Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 50

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Letter L

To Sir WATKIN PHILLIPS Bart. of Jesus college, Oxon.


In my last I treated you with a high flavoured dish, in the character of the Scotch lieutenant, and I must present him once more for your entertainment. It was our fortune to feed upon him the best part of three days; and I do not doubt that he will start again in our way before we shall have finished our northern excursion. The day after our meeting with him at Durham proved so tempestuous that we did not choose to proceed on our journey; and my uncle persuaded him to stay till the weather should clear up, giving him, at the same time, a general invitation to our mess. The man has certainly gathered a whole budget of shrewd observations, but he brings them forth in such an ungracious manner as would be extremely disgusting, if it was not marked by that characteristic oddity which never fails to attract the attention — He and Mr Bramble discoursed, and even disputed, on different subjects in war, policy, the belles lettres, law, and metaphysics; and sometimes they were warmed into such altercation as seemed to threaten an abrupt dissolution of their society; but Mr Bramble set a guard over his own irascibility, the more vigilantly as the officer was his guest; and when, in spite of all his efforts, he began to wax warm, the other prudently cooled in the same proportion.

Mrs Tabitha chancing to accost her brother by the familiar diminutive of Matt, 'Pray, sir (said the lieutenant), 'is your name Matthias?' You must know it is one of our uncle's foibles to be ashamed of his name Matthew, because it is puritanical; and this question chagrined him so much, that he answered, 'No, by G-d!' in a very abrupt tone of displeasure. — The Scot took umbrage at the manner of his reply, and bristling up, 'If I had known (said he) that you did not care to tell your name, I should not have asked the question — The leddy called you Matt, and I naturally thought it was Matthias: — perhaps, it may be Methuselah, or Metrodorus, or Metellus, or Mathurinus, or Malthinnus, or Matamorus, or —' 'No (cried my uncle laughing), it is neither of those, captain: my name is Matthew Bramble, at, your service. — The truth is, have a foolish pique at the name of Matthew, because it favours of those canting hypocrites, who, in Cromwell's time, christened all their children by names taken from the scripture.' 'A foolish pique indeed. (cried Mrs Tabby), and even sinful, to fall out with your name because it is taken from holy writ. — I would have you to know, you was called after great-uncle Matthew ap Madoc ap Meredith, esquire, of Llanwysthin, in Montgomeryshire, justice of the quorum, and crusty ruttleorum, a gentleman of great worth and property, descended in a strait line, by the female side, from Llewellyn, prince of Wales.'

This genealogical anecdote seemed to make some impression upon the North-Briton, who bowed very low to the descendant of Llewellyn, and observed that he himself had the honour of a scriptural nomination. The lady expressing a desire of knowing his address, he said, he designed himself Lieutenant Obadiah Lismahago; and in order to assist her memory, he presented her with a slip of paper inscribed with these three words, which she repeated with great emphasis, declaring, it was one of the most noble and sonorous names she had ever heard. He observed that Obadiah was an adventitious appellation, derived from his great- grandfather, who had been one of the original covenanters; but Lismahago was the family surname, taken from a place in Scotland so called. He likewise dropped some hints about the antiquity of his pedigree, adding, with a smile of self-denial, Sed genus et proavos, et quoe non fecimus ipsi, vix ea nostra voco, which quotation he explained in deference to the ladies; and Mrs Tabitha did not fail to compliment him on his modesty in waving the merit of his ancestry, adding, that it was the less necessary to him, as he had such a considerable fund of his own. She now began to glew herself to his favour with the grossest adulation. — She expatiated upon the antiquity and virtues of the Scottish nation, upon their valour, probity, learning, and politeness. She even descended to encomiums on his own personal address, his gallantry, good sense, and erudition. — She appealed to her brother, whether the captain was not the very image of our cousin governor Griffith. She discovered a surprising eagerness to know the particulars of his life, and asked a thousand questions concerning his atchievements in war; all which Mr Lismahago answered with a sort of jesuitical reserve, affecting a reluctance to satisfy her curiosity on a subject that concerned his own exploits.