Our hero arrives in England. A conversation between two ladies concerning his master.
BUT as it is not my design to follow this gentleman through his tour, we must be contented to pass over great part of the puppyhood of little Pompey, till the time of his arrival at London: only it may be of importance to remember, that in his passage from Calais to Dover he was extremely sea-sick, and twice given over by a physician on board; but some medicinal applications, together with a week's confinement in his chamber, after he came to town, restored him to his perfect health.
Hillario was no sooner landed, than he dispatched his French valet to London, with orders to provide him handsome lodgings in Pall-Mall, or some other great street near the court; and himself set forwards the next day with his whole retinue. Let us therefore imagine him arrived and settled in his new apartments; let us suppose the news-writers to have performed their duty, and all the important world of dress busy, as usual, in reporting from one to another, 'that Hillario was returned from his travels.'
As soon as his chests and baggage were arrived in town, his servants were all employed in setting forth to view in his ante-chamber, the several valuable curiosities he had collected; that his visitors might be detained as they passed through it, in making observations on the elegance of his taste. For though dress and gallantry were his principal ambition, he had condescended, in compliance with the humour of the times, to consult the Ciceroni at Rome, and other places, as to what was proper to be purchased, in order to establish a reputation for Vertù: and they had furnished him accordingly, at a proportionable expense, with all the necessary ingredients of modern taste; that is to say, with fingers and toes of ancient statues, medals bearing the name of Roman emperors on their inscriptions, and copied-original pictures of all the great masters and schools of Italy. They had likewise taught him a set of phrases and observations proper to be made, whenever the conversation should turn upon such subjects; which, by the help of a good memory, he used with tolerable propriety: he could descant in terms of art, on rusts and varnishes; and describe the air, the manner, the characteristic of different painters, in language almost as learned as the ingenious writer of a late essay. 'Here,' he would observe, 'the drawing is incorrect; there the attitude ungraceful—the costume ill-preserved, the contours harsh, the ordonnance irregular—the light too strong—the shade too deep,'—with many other affected remarks, which may be found in a very grave sententious book of morality.
But dress, as we before observed, was his darling vanity, and consequently, his rooms were more plentifully scattered with clothes than any other curiosity. There all the pride of Paris was exhibited to view; suits of velvet and embroidery, sword-hilts, red-heeled shoes, and snuff-boxes, lay about in negligent confusion yet all artfully disposed to catch the eyes of his female visitors. Nor did he appear with less éclat without doors; for he had now shown his gilt chariot and bay horses in all the streets of gay resort, and was allowed to have the most splendid brilliant equipage in London. The club at White's soon voted him a member of their fraternity, and there began a kind of rivalry among the ladies of fashion, who should first engage him to their assemblies. At all toilettes and parties in the morning, who but Hillario? At all drums and diversions in the evening, who but Hillario? Nobody came into the side-box at a play-house with so graceful a negligence; and it was on all hands confessed, that he had the most accomplished way of talking nonsense of any man of quality in London.
As the fashionable part of the world are glad of any fresh topic of conversation, that will not much fatigue their understandings; and the arrival of a new fop, the sight of a new chariot, or the appearance of a new fashion, are all articles of the highest importance to them; it could not be otherwise, but that the show and figure, which Hillario made, must supply all the polite circles with matter for commendation or censure. As a little specimen of this kind of conversations may, perhaps, not be disagreeable, I will beg the reader's patience a moment, to relate what passed on this subject between Cleanthe and Cleora, two ladies of eminence and distinction in the commonwealth of vanity. The former was a young lady of about fifty, who had out-lived many generations of beauties, yet still preserved the airs and behaviour of fifteen; the latter a celebrated toast now in the meridian of her charms, and giddy with the admiration she excited. These two ladies had been for some time past engaged in a strict female friendship, and were now sitting down to supper at twelve o'clock at night, to talk over the important follies of the day. They had played at cards that evening at four different assemblies, left their names each of them at near twenty doors, and taken half a turn round Ranelagh, where the youngest had been engaged in a very smart exchange of bows, smiles, and compliments with Hillario. This had been observed by Cleanthe, who was a the same place, and envied her the many civilities she received from a gentleman so splendidly dressed, whose embroidery gave a peculiar poignancy to his wit. Wherefore at supper she began to vent her spite against him, telling Cleora, she wondered how she could listen to the impertinence of such a coxcomb: 'Surely,' said she, 'you cannot admire him; for my part, I am amazed at people for calling him handsome—do you really think him, my dear, so agreeable as the town generally makes him?' Cleora hesitating a moment, replied, 'she did not well know what beauty was in a man: To be sure,' added she, 'if one examines his features one by one, one sees nothing very extraordinary in him; but altogether he has an air, and a manner and a notion of things, my dear—he is lively, and airy, and engaging, and all that—and then his dresses are quite charming.' 'Yes,' said Cleanthe, 'that may be a very good recommendation of his tailor, and if one designs to marry a suit of velvet, why nobody better than Hillario—How should you like him for a husband, Cleora?' 'Faith,' said Cleora smiling, 'I never once thought seriously upon the subject in my life; but surely, my dear, there is such a ing as fancy and taste in dress; in my opinion, a man shows his parts in nothing more than in the choice of his clothes and equipage.' 'Why to be sure,' said Cleanthe, 'the man has something of a notion at dress, I confess it—yet methinks I could make an alteration for the better in his liveries.' Then began a very curious conversation on shoulder-knots, and they ran over all the liveries in town, commending one, and disliking another, with great nicety of judgment. From shoulder-knots they proceeded to the colour of coach-horses; and Cleanthe, resolving to dislike Hillario's equipage, asked her if she did not prefer greys to bays? Cleora answered in the negative, and the clock struck one before they had decided this momentous question; which was contested with so much earnestness, that both of them were beginning to grow angry, and to say ill-natured things, had not a new topic arisen to divert the discourse. His chariot came next under consideration, and then they returned to speculate [on] his dress; and when they had fully exhausted all the external accomplishments of a husband, they vouchsafed, at last, to come to the qualities of the mind. Cleora preferred a man who had travelled; 'because,' said she, 'he has seen the world, and must be ten thousand times more agreeable and entertaining than a dull home-bred fellow, who has never improved himself by seeing things:' But Cleanthe was of a different opinion, alleging that this would only give him a greater conceit of himself, and make him less manageable by a wife. Then they fell to abusing matrimony, numbered over the many unhappy couples of their acquaintance, and both of them for a moment resolved to live single: But those resolutions were soon exploded; 'for though,' said Cleanthe, 'I should prefer a friendship with an agreeable man far beyond marrying him, yet you know, my dear, we girls are under so many restraints, that one must wish for a husband, if it be only for the privilege of going into public places, without the protection of a married woman along with one, to give one countenance.' Cleora rallied the expression of we girls, which again had like to have bred a quarrel between them; and soon afterwards happening to say, she should like to dance with Hillario at the next Ridotta, Cleanthe could not help declaring, that she should be pleased also to have him for a partner. This stirred up a warmer altercation than any that had yet arisen, and the contended with such vehemence for this distant imaginary happiness, which perhaps might happen to neither of them, that they grew quite unappeasable, and in the end, departed to bed with as much malice and enmity, as if the one had made an attempt on the other's life.