Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 46

[+] | [-] | reset
 

In hope of riding it down before it could take fast hold on my constitution, I resolved to visit another relation, one Mr Pimpernel, who lived about a dozen miles from the place where we lodged. Pimpernel being the youngest of four sons, was bred an attorney at Furnival's inn; but all his elder brothers dying, he got himself called to the bar for the honour of his family, and soon after this preferment, succeeded to his father's estate which was very considerable. He carried home with him all the knavish chicanery of the lowest pettifogger, together with a wife whom he had purchased of a drayman for twenty pounds; and he soon found means to obtain a dedimus as an acting justice of peace. He is not only a sordid miser in his disposition, but his avarice is mingled with a spirit of despotism, which is truly diabolical. — He is a brutal husband, an unnatural parent, a harsh master, an oppressive landlord, a litigious neighbour, and a partial magistrate. Friends he has none; and in point of hospitality and good breeding, our cousin Burdock is a prince in comparison of this ungracious miscreant, whose house is the lively representation of a gaol. Our reception was suitable to the character I have sketched. Had it depended upon the wife, we should have been kindly treated. — She is really a good sort of a woman, in spite of her low original, and well respected in the country; but she has not interest enough in her own house to command a draught of table beer, far less to bestow any kind of education on her children, who run about, like tagged colts, in a state of nature. — Pox on him! he is such a dirty fellow, that I have not patience to prosecute the subject.

By that time we reached Harrigate, I began to be visited by certain rheumatic symptoms. The Scotch lawyer, Mr Micklewhimmen, recommended a hot bath of these waters so earnestly, that I was over-persuaded to try the experiment. — He had used it often with success and always stayed an hour in the bath, which was a tub filled with Harrigate water, heated for the purpose. If I could hardly bear the smell of a single tumbler when cold, you may guess how my nose was regaled by the streams arising from a hot bath of the same fluid. At night, I was conducted into a dark hole on the ground floor, where the tub smoaked and stunk like the pot of Acheron, in one corner, and in another stood a dirty bed provided with thick blankets, in which I was to sweat after coming out of the bath. My heart seemed to die within me when I entered this dismal bagnio, and found my brain assaulted by such insufferable effluvia. I cursed Micklewhimmen for not considering that my organs were formed on this side of the Tweed; but being ashamed to recoil upon the threshold, I submitted to the process.

After having endured all but real suffocation for above a quarter of an hour in the tub, I was moved to the bed and wrapped in blankets. — There I lay a full hour panting with intolerable heat; but not the least moisture appearing on my skin, I was carried to my own chamber, and passed the night without closing an eye, in such a flutter of spirits as rendered me the most miserable wretch in being. I should certainly have run distracted, if the rarefaction of my blood, occasioned by that Stygian bath, had not burst the vessels, and produced a violent haemorrhage, which, though dreadful and alarming, removed the horrible disquiet — I lost two pounds of blood, and more, on this occasion; and find myself still weak and languid; but, I believe, a little exercise will forward my recovery, and therefore I am resolved to set out to-morrow for York, in my way to Scarborough, where I propose to brace up my fibres by sea-bathing, which, I know, is one of your favourite specificks. There is, however, one disease, for which you have found as yet no specific, and that is old age, of which this tedious unconnected epistle is an infallible symptom: what, therefore, cannot be cured, must be endured, by you, as well as by

Yours,
MATT. BRAMBLE
HARRIGATE, June 26.