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BE AU FIELDING.
my LET us be wise, boys, here's a fool coming,” said a sensible man, when he saw Beau Nash's splendid carriage draw up to the door. Is a beau a fool ? Is a sharper a fool? Was Bonaparte a fool? If you reply “no” to the last two questions, you must give the same answer to the first. A beau is a fox, but not a fool-a very clever fellow, who, knowing the weakness of his brothers and sisters in the world, takes advantage of it to make himself a fame and a fortune. Nash, the son of a glass-merchant-Brummell, the hopeful of a small shopkeeper—became the intimates of princes, dukes, and fashionables ; were petty kings of Vanity Fair, and were honored by their subjects. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the realm of folly, the sharper is a monarch. The only proviso is, that the cheat come not within the jurisdiction of the law. Such a cheat is the beau or dandy, or fine gentleman, who imposes on his public by his clothes and appearance. Bona-fide monarchs have done as much ; Louis XIV. himself the title of Le Grand Monarque by his manners, his dress, and his vanity. Fielding, Nash, and Brummell did nothing
It is not a question whether such roads to eminence be contemptible or not, but whether their adoption in one station of life be more so than in another. Was Brummell a whit more contemptible than “ Wales ?” Or is John Thomas, the pride and glory of the “Domestics' Free-and-Easy," whose whiskers, figure, face, and manner are all superb, one atom more ridiculous than your recognized beau ? I trow not. What right, then, has your beau to a place among wits? I fancy Chesterfield would be much disgusted at seeing his name side by side with that of Nash in this volume; yet Chesterfield had no objection, when at Bath, to do homage to the king of that city, and may have prided himself on exchanging pinches from diamond-set snuff-boxes with that superb gold-laced dignitary in the Pump-room. Certainly, people who thought little of Philip Dormer Stanhope thought a great deal of the glass-merchant's reprobate son when he was in power, and submitted without a murmur to his impertinences. The fact is, that the beaux and the wits are more intimately connected than the latter would care to own: the wits have all been, or aspired to be, beaux, and beaux have had their fair share of wit; both
ON WITS AND BEAUX.
lived for the same purpose—to shine in society; both used the same means, coats, and bon-mots. The only distinction is, that the garments of the beaux were better, and their sayings not so good as those of the wits; while the conversation of the wits was better, and their apparel not so striking as those of the beaux. So, my Lord Chesterfield, who prided yourself quite as much on being a fine gentleman as on being a fine wit, you can not complain at your proximity to Mr. Nash and others who were fine gentlemen, and would have been fine wits if they could.
Robert Fielding was, perhaps, the least of the beaux; but then, to make up for this, he belonged to a noble family; he married a duchess, and, what is more, he beat her. Surely in the kingdom of fools such a man is not to be despised. You may be sure he did not think he was, for was he not made the subject of two papers in “The Tatler,” and what more could a man desire ? His father
was a Suffolk squire, claiming relationship with the Earls of Denbigh, and, therefore, with the Hapsburgs, from whom the Beau and the Emperors of Austria had the common honor of being descended. Perhaps neither of them had sufficient sense to be proud of the greatest intellectual ornament of their race, the author of " Tom Jones ;” but as our hero was dead before the humorist was born, it is not fair to conjecture what he might have thought on the subject.
It does not appear that very much is known of this great gem of the race of Hapsburg. He had the misfortune to be very handsome, and the folly to think that his face would be his fortune: it certainly stood him in good stead at times, but it also brought him into a lamentable dilemma.
His father was not rich, and sent his son to the Temple to study laws which he was only fitted to break. The young
Adonis had sense enough to see that destiny did not beckon him. to fame in the gloom of a musty law court, and removed a little farther up to the Thames, and the more fashionable region of Scotland Îard. Here, where now Z. 300 repairs to report his investigations to a Commissioner, the young dandies of Charles II.'s day strutted in gay doublets, swore hasty oaths of choice invention, smoked the true Tobago from huge pipebowls, and ogled the fair but not too bashful dames who passed to and fro in their chariots. The court took its name from the royalties of Scotland, who, when they visited the South, were there lodged as being conveniently near to Whitehall Palace. It is odd enough that the three architects, Inigo Jones, Vanbrugh, and Wren, all lived in this yard.
It was not to be supposed that a man who could so well
appreciate a handsome face and well-cut doublet as Charles II. should long overlook his neighbor, Mr. Robert Fielding, and in due course the Beau, who had no other diploma, found himself in the honorable position of a justice of the peace.
The emoluments of this office enabled Orlando, as “The Tatler” calls him, to shine forth in all his glory. With an enviable indifference to the future, he launched out into an expenditure which alone would have made him popular in a country where the heaviest purse makes the greatest gentle
His lackeys were arrayed in the brightest yellow coats with black sashes—the Hapsburg colors. He had a carriage, of course, but like Sheridan, whom his gave so much trouble to pay for, it was hired, though drawn by his own horses. This carriage was described as being shaped like a sea-shell; and “The Tatler” calls it “ an open tumbril of less size than ordinary, to show the largeness of his limbs and the grandeur of his personage to the best advantage.” The said-limbs were his especial pride: he gloried in the strength of his leg and arm; and when he walked down the street, he was followed by an admiring crowd, whom he treated with as much haughtiness as if he had been the emperor himself, instead of his cousin five hundred times removed. He used his strength to good or bad purpose, and was a redoubted fighter and bully, though good-natured withal. In the Mall, as he strutted, he was the cynosure of all female eyes. His dress had all the elegance of which the graceful costume of that period was capable, though Fielding did not, like Brummell, understand the delicacy of a quiet, but studied style. Those were simpler, somewhat more honest days. It was not necessary for a man to cloak his vices, nor be ashamed of his cloak. The beau then-a-day openly and arrogantly gloried in the grandeur of his attire; and bragging was a part of his character. Fielding was made by his tailor; Brummell made his tailor: the only point in common to both, was that neither of them paid the tailor's bill. The fine gentleman, under the Stuarts, was fine only in his lace and his velvet doublet; his language was coarse, his manners coarser, his vices the coarsest of all. No wonder when the king himself could get so drunk with Sedley and Buckhurst, as to be unable to give an audience appointed for; and when the chief fun of his two companions was to divest themselves of all the habiliments which civilization has had the ill taste to make necessary, and in that state run about the streets.
Orlando wore the finest ruffles and the heaviest sword; his wig was combed to perfection; and in his pocket he carried a little comb with which to arrange it from time to time, even
ADONIS IN SEARCH OF A WIFE.
as the dandy of to-day pulls out his whiskers or curls his mustache. Such a man could not be passed over; and accordingly he numbered half the officers and gallants of the town among his intimates. He drank, swore, and swaggered, and the snobs of the day proclaimed him “a complete gentleman.”
His impudence, however, was not always tolerated. In the playhouses of the day, it was the fashion for some of the spectators to stand upon the stage, and the places in that position were chiefly occupied by young gallants. The ladies came most in masks; but this did not prevent Master Fielding from making his remarks very freely, and in no very refined strain to them. The modest damsels, whom Pope has described,
“ The fair sat pouting at the courtier's play,
And virgins smiled at what they blushed before,” were not too coy to be pleased with the fop's attentions, and replied in like strain. The players were unheeded; the audience laughed at the improvised and natural wit, when carefully prepared dialogues failed to fix their attention. The actors were disgusted, and, in spite of Master Fielding's herculean strength, kicked him off the stage, with a warning not to come again.
The rôle of a beau is expensive to keep up; and our justice of the peace could not, like Nash, double his income by gaming. He soon got deep in debt, as every celebrated dresser has done. The old story, not new even in those days, was enacted, and the brilliant Adonis had to keep watch and ward against tailors and bailiffs. On one occasion they had nearly caught him; but, his legs being lengthy, he gave them fair sport as far as St. James's Palace, where the officers on guard rushed out to save their pet, and drove off the myrmidons of the law at the point of the sword.
But debts do not pay themselves, nor die, and Orlando with all his strength and prowess could not long keep off the constable. Evil days gloomed at no very great distance before him, and the fear of a sponging-house and debtors' prison compelled him to turn his handsome person to account. Had he not broken a hundred hearts already? had he not charmed a thousand pairs of beaming eyes ? was there not one owner of one pair who was also possessed of a pretty fortune? Who should have the honor of being the wife of such an Adonis ? who, indeed, but she who could pay highest for it; and who
with a handsome income but a well-dowered widow ? A widow it must be—a widow it should be. Noble indeed
was the sentiment which inspired this great man to sacrifice himself on the altar of Hymen for the good of his creditors. Ye young men in the Guards, who do this kind of thing every day—that is, every day that you can meet with a widow with the proper qualifications—take warning by the lamentable history of Mr. Robert Fielding, and never trust to "third parties.”
A widow was found, fat, fair, and forty-and oh!-charm greater far than all the rest—with a fortune of sixty thousand pounds; this was a Mrs. Deleau, who lived at Whaddon in Surrey, and at Copthall Court in London. Nothing could be more charming; and the only obstacle was the absence of all acquaintance between the parties—for, of course, it was impossible for any widow, whatever her attractions, to be insensible to those of Robert Fielding. Under these circumstances, the Beau looked about for an agent, and found one in the person of a Mrs. Villars, hairdresser to the widow. He offered this person a handsome douceur in case of success, and she was to undertake that the lady should meet the gentleman in the most unpremeditated manner. Various schemes were resorted to: with the alias, for he was not above an alias, of Major General Villars, the Beau called at the widow's country house, and was permitted to see the gardens. At a window he espied a lady, whom he took to be the object of his pursuit -bowed to her majestically, and went away, persuaded he must have made an impression. But, whether the widow was wiser than wearers of weeds have the reputation of being, or
hether the agent had really no power in the matter, the meeting never came off.
The hairdresser naturally grew anxious, the douceur was too good to be lost, and as the widow could not be had, some one must be supplied in her place.
One day while the Beau was sitting in his splendid “nightgown,” as the morning-dress of gentlemen was then called, two ladies were ushered into his august presence. He had been warned of this visit, and was prepared to receive the yielding widow. The one, of course, was the hairdresser, the other a young, pretty, and apparently modest creature, who blushed much-though with some difficulty-at the trying position in which she found herself. The Beau, delighted, did his best to reassure her. He flung himself at her feet, swore, with oaths more fashionable than delicate, that she was the only woman he ever loved, and prevailed on the widow so far as to induce her to “call again tomorrow.'
Of course she came, and Adonis was in heaven. He wrote little
poems to her-for, as a gallant, he could of course make