoubted John Fenwick.
F., without a guinea in his pocket, and having left not many in the pockets of his friends whom he might command, had purchased (on tick doubtless) the whole and sole editorship, proprietorship, with all the rights and titles such as they were worth) of the Albion, from one Lovell ; of whom we know nothing, save that he had stood in the pillory for a libel on the Prince of Wales. With this hopeless concern- for it had been sinking ever since its commencement, and could now reckon upon not more than a hundred subscribers-F. resolutely determined upon pulling down the government in the first instance, and making both our fortunes by way of corollary. For seven weeks and more did this infatuated democrat go about borrowing seven-shilling pieces, and lesser coin, to meet the daily demands of the stamp-office, which allowed no credit to publications of that side in politics. An outcast from politer bread, we attached our small talents to the forlorn fortunes of our friend. Our occupation now was to write treason.
Recollections of feelings—which were all that now remained from our first boyish heats kindled by the French revolution, when, if we were misled, we erred in the company of some who are accounted very good men now-rather than any tendency at this time to republican doctrines-assisted us in assuming a style of writing, while the paper lasted, consonant, in no very under tone, to the right earnest fanaticism of F. Our cue was now to insinuate, rather than recommend, possible abdications. Blocks, axes, Whitehall tribunals, were covered with flowers of so cunning a periphrasis-as Mr. Bayes says, never naming the thing directly—that the keen eye of an attorney-general was insufficient to detect the lurking snake among them. There were times, indeed, when we sighed for our more gentleman-like occupation under Stuart. But with change of masters it is ever change of service. Already one paragraph, and another, as we learned afterward from a gentleman at the treasury, had begun to be marked at that office, with a view of its being submitted at least to the attention of the proper law-officers—when an unlucky, or rather lucky epigram from our pen, aimed at Sir J.
-h, who was on the eve of departing for India to reap the fruits of his apostacy, as F. pronounced it, (it is hardly worth particularizing,) happening to offend the nice sense of Lord, or, as he then delighted to be called, Citizen Stanhope, deprived F. at once of the last hopes of a guinea from the last patron that had stuck by us ; and, breaking up our establishment, left us to the safe, but somewhat mortifying, neglect of the crown lawyers. It was about this time, or a little earlier, that Dan Stuart made that curious confession to us, that he had “ deliberately walked into an exhibition at Somerset House in his life.”