Pompey the Little - CHAP. VI.<br> <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Another long chapter of characters.<o:p></o:p></i></p>

CHAP. VI.
Another long chapter of characters.


ON the first floor of this house there lodged a family, whose characters, though pretty common in life, I do not recollect to have sound in any of the novels or romances, with which our age abounds.

The head of it, Sir Thomas Frippery, had formerly enjoyed a little post in Queen Anne's court, which entitled him to a knighthood in consequence of his office, though the salary of it was very inconsiderable and his own family estate very small. At the death of the queen he lost this employment, and was obliged to retire into the country; where he gave himself the airs of a minister of state, and amused his country neighbours with such stories of courts and intrigues of governments, that he was esteemed and oracle of politics. And many of them were weak enough to believe from this discourse, that he had constituted a kind of triumvirate with Lord Oxford and Lord B. in the management of public affairs. The same ridiculous vanity pursued him through every article of his life, and though his estate was known hardly to amount to three hundred pounds a year, he laboured to make people believe that it exceeded as many thousands. For this purpose, whatever he was obliged to do out of frugality, he was sure to put off with a pretence of taste; and always masked his economy under some pretended reason very far from the truth. For instance, when he laid down his coach, he boasted everywhere, how much better it was to hire job-horses as occasion required, than to run the hazard of accidents by keeping them葉hat coachmen were such villainous rascals, it was impossible to put any confidence in them葉hat going into dirty stables to overlook their management, and treading up to one's knees in horse-dung, was extremely disagreeable to people of fashion預nd therefore for his part, he had laid down his coach to avoid the trouble and anxiety of keeping horses.

When his country-neighbours dined with him, whose ignorance he thought he could impose on, he would give them alder-wine and swear it was hermitage, call a gammon of bacon a Bayonne ham, and the commonest home-made cheese he put off for the best Parmesan that ever came into England; which he said had been sent him as a present by a young nobleman of his acquaintance then on his travels.

About once in three years he brought his wife and family to town, which served for matter of conversation to them during the two intermediate years, that were spent in the country; and they looked forward to the annus mirabilis [wonderful year] with as much rapture and expectation, as some Christians do to their Millennium.

During the time of his residence in London, Sir Thomas every morning attended the levees of ministers, to beg the restitution of his old place, or an appointment to a new one; which he said he would receive with the humblest acknowledgments, and discharge in any manner they should please to prescribe. Yet whether it was that his majesty's ministers were insensible of his merits, or could find no place suitable to his abilities, the unhappy knight profited little by his court-attendance, and might as well have saved himself the expense of a triennial journey to London.

But though these expeditions did not increase his fortune, they added much to his vanity, and he returned into the country new-laden with stories to amuse his country neighbours. He talked with the greatest familiarity of 'My old friend my good Lord 覧,' and related conversations that had passed at the Duke of 覧's table, with as much circumstance and particularity as if he had been present at them.

The last article of vanity we shall mention, were his clothes; which gives the finishing stroke to his character: for he chose rather to wear the rags of old finery, which had been made up in the reign of queen Anne, than to submit to plain clothes of a modern make and fashion. He fancied the poor people in his neighbourhood were to be awed with the sight of tarnished lace, and wherever he went, the gold-fringe fell from his person so plentifully, that you might at any time trace his footsteps by the relics of finery, which he left behind him.

Lady Frippery, his accomplished spouse, did not fall short of her husband in any of these perfections, but rather improved them with some new graces of her own. For having been something of a beauty in her youth, she now retained all the scornful airs and languishing disdain, which she had formerly practised to her dying lovers.

They had one only daughter, who having been educated all her life at home under her parents, was now become a master-piece of folly, vanity and impertinence. She had not one gesture or motion that was natural; her mouth never opened without some ridiculous grimace; her voice had learnt a tone and accent foreign to itself; her eyes squinted with endeavouring to look alluring, and all her limbs were distorted with affectation. Her conversation turned always upon politeness, and she fancied herself so very beautiful, well-bred, genteel and engaging, that it was impossible for any man to look on her without admiration.

It happened now to be the London winter with this amiable family, and they were crowded into scanty lodgings on a first floor, consisting only of a dining-room, a bed-chamber and a closet, for they could not afford to take any other part of the house to enlarge their apartments. The dining-room was set apart for the reception of company; Sir Thomas and his lady took possession of the chamber, and Miss slept in a little tent-bed occasionally stuffed into the closet.

On the second floor, over the head of Sir Thomas and his family, lodged a young gentleman, who likewise shall make his appearance in this history, as he afterwards married the young lady last described.

This young gentleman, usually called Jack Chase among his intimates, possessed an estate of fifteen hundred pounds a year; which was just sufficient to furnish him with a variety of riding-frocks, Kevenhullar hats, jockey-boots, and coach-whips. His great ambition was to be deemed a Jemmy Fellow; which term perhaps some of my readers may not understand, and therefore we must explain it by circumstances. He appeared always in the morning in a Newmarket frock, decorated with a great number of green, red or blue capes; he wore a short bob wig, neat buck's-skin breeches, white-silk stockings, and carried a cane switch in his hand. He kept a high phaeton chaise, and four bay cattle; a stable of hunters, and a pack of hounds in the country. The reputation of being a coachman, and driving a set of horses with skill, he esteemed the greatest character in human life, and thought himself seated on the very pinnacle of glory, when he was mounted up on a coach-box at a horse-race. He was one of the most active spirits at Newmarket, and always boasted as a singular accomplishment, that he did not ride above eight stone and a half. Though he was a little man, and not very healthy in his constitution, he desired to be thought capable of going through any fatigue, and was always laying wagers of the journeys he could perform in a day. He had likewise an ambition to be thought a man of consummate debauch, and endeavoured to persuade you, that he never went to bed without first drinking half a dozen bottles of claret, lying with as many wh覧res, and knocking down as many watchmen. In the mornings he attended Mr. Broughton's amphitheatres, and in the evenings, if he was drunk in time (which indeed he seldom failed to be) he came behind the scenes of the play-house, in the middle of the third act, and there heroically exposed himself to the hisses of the gallery. Whenever he met you, he constantly began with describing his last night's debauch, or related the arrival of a new wh覧re upon the town, or entertained you with the exploits of his bay cattle: and if you declined conversing with him on these three illustrious subjects, he swore you was a fellow of no soul or genius, and for ever afterwards shunned your company.

By living in the same house this jemmy young gentleman had got acquainted with Sir Thomas's family, and seemed to be commencing a courtship with the daughter; which her parents encouraged from a knowledge of his estate. Sir Thomas indeed could have wished for a son-in-law more after his own heart, having no great idea of horsemanship and the heroes of Newmarket; but on the other hand, he thought it imprudent to let his daughter slip so advantageous a match, and therefore studied to promote it by all the stratagems, which parents think it lawful to practise in the disposal of their daughters; for it must be confessed, this sage knight had a very laudable regard for Mr. Chase's estate.

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