Another college character.
ABOUT this time, three ladies and a gentleman happened to be returning out of the north whither they had been to make a summer-visit, and were inclined to take Cambridge in their way home; which place they believed to be worthy of their curiosity, having never seen it. For this purpose they procured a double recommendation to two gentlemen of different colleges, lest one of them should happen to be absent at the time of their arrival. One of these gentlemen was the reverend Mr. Williams, who received a letter from a friend of his, advertising him of the arrival of three ladies, and desiring he would assist their curiosity in showing them the university. At the same time came another letter from another gentleman to an ancient doctor of divinity, whose character we shall here disclose.
This gentleman in his youth, when his friend was at college, had been a man of great gaiety, and stands upon record for the first person who introduced tea-drinking into the University of Cambridge. He had good parts, improved by much classical reading; but it was his misfortune very early in life to fall in love with an apothecary's daughter, with whom he maintained a courtship near twenty years; in which time he laboured by all means in his power, but without success, to obtain a living, as the foundation of matrimony. For though his vivacity had rendered him agreeable to many young gentlemen of fortune, who were his contemporaries at college, he found himself forgotten by them, when they came into the world, and too late experienced the difference between a companion and a friend. Disappointed in all his hopes, and growing sick of a tedious courtship, he shut himself up in his chamber, and there abandoned himself to melancholy: he shunned all his friends, and became a perfect recluse; appeared but seldom at meals in the college-hall, and then with so wild a face and unfashionable a dress, that all the younger part of the college, who knew nothing of his history, esteemed him a madman. This was the person recommended to conduct ladies about the university, for his friend unluckily made no allowance. For the fifty years that had elapsed since his own leaving the college, but concluded his old acquaintance to be the same man of gallantry in his age, which he had formerly remembered him in his youth.
When the ladies arrived at Cambridge, accompanied by a gentleman who was their relation, they laid their heads together to consider what measures they should pursue; and all agreeing that it would be proper to pay the doctor a visit at his chamber, they set out in a body for that purpose. Being directed to his college, and having with difficulty found out his stair-case, they mounted it with many wearisome steps, and knocked at the door for admittance. It was a long while before the sound pierced through the sevenfold night-caps of the old doctor, who sat dozing half-asleep in an elbow-chair by a fire almost extinguished. When he had opened the door, he started back at the sight of ladies with as much amazement as is he had seen a ghost, and kept the door half shut in his hand, to prevent their entrance into his room. Indeed his apartment was not a spectacle that deserved exhibition, for it seemed not to have been swept for twenty years past, and lay in great disorder, scattered over with mouldy books and yellow manuscripts. The cobwebs extended themselves from one corner of the room to the other, and the mice and rats took their pastime about the floor with as much security as if it had been uninhabited. On a table stood a can of stale small beer, and a plate of cheese-parings, the relics of his last night's supper; all which appearances created such astonishment in his visitors, that they began to believe themselves directed to a wrong person, and thought it impossible for this to be the gay gentleman, who had been recommended to them as the perfection of courtesy and good-breeding.
When therefore they had suppressed their inclination to laugh as well as they could, the gentleman who was spokesman of the party, began to beg pardon for the disturbance they had given in consequence of a wrong information, and desired to be directed to the chambers of Doctor Clouse. 'Oho,' said the doctor, 'What—I warrant you are the folks that I received a letter about last week!' The gentleman then assured him they were the same, and begged the favour of his assistance, if it was not too much trouble, to show the ladies the university, which they would acknowledge as a very particular favour. 'Alack-a-day!' answered he with a stammering voice, 'I should be very glad, sir, to do the ladies any service in my power; but really I protest, sir, I have almost forgot the university. 'Tis many years since I have ventured out of my own college, and indeed it is not often that I go out of my room—you'll find some younger man, ladies, that knows more of the matter than I do; for I suppose everything is altered since my time, and I question whether I should know my way about the streets.' After which words he made a motion to retire into his chamber, which the company observing, asked pardon once more for the disturbance they had given, and made haste away to laugh at this uncommon adventure.