[ 40 ]

times, and in other moods, when his
spirits were above the temptation of false
wit, -- he would say, he found himself
going off fast in a consumption ; and,
with great gravity, would pretend, he
could not bear the sight of a fat horse
without a dejection of heart, and a sensi-
ble alteration in his pulse ; and that he
had made choice of the lean one he rode
upon, not only to keep himself in coun-
tenance, but in spirits.

  At different times he would give fifty
humourous and opposite reasons for ri-
ding a meek-spirited jade of a broken-
winded horse, preferably to one of met-
tle ; -- for on such a one he could sit me-
chanically, and meditate as delightfully
de vanitate mundi et fugâ sæculi, as with
the advantage of a death's head before
him ; -- that, in all other exercitations, he

[ 41 ]

could spend his time, as he rode slowly
along, ---- to as much account as in his
study ; -- that he could draw up an ar-
gument in his sermon, -- or a hole in his
breeches, as steadily on the one as in the
other ; -- that brisk trotting and slow argu-
mentation, like wit and judgment, were
two incompatible movements. -- But that,
upon his steed -- he could unite and re-
concile every thing, -- he could compose
his sermon, -- he could compose his
cough, ---- and, in case nature gave a
call that way, he could likewise compose
himself to sleep. -- In short, the parson
upon such encounters would assign any
cause, but the true cause, -- and he with-
held the true one, only out of a nicety of
temper, because he thought it did ho-
nour to him.

[ 42 ]

   But the truth of the story was as fol-
lows : In the first years of this gentle-
man's life, and about the time when the
superb saddle and bridle were purchased
by him, it had been his manner, or va-
nity, or call it what you will, ---- to run
into the opposite extream. -- In the lan-
guage of the county where he dwelt, he
was said to have loved a good horse, and
generally had one of the best in the whole
parish standing in his stable always ready
for saddling; and as the nearest midwife,
as I told you, did not live nearer to the
village than seven miles, and in a vile
country, ---- it so fell out that the poor
gentleman was scarce a whole week to-
gether without some piteous application
for his beast ; and as he was not an un-
kind-hearted man, and every case was
more pressing and more distressful than
the last, -- as much as he loved his beast,

[ 43 ]

he had never a heart to refuse him ; the
upshot of which was generally this, that
his horse was either clapp'd, or spavin'd,
or greaz'd ; -- or he was twitter-bon'd, or
broken-winded, or something, in short,
or other had befallen him which would
let him carry no flesh ; -- so that he had
every nine or ten months a bad horse to
get rid of, -- and a good horse to purchase
in his stead.

  What the loss in such a balance might
amount to, communibus annis, I would leave
to a special jury of sufferers in the same
traffic, to determine ; -- but let it be what
it would, the honest gentleman bore it
for many years without a murmur, till
at length, by repeated ill accidents of the
kind, he found it necessary to take the
thing under consideration ; and upon
weighing the whole, and summing it up

[ 44 ]

in his mind, he found it not only dispro-
portion'd to his other expences, but
withall so heavy an article in itself, as to
disable him from any other act of gene-
rosity in his parish : Besides this he con-
sidered, that, with half the sum thus gal-
loped away, he could do ten times as
much good ; ---- and what still weighed
more with him than all other considera-
tions put together, was this, that it con-
fined all his charity into one particular
channel, and where, as he fancied, it was
the least wanted, namely, to the child-
bearing and child-getting part of his
parish ; reserving nothing for the impo-
tent, -- nothing for the aged, -- nothing
for the many comfortless scenes he was
hourly called forth to visit, where po-
verty, and sickness, and affliction dwelt

[ 45 ]

   For these reasons he resolved to dis-
continue the expence ; and there appear-
ed but two possible ways to extricate
him clearly out of it ; -- and these were,
either to make it an irrevocable law ne-
ver more to lend his steed upon any ap-
plication whatever, -- or else be content
to ride the last poor devil, such as they
had made him, with all his aches and in-
firmities, to the very end of the chapter.

  As he dreaded his own constancy in
the first, ---- he very chearfully betook
himself to the second ; and tho' he could
very well have explain'd it, as I said, to
his honour, -- yet, for that very reason, he
had a spirit above it ; choosing rather to
bear the contempt of his enemies, and
the laughter of his friends, than undergo
the pain of telling a story, which might
seem a panygeric upon himself.
             4              I

[ 46 ]

   I have the highest idea of the spiritual
and refined sentiments of this reverend
gentleman, from this single stroke in his
character, which I think comes up to any
of the honest refinements of the peerless
knight of La Mancha, whom, by the bye,
with all his follies, I love more, and
would actually have gone further to have
paid a visit to, than the greatest hero of

  But this is not the moral of my story :
The thing I had in view was to shew the
temper of the world in the whole of this
affair. -- For you must know, that so long
as this explanation would have done the
parson credit, -- the devil a soul could find
it out, -- I suppose his enemies would not,
and that his friends could not. ---- But
no sooner did he bestir himself in behalf
of the midwife, and pay the expences of

[ 47 ]

the ordinary's licence to set her up, -- but
the whole secret came out ; every horse
he had lost, and two horses more than
ever he had lost, with all the circum-
stances of their destruction, were known
and distinctly remembered. -- The story
ran like wild-fire. -- ``The parson had
``a returning fit of pride which had just
``seized him ; and he was going to be
``well mounted once again in his life ;
``and if it was so, 'twas plain as the sun
``at noon-day, he would pocket the ex-
``pence of the licence, ten times told the
``very first year : ---- so that every body
``was left to judge what were his views
``in this act of charity."

  What were his views in this, and in
every other action of his life, -- or rather
what were the opinions which floated in
the brains of other people concerning it,

[ 48 ]

was a thought which too much floated in
his own, and too often broke in upon his
rest, when he should have been sound

  About ten years ago this gentleman
had the good fortune to be made entirely
easy upon that score, ---- it being just so
long since he left his parish, ---- and the
whole world at the same time behind
him, -- and stands accountable to a judge
of whom he will have no cause to com-

  But there is a fatality attends the ac-
tions of some men : Order them as they
will, they pass thro' a certain medium
which so twists and refracts them from
their true directions ------ that, with
all the titles to praise which a rectitude
of heart can give, the doers of them are

[ 49 ]

nevertheless forced to live and die with-
out it.

  Of the truth of which this gentleman
was a painful example. ---- But to know
by what means this came to pass, ---- and
to make that knowledge of use to you,
I insist upon it that you read the two fol-
lowing chapters, which contain such a
sketch of his life and conversation, as
will carry its moral along with it. -- When
this is done, if nothing stops us in our
way, we will go on with the midwife.

C H A P. XI.

YORICK was this parson's name, and,
what is very remarkable in it, (as
appears from a most antient account of
the family, wrote upon strong vellum,
   VOL. I.        D           and

[ 50 ]

and now in perfect preservation) it had
been exactly so spelt for near, ---- I was
within an ace of saying nine hundred
years ; ---- but I would not shake my
credit in telling an improbable truth,
however indisputable in itself ; ---- and
therefore I shall content myself with on-
ly saying, -- It had been exactly so spelt,
without the least variation or transposi-
tion of a single letter, for I do not know
how long ; which is more than I would
venture to say of one half of the best sur-
names in the kingdom ; which, in a course
of years, have generally undergone as
many chops and changes as their own-
ers. -- Has this been owing to the pride,
or to the shame of the respective propri-
etors ? -- In honest truth, I think, some-
times to the one, and sometimes to the
other, just as the temptation has wrought.
But a villainous affair it is, and will one

[ 51 ]

day so blend and confound us all together,
that no one shall be able to stand up and
swear, ``That his own great grand fa-
``ther was the man who did either this
``or that."

  This evil had been sufficiently fenced
against by the prudent care of the Yorick's
family, and their religious preservation
of these records I quote, which do fur-
ther inform us, That the family was ori-
ginally of Danish extraction, and had been
transplanted into England as early as in
the reign of Horwendillus, king of Den-
, in whose court it seems, an ancestor
of this Mr. Yorick's, and from whom he
was lineally descended, held a consider-
able post to the day of his death. Of what
nature this considerable post was, this
record saith not ; -- it only adds, That,
for near two centuries, it had been totally
             D 2              abo-

[ 52 ]

abolished as altogether unnecessary, not
only in that court, but in every other
court of the Christian world.

  It has often come into my head, that
this post could be no other than that of
the king's chief Jester ; -- and that Ham-
's Yorick, in our Shakespear, many of
whose plays, you know, are founded up-
on authenticated facts, -- was certainly the
very man.

  I have not the time to look into Saxo-
's Danish history, to know
the certainty of this ; -- but if you have
leisure, and can easily get at the book,
you may do it full as well yourself.

  I had just time, in my travels through
Denmark with Mr. Noddy's eldest son,
whom, in the year 1741, I accompanied

[ 53 ]

as governor, riding along with him at a
prodigious rate thro' most parts of Europe,
and of which original journey perform'd
by us two, a most delectable narrative
will be given in the progress of this work.
I had just time, I say, and that was all, to
prove the truth of an observation made
by a long sojourner in that country ; ----
namely, ``That nature was neither very
lavish, nor was she very stingy in her
gifts of genius and capacity to its inha-
bitants ; -- but, like a discreet parent, was
moderately kind to them all ; observing
such an equal tenor in the distribution of
her favours, as to bring them, in those
points, pretty near to a level with each
other ; so that you will meet with few in-
stances in that kingdom of refin'd parts;
but a great deal of good plain houshold
understanding amongst all ranks of
             D 3              people,

[ 54 ]

people,of which every body has a share;"
which is, I think, very right.

  With us, you see, the case is quite
different ; -- we are all ups and downs in
this matter ; -- you are a great genius ; --
or 'tis fifty to one, Sir, you are a great
dunce and a blockhead ; -- not that there
is a total want of intermediate steps, --
no, -- we are not so irregular as that comes
to ; -- but the two extremes are more
common, and in a greater degree in this
unsettled island, where nature, in her gifts
and dispositions of this kind, is most
whimsical and capricious ; fortune her-
self not being more so in the bequest of
her goods and chattels than she.

  This is all that ever stagger'd my faith
in regard to Yorick's extraction, who, by
what I can remember of him, and by all

[ 55 ]

the accounts I could ever get of him,
seem'd not to have had one single drop
of Danish blood in his whole crasis ; in
nine hundred years, it might possibly have
all run out : ---- I will not philosophize
one moment with you about it ; for hap-
pen how it would, the fact was this : --
That instead of that cold phlegm and
exact regularity of sense and humours, you
would have look'd for, in one so extract-
ed ; -- he was, on the contrary, as mer-
curial and sublimated a composition, --
as heteroclite a creature in all his declen-
sions ; ---- with as much life and whim,
and gaité de coeur about him, as the kind-
liest climate could have engendered and
put together. With all this sail, poor
Yorick carried not one ounce of ballast ;
he was utterly unpractised in the world ;
and, at the age of twenty-six, knew just
about as well how to steer his course
             D 4              in

[ 56 ]

in it, as a romping, unsuspicious girl of
thirteen : So that upon his first setting
out, the brisk gale of his spirits, as you
will imagine, ran him foul ten times in
a day of some body's tackling ; and as
the grave and more slow-paced were
oftenest in his way, ---- you may like-
wise imagine, 'twas with such he had
generally the ill luck to get the most en-
tangled. For aught I know there might
be some mixture of unlucky wit at the
bottom of such Fracas : -- For, to speak
the truth, Yorick had an invincible dis-
like and opposition in his nature to gra-
vity ; ---- not to gravity as such ; ---- for
where gravity was wanted, he would be
the most grave or serious of mortal men
for days and weeks together ; -- but he
was an enemy to the affectation of it,
and declared open war against it, only as
it appeared a cloak for ignorance, or for

[ 57 ]

folly ; and then, whenever it fell in his
way, however sheltered and protected,
he seldom gave it much quarter.

  Sometimes, in his wild way of talking,
he would say, That gravity was an errant
scoundrel ; and he would add, -- of the
most dangerous kind too, ---- because a
sly one ; and that, he verily believed,
more honest, well-meaning people were
bubbled out of their goods and money
by it in one twelve-month, than by
pocket-picking and shop-lifting in seven.
In the naked temper which a merry heart
discovered, he would say, There was no
danger, -- but to itself : -- whereas the very
essence of gravity was design, and con-
sequently deceit ; -- 'twas a taught trick
to gain credit of the world for more sense
and knowledge than a man was worth ;
and that, with all its pretensions, -- it was

[ 58 ]

no better, but often worse, than what a
French wit had long ago defined it, -- viz.
A mysterious carriage of the body to cover
the defects of the mind
; -- which definition
of gravity, Yorick, with great impru-
dence, would say, deserved to be wrote in
letters of gold.

  But, in plain truth, he was a man un-
hackneyed and unpractised in the world,
and was altogether as indiscreet and
foolish on every other subject of discourse
where policy is wont to impress restraint.
Yorick had no impression but one, and
that was what arose from the nature of
the deed spoken of ; which impression he
would usually translate into plain English
without any periphrasis, ---- and too
oft without much distinction of either
personage, time, or place ; -- so that when
mention was made of a pitiful or an

[ 59 ]

ungenerous proceeding, -- he never gave
himself a moment's time to reflect who
was the Hero of the piece, ---- what his
station, ---- or how far he had power to
hurt him hereafter ; -- but if it was a dirty
action, ---- without more ado, ---- The
man was a dirty fellow, -- and so on : --
And as his comments had usually the ill
fate to be terminated either in a bon mot,
or to be enliven'd throughout with some
drollery or humour of expression, it gave
wings to Yorick's indiscretion. In a word,
tho' he never sought, yet, at the same
time, as he seldom shun'd occasions of
saying what came uppermost, and with-
out much ceremony ; ---- he had but too
many temptations in life, of scattering
his wit and his humour, -- his gibes and
his jests about him. ---- They were not
lost for want of gathering.