Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 80

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Letter LXXX

To Sir WATKIN PHILLIPS, Bart. at Oxon.

DEAR KNIGHT,

The fatal knots are now tied. The comedy is near a close; and the curtain is ready to drop: but, the latter scenes of this act I shall recapitulate in order — About a fortnight ago, my uncle made an excursion across the country, and brought hither a particular friend, one Mr Baynard, who has just lost his wife, and was for some time disconsolate, though by all accounts he had much more cause for joy than for sorrow at this event. — His countenance, however, clears up apace; and he appears to be a person of rare accomplishments. — But, we have received another still more agreeable reinforcement to our company, by the arrival of Miss Willis from Gloucester. She was Liddy's bosom friend at the boarding-school, and being earnestly sollicited to assist at the nuptials, her mother was so obliging as to grant my sister's request, and even to come with her in person. Liddy, accompanied by George Dennison and me, gave them the meeting halfway, and next day conducted them hither in safety. Miss Willis is a charming girl, and, in point of disposition, an agreeable contrast to my sister, who is rather too grave and sentimental for my turn of mind. The other is gay, frank, a little giddy, and always good-humoured. She has, moreover, a genteel fortune, is well born, and remarkably handsome. Ah Phillips! if these qualities were permanent — if her humour would never change, nor her beauties decay, what efforts would I not make — But these are idle reflections — my destiny must one day be fulfilled.

At present we pass the time as agreeably as we can. — We have got up several farces, which afforded unspeakable entertainment by the effects they produced among the country people, who are admitted to all our exhibitions. — Two nights ago, Jack Wilson acquired great applause in Harlequin Skeleton, and Lismahago surprised us all in the character of Pierot. — His long lank sides, and strong marked features, were all peculiarly adapted to his part. — He appeared with a ludicrous stare, from which he had discharged all meaning: he adopted the impressions of fear and amazement so naturally, that many of the audience were infected by his looks; but when the skeleton held him in chace his horror became most divertingly picturesque, and seemed to endow him with such praeternatural agility as confounded all the spectators. It was a lively representation of Death in pursuit of Consumption, and had such an effect upon the commonalty, that some of them shrieked aloud, and others ran out of the hall in the utmost consternation.

This is not the only instance in which the lieutenant has lately excited our wonder. His temper, which had been soured and shrivelled by disappointment and chagrin, is now swelled out, and smoothed like a raisin in plumb-porridge. From being reserved and punctilious, he is become easy and obliging. He cracks jokes, laughs and banters, with the most facetious familiarity; and, in a word, enters into all our schemes of merriment and pastime — The other day his baggage arrived in the waggon from London, contained in two large trunks and a long deal box not unlike a coffin. The trunks were filled with his wardrobe, which he displayed for the entertainment of the company, and he freely owned, that it consisted chiefly of the opima spolia taken in battle. What he selected for his wedding suit, was a tarnished white cloth faced with blue velvet, embroidered with silver; but, he valued himself most upon a tye-periwig, in which he had made his first appearance as a lawyer above thirty years ago. This machine had been in buckle ever since, and now all the servants in the family were employed to frizz it out for the occasion, which was yesterday celebrated at the parish church. George Dennison and his bride were distinguished by nothing extraordinary in their apparel. His eyes lightened with eagerness and joy, and she trembled with coyness and confusion. My uncle gave her away, and her friend Willis supported her during the ceremony.