Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 45

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The 'squire, having perused this letter, put it into my hand, without saying a syllable; and when I had read it we looked at each other in silence. From a certain sparkling in his eyes, I discovered there was more in his heart, than he cared to express with his tongue, in favour of poor Martin; and this was precisely my own feeling, which he did not fail to discern, by the same means of communication — 'What shall we do (said he) to save this poor sinner from the gallows, and make him a useful member of the commonwealth; and yet the proverb says, Save a thief from the gallows, and he'll cut your throat.' I told him I really believed Martin was capable of giving the proverb the lie; and that I should heartily concur in any step he might take in favour of his solicitation. We mutually resolved to deliberate upon the subject, and, in the mean time, proceeded on our journey. The roads, having been broken up by the heavy rains in the spring, were so rough, that although we travelled very slowly, the jolting occasioned such pain, to my uncle, that he was become exceedingly peevish when we arrived at this place, which lies about eight miles from the postroad, between Wetherby and Boroughbridge.

Harrigate-water, so celebrated for its efficacy in the scurvy and other distempers, is supplied from a copious spring, in the hollow of a wild common, round which, a good many houses have been built for the convenience of the drinkers, though few of them are inhabited. Most of the company lodge at some distance, in five separate inns, situated in different parts of the commons, from whence they go every morning to the well, in their own carriages. The lodgers of each inn form a distinct society, that eat together; and there is a commodious public room, where they breakfast in disabille, at separate tables, from eight o'clock till eleven, as they chance or chuse to come in — Here also they drink tea in the afternoon, and play at cards or dance in the evening. One custom, however, prevails, which I looked upon as a solecism in politeness. The ladies treat with tea in their turns; and even girls of sixteen are not exempted from this shameful imposition — There is a public ball by subscription every night at one of the houses, to which all the company from the others are admitted by tickets; and, indeed, Harrigate treads upon the heels of Bath, in the articles of gaiety and dissipation — with this difference, however, that here we are more sociable and familiar. One of the inns is already full up to the very garrets, having no less than fifty lodgers, and as many servants. Our family does not exceed thirty-six; and I should be sorry to see the number augmented, as our accommodations won't admit of much increase.

At present, the company is more agreeable than one could expect from an accidental assemblage of persons, who are utter strangers to one another — There seems to be a general disposition among us to maintain good-fellowship, and promote the purposes of humanity, in favour of those who come hither on the score of health. I see several faces which we left at Bath, although the majority are of the Northern counties, and many come from Scotland for the benefit of these waters — In such a variety, there must be some originals, among whom Mrs Tabitha Bramble is not the most inconsiderable — No place where there is such an intercourse between the sexes, can be disagreeable to a lady of her views and temperament — She has had some warm disputes at table, with a lame parson from Northumberland, on the new birth, and the insignificance of moral virtue; and her arguments have been reinforced by an old Scotch lawyer, in a rye periwig, who, though he has lost his teeth, and the use of his limbs, can still wag his tongue with great volubility. He has paid her such fulsome compliments, upon her piety and learning, as seem to have won her heart; and she, in her turn, treats him with such attention as indicates a design upon his person; but, by all accounts, he is too much of a fox to be inveigled into any snare that she can lay for his affection.

We do not propose to stay long at Harrigate, though, at present, it is our headquarters, from whence we shall make some excursions, to visit two or three of our rich relations, who are settled in this country. — Pray, remember me to all our friends of Jesus, and allow me to be still

Yours affectionately,
J. MELFORD
HARRIGATE, June 23.