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CONGREVE'S DEATH AND BURIAL.
ity, Lords Cobham and Shannon, the Duchess of Newcastle, Lady Mary Godolphin, Colonel Churchill (who receives “twenty pounds, together with my gold-headed cane”), and, lastly, "to the poor of the parish,” the magnificent sum of ten pounds. “Blessed are those who give to the rich ;" these words must surely have expressed the sentiment of the worldly Congreve.
However, Congreve got something in return from the Duchess Henrietta, which he might not have received from "the poor of the parish,” to wit, a monument, and an inscription on it written by her own hand. I have already said what “Queen Sarah” thought of the latter, and, for the rest, those who care to read the nonsense on the walls of Westminster Abbey can decide for themselves as to the honor the poet received from his titled friend.
The latter days of William Congreve were passed in wit and gout: the wine, which warmed the one probably brought on the latter. After a course of ass's milk, which does not seem to have done him much good, the ex-dramatist retired to Bath, a very fashionable place for departing life in, under easy and elegant circumstances. But he not only drank of the springs beloved of King Bladud, of apocryphal memory, but even went so far as to imbibe the snail-water, which was then the last species of quack cure in vogue. This, probably, dispatched him. But it is only just to that disagreeable little reptile that infests our gardens, and whose slime was supposed to possess peculiarly strengthening properties, to state that his death was materially hastened by being overturned when driving in his chariot. He was close upon sixty, had long been blind from cataracts in his eyes, and as he was no longer either useful or ornamental to the world in general, he could perhaps be spared. He died soon after this accident in January, 1729. He had the sense to die at a time when Westminster Abbey, being regarded as a mausoleum, was open to receive the corpse of any one who had a little distinguished himself, and even of some who had no distinction whatever. He was buried there with great pomp, and his dear duchess set up his monument. So much for his body. What became of the soul of a dissolute, vain, witty, and unprincipled man, is no concern of ours. Requiescat in pace, if there is any peace for those who are buried in Westminster Abbey.
“THERE is nothing new under the sun,” said Walpole, by way of a very original remark. "No," whispered George Selwyn, “nor under the grandson either.”
Mankind, as a body, has proved its silliness in a thousand ways, but in none, perhaps, so ludicrously as in its respect for a man's coat. He is not always a fool that knows the value of dress; and some of the wisest and greatest of men have been dandies of the first water. King Solomon was one and Alexander the Great was another; but there never was a more despotic monarch, nor one more humbly obeyed by his subjects, than the King of Bath, and he won his dominions by the cut of his coat. But as Hercules was killed by a dressshirt, so the beaux of the modern world have generally ruined themselves by their wardrobes, and brought remorse to their hearts, or contempt from the very people who once worshiped them. The husband of Mrs. Damer, who appeared in a new suit twice a day, and whose wardrobe sold for £15,000, blew his brains out at a coffee-house. Beau Fielding, Beau Nash, and Beau Brummell all expiated their contemptible vanity in obscure old age of want and misery. As the world is full of folly, the history of a fool is as good a mirror to hold up to it as another; but in the case of Beau Nash the only question is, whether he or his subjects were the greater fools. So now for a picture of as much folly as could well be crammed into that hot basin in the Somersetshire hills, of which
It is a hard thing for a man not to have had a father-harder still, like poor Savage, to have one whom he can not get hold of; but perhaps it is hardest of all, when you have a father, and that parent a very respectable man, to be told that you never had one. This was Nash's case, and his father was so little known, and so seldom mentioned, that the splendid Beau was thought almost to have dropped from the clouds, ready dressed and powdered. He dropped in reality from any thing but a heavenly place—the shipping-town of Swansea : so that Wales can claim the honor of having produced the finest beau
Old Nash was, perhaps, a better gentleman than his son; but with far less pretensions. He was a partner in a glass
of his age.
manufactory. The Beau, in after years, often got rallied on the inferiority of his origin, and the least obnoxious answer he ever made was to Sarah of Marlborough, as rude a creature as himself, who told him he was ashamed of his
parentage. “No, madam,” replied the King of Bath, “I seldom mention my father, in company, not because I have any reason to be ashamed of him, but because he has some reason to be ashamed of me." Nash, though a fop and a fool, was not a bad-hearted man, as we shall see. And if there were no other redeeming point in his character, it is a great deal to say for him, that in an age of toadyism, he treated rank in the same manner as he did the want of it, and did his best to remove the odious distinctions which pride would have kept up in his dominions. In fact, King Nash may be thanked for having, by his energy in this respect, introduced into society the first elements of that middle class which is found alone in England.
Old Nash-whose wife, by the way, was niece to that Colonel Poyer who defended Pembroke Castle in the days of the first Revolution—was one of those silly men who want to make gentlemen of their sons, rather than good men. He had his wish. His son Richard was a very fine gentleman, no doubt; but, unfortunately, the same circumstances that raised him to that much-coveted position, also made him a gambler and a profligate. Oh! foolish papas, when will you learn that a Christian snob is worth ten thousand irreligious gentlemen ? When will you be content to bring up your boys for heaven rather than for the brilliant world ? Nash, senior, sent his son first to school and then to Oxford, to be made a gentleman of. Richard was entered at Jesus College, the haunt of the Welsh. In my day, this quiet little place was celebrated for little more than the humble poverty of its members, one third of whom rejoiced in the cognomen of Jones. They were not renowned for cleanliness, and it was a standing joke with us silly boys, to ask at the door for “that Mr. Jones who had a tooth-brush.” If the college had the same character then, Nash must have astonished its dons, and we are not surprised that in his first year they thought it better to get rid of him.
His father could ill afford to keep him at Oxford, and fondly hoped he would distinguish himself. “My boy Dick” did so at the very outset, by an offer of marriage to one of those charming sylphs of that academical city, who are always on the look-out for credulous undergraduates. The affair was discovered, and Master Richard, who was not seventeen, was removed from the University.* Whether he ever, in after
* Warner (“History of Bath,” p. 366) says, “Nash was removed from Oxford by his friends."
OFFER OF KNIGHTHOOD.
life, made another offer, I know not, but there is no doubt that he ought to have been married, and that the connections he formed in later years were far more disreputable than his first love affairs.
The worthy glass-manufacturer having failed to make his son a gentleman in one way, took the best step to make him a blackguard, and, in spite of the wild inclinations he had already evinced, bought him a commission in the army. In this new position the incipient Beau did every thing but his duty; dressed superbly, but would not be in time for parade; spent more money than he had, but did not obey orders; and finally, though not expelled from the army, he found it convenient to sell his commission, and return home, after spending the proceeds.
Papa was now disgusted, and sent the young Hopeless to shift for himself. What could a well-disposed, handsome youth do to keep body and, not soul, but clothes together ? He had but one talent, and that was for dress. Alas, for our degenerate days! When we are pitched upon our own bottoms, we must work; and that is a highly ungentlemanly thing to do. But in the beginning of the last century, such a degrading resource was quite unnecessary. There were always at hand plenty of establishments where a youth could obtain the necessary funds to pay his tailor, if fortune favored him; and if not, he could follow the fashion of the day, and take to what the Japanese call “ the happy Dispatch.” Nash probably suspected that he had no brains to blow out, and he determined the more resolutely to make fortune his mistress. He went to the gaming-table, and turned his one guinea into ten, and his ten into a hundred, and was soon blazing about in gold lace, and a new sword, the very delight of dandies.
He had entered his name, by way of excuse, at the Temple, and we can quite believe that he ate all the requisite dinners, though it is not so certain that he paid for them. He soon found that a fine coat is not so very far beneath a good brain in worldly estimation, and when, on the accession of William the Third, the Templars, according to the old custom, gave his Majesty a banquet, Nash, as a promising Beau, was selected to manage the establishment. It was his first experience of the duties of an M. C., and he conducted himself so ably on this occasion that the king even offered to make a knight of him. Probably Master Richard thought of his empty purse, for he replied with some of that assurance which afterward stood him in such good stead, “Please your majesty, if you intend to make me a knight, I wish I may be one of your poor knights of Windsor, and then I shall have a fortune, at least able to sup