Abbildungen der Seite

that in the other, it was at least excusable to employ his wit and humour, merely to create an innocent laugh. The fact is, that although Foote was certainly far from holding out an example for unreserved imitation, either in the correctness of his morals, or the regularity of his habits, he was yet equally far from being systematically bad. The conscious superiority of great parts made him careless about the inferior decencies of life ; and “ the renown of being smart” induced him to say many things not at all prompted by his feelings.

But his expressions were set against him, and his enemies made the most of them.

He left the University with a good share of classical knowledge, which he never lost sight of in the midst of his greatest dissipations ; snatching occasional hours for not only reviewing his school reading, but also for perusing some of the best authors in French and English. This he continued to do through life ; judging very properly, that the fame of mere conviviality goes no furtlier than the temporary attachment of bottle companions, and is as easily


lost as acquired; while a superior knowledge gains respect and inward satisfaction. This was his pleasure and his pride; here he cultivated his taste, and enlarged the views of his comprehensive mind.

In the early part of his life he was what the world then called a fine gentleman: and

1 in his morning rambles through the parks, at the Bedford, &c. he exhibited a full dress suit, bag wig and solitaire, sword, muff, rings, &c.; so that he was often taken for a foreigner. He was occasionally fond of dress to the last; but his taste in this was not so correct as in other matters : he was seldom wholly uniform; and took snuff in such quantities, as often rendered him a very slovenly beau. He lived much in taverns, and at public places, in the early part of his life; but when he became settled as manager of the Haymarket theatre, and his revenue assumed a more enlarged and perinanent form, he resided regularly, when he wintered in London, in Suffolkstreet; and in the summer almost constantly at North-end; where he kept up the pleasures of the table with great splendour and hospitality. His company generally consisted of men of rank and fashion, some literary characters, and a selection from the stage.

In this scene he always acted to great advantage. Though he did not, like Lorenzo de Medici, arrange his guests at table according to the punctuality of their arrival, he placed them so as to show no marked distinction or superiority. Every body was talked to, and attended, in turn; every body was drawn into his best subject of conversation and often the man of mo desty, or of weaker powers, was supported by the well-timed and polite interference of the host. In short, he set every one at ease with himself, the better to enable him to please and be pleased.

In these exercises of hospitality he knew his own station perfectly well, and supported it with great propriety. He carved well, and expeditiously ; and his table was covered, on such occasions, with every thing suitable to a man of taste and fashion :-two or three courses, a handsome dessert, French wines, &c. He added to these his best

[ocr errors]

treat, his own conversation : not only in the brilliancy of his wit, but also on the more solid topics of taste and literature. It was often astonishing to those who did not know the whole range of his mind, and who had only given him credit for mere humour, to see with what versatility he could turn from the broadest mirth to subjects of history, politics, and general learning. Even the subject of religion (the last which, from his giddy heedless conduct, he was suspected of understanding) he discussed with becoming gravity and knowledge; evincing a strong sense of the practical duties of moral life, as well as an intimate acquaintance even with the writings of the fathers, and the several branches of ecclesiastical history.

His more familiar days were passed with a few friends, and one or two needy actors or authors, who constantly hung upon him, and to whom he was kind in his table, and advice. Yet no inan is a hero to his valet-de-chambre," so these intimates were witnesses to great occasional dejection of spirits. He would suddenly fall from the height of mirth to the lowest note

purse, his



of “moping, musing melancholy;" then

" burst into a flood of tears, exclaiming, that “ his follies had made him many enemies, and his extravagance would bring him to a workhouse!” But these seemed to be mere momentary fits of despondence, occasioned by a previous waste of animal spirits : as the first object of ridicule which presented itself, he instantly seized; and with a spring of fancy, that seemed to rebound in proportion as it had been compressed, he again blazed out in all his meridian brightness.

In his benevolence and charities he was liberal ; and had always several poor pensioners on his list, besides his purse being ever open to occasional donations. likewise a very indulgent master to his servants. In his theatre he preserved the same kindness, not only in his general treatment of the performers, but in retaining those who lived long with him, merely from friendship, often when he had very little occasion for their services. Poor old Usher was one instance of this, among many others. This man could latterly do little in the line of his profession, but that little he did

He was

« ZurückWeiter »