L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR;
AND SOLD BY
C. S. RANN, OXFORD.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, February 14, 1789.
Non omnes Arbusta juvant.
Not all in Woods delight.
A Writer of a periodical paper is always considered as the lawful receiver of those complaints and accusations, which cannot with propriety be brought before any other tribunal, and has from time immemorial been the repository of all those petty distresses, which, when vented any where else, oftener excite derision than pity. I flatter myself, therefore, you will be graciously pleased to take my case into consideration; and if, after I have told my story, you find right on my side, you will issue an edict, prohibiting my enemies from persecuting me.
I am the son of an opulent and respectable citizen, who for the first fifty years of his life was never on any occasion two miles from Threadneedle Street; who knew no learning but arithmetic, no employment but posting his books, and no dissipation beyond the enjoyment of his weekly club. It has been observed, that a man's veneration for learning is sometimes in proportion to his own want of it; this was exactly the case with my father. He was determined, he said, his son should be the best scholar in the city of London. He therefore sent me to a considerable Free–school in the neighbourhood, where I acquired about as much knowledge as those seminaries usually bestow; and if I was not quite the Eighth wonder of the world, I was at least the wonder of my father, who always examined me of a Sunday after dinner, in the presence of the Curate, who was generally complaisant enough to express his astonishment at the quickness of my apprehension, and the goodness of my memory. At the age of eighteen, I was sent off in the regular succession to a College in Oxford, whose students were always taken from our seminary. As I had never in my life been farther from London than Turnham Green, I found myself in a new world, and for some time I thought it a very happy one. I had health and spirits, my allowance was ample, and I had a great many agreeable companions, who obligingly assisted me in the arduous task of spending it. A very little observation was sufficient to shew me, that every body around me consulted only by what means they should best get rid of their time; and candour must acknowledge, that the variety and elegance of their amusements reflect great honour on the inventors. I too was resolved not to be behind hand with my friends, in the science f spending time agreeably; and in order to do it more systematically, chose for my Arbiter Deliciarum, one of the most knowing men in Oxford. He not only regulated my dress and my behaviour, but selected with great care my acquaintance:––told me how many under–waistcoats were proper for the different seasons––how many capes were necessary for a great coat––when shoe–strings and when boots were most becoming––taught me how to lounge down the High Street; and how to stand before the fire at the coffee–house.
"Nil desperandum Teucro duce."
Under such a guide my progress was not slow. I soon became almost as wise as my instructor, and should shortly have obtained the character of a knowing man, had not my hopes been cut off at once by an accident, which I am going to relate.––It being summer when I was entered at the University, my feats of horsemanship had been confined chiefly to Port Meadow and Bullington Green; at one or other of which places I never missed appearing, at least once a day, upon a very clever cropt poney; and though I knew no more of a horse than of an elephant, yet by the instructions of my friend, by talking big, and offering to trot a number of miles within the hour for large sums, I contrived to make many people believe I knew something of the matter. At last winter came, and I found it necessary to b every fond of fox–hunting, without which no man can pretend to be knowing. Never was a more fatal resolution taken; never was there man less qualified for a sportsman, as I was naturally timid and chilly, and had never been on horseback in my life before I came to Oxford. But there was no alternative; my reputation, my character, my very existence as a a knowing man, depended on my conduct in this article; and to say the truth, I had heard from my acquaintance such long and pompous accounts of sharp bursts, and long chaces––such enthusiastic panegyrics on, and such animated descriptions of, this amusement, that I really began to think there must be something wonderfully bewitching i a diversion, which seemed to take up so much of the time and thoughts of my companions. I therefore, by the advice of my friend, gave forty–five guineas for a very capital hunter; and having furnished myself with the proper paraphernalia, cap, belt, &c. made an appointment to go with a large party and meet the fox–hounds the next day. My friends were punctual to their appointment, and rattled me out of bed at seven o'clock, on a raw November morning, though I would have given a thousand worlds to have lain another hour, and a million not to have gone at all; I was, however, obliged to repress my sensations, and to feign an alacrity I felt not; and, though shivering with cold, and pale with apprehension, to affect the glow of pleasure, and assume the eagerness of hope. After a long ride, through a most dismal country, we arrived at the wood, where we hound the hounds were not yet come, on account of the badness of the morning; which, from being foggy and drizzling, had now turned to a very heavy rain. Here then we amused ourselves riding up and down a wretched swampy common, or standing under a dripping wood for about two hours, at the end of which time the day cleared up, the hounds came, and every countenance but mine brightened with joy; for I was half in hopes they would not come at all. My sufferings indeed were but yet begun; for no sooner had the hounds thrown off than my horse grew so hot, that benumbed as my hands were with cold, I had no sort of power over him; the consequence of which was, that I received many severe reprimands for riding over the hounds, and treading on the heels of other horses. After I had ridden in this state of torment about three hours, the men and hounds all at once set up a most terrible howling and screaming, and they told me they had found a fox. I shall not, Mr. LOITERER, attempt to describe the chace, for if you are a sportsman you know already what it is; and if you are not, I am sure you will never know it from my description: all I remember is, that as soon as the chace began, my horse (who went just where he pleased) dashed down a wet boggy lane, and in a moment covered me over with water and mud. ––Oh, Mr. LOITERER! If you have the common feelings of humanity, you will not without some degree of pity conceive me at once cold, tired, and frightened, carried on with irresistible velocity, and plunged through the dirtiest part of the dirtiest county in England!
At last however my sufferings came to a close; for at turning short at the end of a narrow lane my horse started––I pitched over his head, and fell as soft as if it had been on a feather bed. There I lay till a countryman who had caught my horse, brought him to me, and good–naturedly assisted me in getting up and cleaning my clothes. No intreaties however could prevail on me to remount, and having desired my assistant to lead my horse to Oxford, I determined to endeavour reaching home on foot: but this I found not so easily effected in my present condition, and luckily meeting with a Higler's cart, which was bound for that place, got into it, and in this vehicle made my triumphant entrance over Magdalen bridge about 8 o'clock in the evening, just as the High–street was at the fullest.
As soon as I got to my College, I went to bed and sent for Dr. ––, by whose skill and assistance I was at the end of the week recovered, indeed, as to my health; but my reputation was gone for ever. My story during my confinement had got wind, and was laughed at in all parties. My acquaintance began to look at me in a very contemptible light, and even my own familiar friend, in whom I implicitly confided, soon let me know, that it was no longer consistent with his reputation to be seen walking the High street with me. If I entered a coffee–house I was sure to hear a titter and a whisper run round the room; and at last the very servants at the livery stables pointed at me as I passed the streets and said––There's the Gentleman as got such a hell of a tumble t'other day.
In short I was obliged to give up all my knowing acquaintance, and get into an entirely different set; who, as they had never aspired to the first pinnacle of sporting merit, and could at best boast but a secondary kind of knowingness, received me with open arms. They, on hearing my story, told me I had totally misspent my time and money; that fox–hunting was not only a very dangerous, but a very expensive and a very uncertain amusement; that shooting on the other had was free from these objections, being a diversion exceedingly cheap, always in our power, and which had the additional recommendation of furnishing us game for our own table, or our friend's. All this was ended in offering to be my instructors in this agreeable amusement.
I own I listened to this recital with pleasure and accepted the offer with gratitude, for I was not yet quite cured of the rage for being knowing, and thought it not impossible to gain some degree of reputation from being a good shot. ––I therefore furnished myself with every proper requisite for this amusement; and in an evil hour accompanied my new friends to Bagley–Wood. ––I will not take up your time with a particular description of our day's sport, but it is enough to say, that the last error was worse than the first, that I returned home, wet, dirty, scratched and tired, and pretty well convinced that I was not more fitted for a Shot than a Fox–hunter. –– I have since endeavoured to excel in some other Amusements, but the same ill luck has constantly attended me. I got at least twenty broken heads last winter in learning to skate, and have since narrowly escaped being drowned by attempting to throw a casting net, which had nearly drawn me into the water with it. –– This however was the last effort of the kind I ever made, and I am now set quietly down, perfectly satisfied with my own achievements in the sporting way. –– But the worst part of the story is, that my companions have not yet done laughing at me; my exploits on the contrary seem to be to them inexhaustible subjects of Amusement: sometimes they talk to me, and sometimes at me –– One wonders at my want of taste; and another at my want of resolution. A third asks me how I felt when I was falling off. –– And a fourth thanks heaven he was not bred in London. –– In this distressful situation I apply to you, Mr. Loiterer, as my only friend, and beg you to intercede in my behalf, since nobody else will; tell them then, Sir, that I do not the least call in question the merit of their different diversions, or doubt their particular prowess in them, but that by early and unconquerable prejudices, and through a perverted but incurable taste, I can find no pleasure in diversions where difficulty and danger are rewarded by dirt and noise. –– You may ell them also, that on condition they are merciful to me on this subject, I will in my turn promise always to speak of Sportsmen with reverence, and drink Fox–hunting in a Bumper. –– And that whenever (at their return home, after their bewitching sports) they feel inclined to expatiate on their glorious toils and hold forth on the merits of their horses or themselves, they shall find a most silent respectful and attentive hearer in, Sir,
Your humble Servant,
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