Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 73

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Letter LXXIII

To Dr LEWIS.

DEAR DICK,

Since the last trouble I gave you, I have met with a variety of incidents, some of them of a singular nature, which I reserve as a fund for conversation; but there are others so interesting, that they will not keep in petto till meeting.

Know then, it was a thousand pounds to a sixpence, that you should now be executing my will, instead of perusing my letter! Two days ago, our coach was overturned in the midst of a rapid river, where my life was saved with the utmost difficulty, by the courage, activity, and presence of mind of my servant Humphry Clinker — But this is not the most surprising circumstance of the adventure — The said Humphry Clinker proves to be Matthew Loyd, natural son of one Matthew Loyd of Glamorgan, if you know any such person — You see, Doctor, that notwithstanding all your philosophy, it is not without some reason that the Welchmen ascribe such energy to the force of blood — But we shall discuss this point on some future occasion.

This is not the only discovery which I made in consequence of our disaster — We happened to be wrecked upon a friendly shore — The lord of the manor is no other than Charles Dennison, our fellow-rake at Oxford — We are now happily housed with that gentleman, who has really attained to that pitch of rural felicity, at which I have been aspiring these twenty years in vain. He is blessed with a consort, whose disposition is suited to his own in all respects; tender, generous, and benevolent — She, moreover, possesses an uncommon share of understanding, fortitude, and discretion, and is admirably qualified to be his companion, confidant, counsellor, and coadjutrix. These excellent persons have an only son, about nineteen years of age, just such a youth as they could have wished that Heaven would bestow to fill up the measure of their enjoyment — In a word, they know no other allay to their happiness, but their apprehension and anxiety about the life and concerns of this beloved object.

Our old friend, who had the misfortune to be a second brother, was bred to the law, and even called to the bar; but he did not find himself qualified to shine in that province, and had very little inclination for his profession — He disobliged his father, by marrying for love, without any consideration of fortune; so that he had little or nothing to depend upon for some years but his practice, which afforded him a bare subsistence; and the prospect of an increasing family, began to give him disturbance and disquiet. In the mean time, his father dying, was succeeded by his elder brother, a fox-hunter and a sot, who neglected his affairs, insulted and oppressed his servants, and in a few years had well nigh ruined the estate, when he was happily carried off by a fever, the immediate consequence of a debauch. Charles, with the approbation of his wife, immediately determined to quit business, and retire into the country, although this resolution was strenuously and zealously opposed by every individual, whom he consulted on the subject. Those who had tried the experiment, assured him that he could not pretend to breathe in the country for less than the double of what his estate produced; that, in order to be upon the footing of a gentleman, he would be obliged to keep horses, hounds, carriages, with a suitable number of servants, and maintain an elegant table for the entertainment of his neighbours; that farming was a mystery, known only to those who had been bred up to it from the cradle, the success of it depending not only upon skill and industry, but also upon such attention and oeconomy as no gentleman could be supposed to give or practise; accordingly, every attempt made by gentlemen miscarried, and not a few had been ruined by their prosecution of agriculture — Nay, they affirmed that he would find it cheaper to buy hay and oats for his cattle, and to go to market for poultry, eggs, kitchen herbs, and roots, and every the most inconsiderable article of house-keeping, than to have those articles produced on his own ground.