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 21, 1789.
Pereunt & imputantur.
As I was going the other morning to Dr. Hornsby's Lectures I saw an acquaintance of mine lounging against the College–gate, and gazing about with that vacant look, which generally indicates that a man does not know what to do with himself. I therefore offered to take him with me, and added by way of inducement, that the Lecture was to be remarkably entertaining. He thanked me for my good intention, said he should like it above all things, but that at present he was very busy, and really had not time. I was, I confess, rather surprised at this answer, considering the character of the speaker, but I said nothing, for every man is the best judge of his own concerns. –– My astonishment however was not a little increased, when on returning about two hours afterwards, I saw the very same person in the very same place, and nearly in the very same attitude; and where, I found on enquiring, he had remained ever since I left him. I was at first a little inclined to laugh at my friend's method of making the most of his time, but when I came to set down, and think the matter over coolly, I found, or fancied I found, so many instances of the same conduct, amongst those, whom age and experience might have better taught the value of days and hours; that his folly was lost amidst the follies of a thousand others, and his behaviour no longer appeared extraordinary, because no longer singular. –– There is most certainly indeed no apology, for not doing what we do not choose to do, so often made use of by one half of the world, or so readily admitted by the other, as this very complaint of want of time. –– And yet, perhaps, none was ever more void of foundation.
That there are indeed certain descriptions of people in the world, who find their time not more than equal to the necessary duties of their station in life, cannot be denied; but it unfortunately happens that from these quarters we hear no complaints of this kind, and that they who are ever loudest on the subject of time, usually make the least use of it. –– Thus, for example, I will readily allow that Foreign Ambassadors and their Secretaries, Compliers of Newspapers and their Runners, Ministers to great Monarchs, and Waiting–maids to great Beauties; nay, and even great Beauties themselves, have always business enough to employ both their Heads, Hands, and Time, and may occasionally find all three insufficient for their purpose. But how an honest English Country Gentleman, or a young member of this University (who are exempted from the troublesome duties which attend the above–mentioned ranks) can with any degree of reason complain that their time is not sufficient for any thing they have to do, I own I am at a loss to guess.
But what makes the matter more extraordinary, is the extremely irregular and inconsistent effect which the want of time has on their actions, and how very different it operates at different periods. –– I perfectly remember a Country Squire, who though seldom in bed at day–light, and who in the space of thirty years was not once known to be too late at the finding a fox; was yet always so hurried on Sunday Morning, that he never, poor man! could find time to go to Church; and I have been told that there are to be found young men in Oxford, who are just in the same predicament. For all which reasons I am decidedly of opinion, that so far from not having time enough, our greatest misfortune i this world is the having too much, that our business is to make it as short as we can, and that he who does this best –– best answers the end of his creation. Nor let this assertion, if a little bold, be deemed rash; since I have the opinion of a very clever man, and the practice of half the world in my favor. –– For if mankind do not think of time as I do, why are many amusements so eagerly pursued which have little besides the destroying it to recommend them: –– and if Mr. Soame Jennings was not of the same opinion, why should he have taken so much pains in his celebrated Disquisition, to prove that there is no such thing as time at all? could he have made good this assertion, great would have been the happiness of mankind, and proportionably great the reputation of the author. –– But, alas, Mr. Jennings's arguments are more ingenious than solid, and rather plausible than convincing, and many of my unhappy countrymen still find to there cost, that time is no imaginary Foe, but a real Enemy, whom it requires all their invention, and all their perseverance to get the better of. –– It has been observed, however, that human industry and human invention redouble their efforts, and act with increased powers in proportion to the difficulties which are thrown in their way; –– and we accordingly find that they, whose situation most expose them to that sort of ennui, which arises from having more time than employment, have ever been remarkable for a greater variety of those resources which are properly enough said to kill time. –– Hence the ingenious devices which have been practiced by those hapless beings whom a Grand Monarque, in his paternal goodness thinks proper to furnish with a Chambre Garni in some solitary Dungeon, and support at his own royal expence with bread and water. –– Hence too, the scarce less ingenious inventions, those time destroying amusements, which are so much in use among those warlike youths, whom a sense of honor, and thirst of military glory, impels to carry a pair of colours from one market town to another for the good of their country. But whatever can be said in favour of any of the above–mentioned personages, and their inventions, I am of opinion they all fall exceedingly short of some of the members of this University, who are greatly their superiors in the art of killing time. And that my partiality may not here be supposed to have got the better of m judgment, I shall bring an instance or two to prove that the pre–eminence I contend for is founded on real precedents, and supported by historic facts.
Every one is doubtless acquainted with the fray which happened in the reign of Richard the Second, between the Pope's Legate an some Oxford men. I do not mean to enter into the particulars of the story (which for obvious reasons is better forgot than remembered) but shall only observe that the Row (and a fine Row it certainly was) took its rise from a number of scholars who were lounging in the Legate's Kitchen, and looking on whilst his Holiness's dinner was preparing. This, though rather an extraordinary amusement, shews that Lounging was at least as fashionable in the 14th as in the 18th century. But the next proof I shall bring is till more weighty and convincing, as it is drawn from no less respectable authority than the Statute Book of the University. For if there was not an innate love of Lounging in all Oxford men, why should a low have been enacted forbidding them, under very severe penalties to loiter away their time in sitting on Pennyless Bench? which (as some of my readers may not be acquainted with Oxford) it is necessary to say stood exactly opposite the City Conduit, on each side of which the Butchers' Shambles appeared in beautiful perspective, and must consequently have been a most comfortable situation. –– To trace the various modes of killing time down to the present day, would open a field much too large for the compass of my paper. The History of Ancient Lounging would be a work nearly as voluminous as the History of Ancient Poetry. I shall therefore only observe, that as we have not yet degenerated from our predecessors, so we have every reason to hope that our posterity will act up to the example set them by their father, and that the art of killing time will continue to be practiced till time itself be no more! And to convince the world I am not to sanguine in my expectations, I shall close this number with a weekly Journal of a modern Oxford man, which, though I do not vouch for its being genuine, is as much so as many of those found in the works of my ingenious ancestors, Mr. Isaac Bickerstaff, or the man with the short Face.
Diary of a modern Oxford Man.
Waked at eight o'clock by the scout, to tell me the bell was going for prayers –– wonder those scoundrels are suffered to make such a noise –– tried to get to sleep again, but could not –– sat up and read Hoyle in bed –– ten, got up and breakfasted –– Charles Racket called to ask me to ride –– agreed to stay till the President was gone to Church –– half after eleven; rode out, going down the High–street saw Will Sagely going to St. Mary's –– can't think what people go to church for. –– Twelve to two, rode round Bullington–Green, met Careless and a new Freshman of Trinity –– engaged them to dine with me –– two to three, lounged at the stable, made the Freshman ride over the Bail, talked to him about horses: see he knows nothing about the matter –– went home and dressed –– three to eight, dinner and wine –– remarkable pleasant evening –– sold Racket's stone horse for him to Careless's friend for fifty guineas –– certainly break his neck –– eight to ten, Coffee–house, and lounged in the High–street. –– Stranger went home to study; am afraid he's a bad one –– engaged tot hunt to–morrow and dine with Racket –– twelve supped and went to bed early, in order to get up to–morrow.
Racket rowed me up at seven o'clock –– sleepy and queer, but forced to get up to make breakfast for him –– eight to five in the afternoon, hunting –– famous run, and killed near Bicester –– number of tumbles –– Freshman out on Racket's stone horse –– got the devil of a sail into a ditch –– horse upon him –– but don't know whether he was killed or not. –– Five, dressed and went to dine with Racket –– Dean had cross'd his name, and no dinner could be got –– went to the Angel and dined –– famous evening till eleven, when the Proctors came and told us to go home to our Colleges –– went directly the contrary way –– eleven to one, went down into St. Thomas's and fought a raff –– one, dragged home by somebody, the Lord knows whom, and put to bed.
Very bruised and sore, did not get up till twelve –– found an imposition on my table –– mem. to give it to the hair–dresser –– drank six dishes of tea –– did not know what to do with myself, so wrote to my father for money. –– Half after one, put on my boots to ride for an hour –– met Careless at the stable –– rode together –– asked me to dine with him and meet Jack Sedley, who is just returned from France –– two to three, returned home and dressed –– four to seven, dinner and wine –– Jack very pleasant –– told some good stories –– says the French women have thick legs –– no hunting to be got, and very little wine –– won't go there in a hurry –– seven, went to the stable and then looked in at the coffee–house –– very few drunken men, and nothing going forwards –– agreed to play Sedley at Billiards –– Walker's table engaged, and forced to go to the Blue Posts –– lost two guineas –– thought I could have beat him, but the dog has been practicing in Franc –– ten, supper at Careless's –– bought Sedley's mare for thirty guineas –– think he knows nothing of a horse, and believe I have done him. –– Drank a little punch, and went to bed at twelve.
Hunted with the Duke of B. –– very long run, rode the new mare, found her sinking, so pulled up in time, and swore I had a shoe lost –– to sell her directly –– buy no more horses of Sedley –– knows more than I thought he did. –– Four, returned home, and as I was dressing to dine with Sedley, received a note from some country neighbours of my fathers to desire me to dine at the Cross –– obliged to send an excuse to Sedley –– wanted to put on my cap and gown; –– cap broke and gown not to be found, forced to borrow –– half after four to ten, at the Cross with my Lions –– very loving evening indeed –– ten, found it too bad, so got up and told them it was against the rules of the University to be out later.
Breakfasted at the Cross, and walked all the morning about Oxford with my Lions –– terrible flat work –– Lions very troublesome –– asked an hundred and fifty silly questions about every thing they saw. –– Wanted me to explain the Latin inscriptions on the monuments in Christ Church Chapel! –– Wanted to know how we spent our time! –– forced to give them a dinner, and what was worse, to sit with them till six, when I told them I was engaged for the rest of the evening, and sent them about their business –– seven, dropped in at Careless's rooms, found him with a large party, all pretty much cut, thought it was a good time to sell him Sedley's mare, but he was not quite drunk enough –– made a bet with him that I trotted my poney from Benson to Oxford within the hour –– sure of winning, for I did it the other day in fifty minutes.
Got up early and rode the poney a foot pace over to Benson to breakfast –– Old Shrub breaks fast –– told him of the bet, and shewed him the poney; –– shook his head and looked cunning when he heard of it –– good sign –– after breakfast rode the race, and won easy, but could not get any money; forced to take Careless's draught; dare say 'tis not worth two–pence; great fool to bet with him –– Twelve till three, lounged at the stable, and cut my black horse's tail –– eat soup at Sadler's –– –– walked down the High–street –– met Racket, who wanted me to dine with him, but could not because I was engaged to Sagely –– three, dinner at Sagely's –– very bad –– dined, in a cold hall, and cold get nothing to eat –– wine new –– a bad fire –– tea–kettle put on at five o'clock –– played at Whist for six–pences, and no bets –– thought I should have gone to sleep –– terrible work dining with a studious man –– eleven went to bed out of spirits.
Ten, breakfast –– attempted to read the Loiterer, but it was too stupid; flung it down and took up Bartlet's Farriery –– had not read two pages before a Dun came, told him I should have some money soon –– would not be gone –– offered him brandy –– was sulky, and would not have any –– saw he was going to be savage, so kicked him down stairs to prevent his being impertinent. –– Thought perhaps I might have more of them, so went to lounge at the stables –– poney got a bad cough, and the black horse thrown out two splints; went back to my room in an ill humour –– found a letter from my father, no money, and a great deal of advice –– wants to know how my last quarter's allowance went –– how the devil should I know? –– he knows I keep no accounts –– Do think gathers are the greatest Bores in nature. –– Very low spirited and flat all the morning –– some thoughts of reforming, but luckily Careless came in to beg me to meet our party at his rooms, so altered my mind, dined with him, and by nine in the evening was very happy.
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