Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 32

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This communicative friend having announced all the remarkable characters of both sexes, that appeared at court, we resolved to adjourn, and retired. At the foot of the stair-case, there was a crowd of lacqueys and chairmen, and in the midst of them stood Humphry Clinker, exalted upon a stool, with his hat in one hand, and a paper in the other, in the act of holding forth to the people — Before we could inquire into the meaning of this exhibition, he perceived his master, thrust the paper into his pocket, descended from his elevation, bolted through the crowd, and brought up the carriage to the gate.

My uncle said nothing till we were seated, when, after having looked at me earnestly for some time, he burst out a-laughing, and asked if I knew upon what subject Clinker was holding forth to the mob — 'If (said he) the fellow is turned mountebank, I must turn him out of my service, otherwise he'll make Merry Andrews of us all' — I observed, that, in all probability, he had studied medicine under his master, who was a farrier.

At dinner, the squire asked him, if he had ever practised physic? 'Yes, and please your honour (said he) among brute beasts; but I never meddle with rational creatures.' 'I know not whether you rank in that class the audience you was haranguing in the court at St. James's, but I should be glad to know what kind of powders you was distributing; and whether you had a good sale' — 'Sale, sir! (cried Clinker) I hope I shall never be base enough to sell for gold and silver, what freely comes of God's grace. I distributed nothing, an like your honour, but a word of advice to my fellows in servitude and sin.' 'Advice! concerning what?' 'Concerning profane swearing, an please your honour; so horrid and shocking, that it made my hair stand on end.' 'Nay, if thou can'st cure them Of that disease, I shall think thee a wonderful doctor indeed' 'Why not cure them, my good master? the hearts of those poor people are not so stubborn as your honour seems to think — Make them first sensible that you have nothing in view but their good, then they will listen with patience, and easily be convinced of the sin and folly of a practice that affords neither profit nor pleasure — At this remark, our uncle changed colour, and looked round the company, conscious that his own withers were not altogether unwrung. 'But, Clinker (said he) if you should have eloquence enough to persuade the vulgar to resign those tropes and figures of rhetoric, there will be little or nothing left to distinguish their conversation from that of their betters.' 'But then your honour knows, their conversation will be void of offence; and, at the day of judgment, there will be no distinction of persons.'

Humphry going down stairs to fetch up a bottle of wine, my uncle congratulated his sister upon having such a reformer in the family; when Mrs Tabitha declared, he was a sober civilized fellow; very respectful, and very industrious; and, she believed, a good Christian into the bargain. One would think, Clinker must really have some very extraordinary talent, to ingratiate himself in this manner with a virago of her character, so fortified against him with prejudice and resentment; but the truth is, since the adventure of Salt-hill, Mrs Tabby seems to be entirely changed. She has left off scolding the servants, an exercise which was grown habitual, and even seemed necessary to her constitution; and is become so indifferent to Chowder, as to part with him in a present to lady Griskin, who proposes to bring the breed of him into fashion. Her ladyship is the widow of Sir Timothy Griskin, a distant relation of our family. She enjoys a jointure of five hundred pounds a-year, and makes shift to spend three times that sum. Her character before marriage was a little equivocal; but at present she lives in the bon ton, keeps card-tables, gives private suppers to select friends, and is visited by persons of the first fashion — She has been remarkably civil to us all, and cultivates my uncle with the most particular regard; but the more she strokes him, the more his bristles seem to rise — To her compliments he makes very laconic and dry returns — T'other day she sent us a pottle of fine strawberries, which he did not receive without signs of disgust, muttering from the Aeneid, timeo Danaos et Dona ferentes. She has twice called for Liddy, of a forenoon, to take an airing in the coach; but Mrs Tabby was always so alert (I suppose by his direction) that she never could have the niece without her aunt's company. I have endeavoured to sound Square-toes on this subject; but he carefully avoids all explanation.

I have now, dear Phillips, filled a whole sheet, and if you have read it to an end, I dare say, you are as tired as

Your humble servant,
LONDON, June 2.