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ART. I.George Selwyn and his Contemporaries; with Me moirs and Notes. By JOHN HENEAGE JESSE. 4 vols. 8vo.
THE HERE is a charm in the bare title of this book. It is an open sesame to a world of pleasant things. As at the ringing of the manager's bell, the curtain rises, and discovers a brilliant tableau of wits, beauties, statesmen, and men of pleasure about town, attired in the quaint costume of our great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers; or, better still, we feel as if we had obtained the reverse of Bentham's wish-to live a part of his life at the end of the next hundred years-by being permitted to live a part of ours about the beginning of the last, with an advantage he never stipulated for, of spending it with the pleasantest people of the day.
Let us suppose that only twenty-four hours were granted us; how much might be done or seen within the time! We take the privilege of long intimacy to drop in upon Selwyn in Chesterfield Street, about half-past ten or eleven in the morning; we find him in his dressing-gown, playing with his dog Raton:at twelve we walk down arm-in-arm to White's, where Selwyn's arrival is hailed with a joyous laugh, and Topham Beauclerk
VOL. LXXX. NO. CLXI.
hastens to initiate us into the newest bit of scandal. The day is warm, and a stroll to Betty's fruit-shop (St James's Street) is proposed. Lord March is already there, settling his famous bet with young Mr Pigot, that old Mr Pigot would die before Sir William Codrington. Just as this grave affair is settled, a cry is raised of the Gunnings are coming,' and out we all tumble to gaze and criticise. At Brookes's, our next house of call, Sir Charles Hanbury Williams is easily persuaded to entertain the party by reading his verses, not yet printed, on the marriage of Mr Hussey (an Irish gentleman) with the Duchess of Manchester (the best match in the kingdom,) and is made happy by our compliments; but looks rather blank on Rigby's hinting that the author will be obliged to fight half the Irishmen in town, which, considering the turn of the verses, seemed probable enough. To change at once the subject and the scene, we accompany him and Rigby to the House of Commons, where we find the Great Commoner' making a furious attack on the Attorney-General (Murray,) who (as Walpole phrases it) suffered for an hour. After hearing an animated reply from Fox (the first Lord Holland,) we rouse Selwyn, who is dozing behind the Treasury Bench, and, wishing to look in upon the Lords, make him introduce us. We find Lord Chesterfield speaking, the Chancellor (Hardwicke) expected to speak next, the Duke of Cumberland just come in, and the Duke of Newcastle shuffling about in a ludicrous state of perturbation, betokening a crisis; but Selwyn grows impatient, and we hurry off to Strawberry Hill, to join the rest of the celebrated partie quarrée, or 6 out of town' party, who are long ago assembled. The petit souper appears on the instant, and as the champagne circulates, there circulates along with it a refined, fastidious, fashionable, anecdotic, gossiping kind of pleasantry, as exhilarating as its sparkle, and as volatile as its froth. We return too late to see Garrick, but time enough for the house-warming fête at Chesterfield house, where the Duke of Hamilton loses a thousand pounds at faro, because he chooses to ogle Elizabeth Gunning instead of attending to his cards.
We shall, perhaps, be reminded that we have seen nothing of Fielding, Richardson, Smollett, Johnson, Collins, Akenside, Mason, or Gray; but our gay friends, alas! never once alluded to them, and for us to waste any part of so short a period in looking for men of letters, would be to act like the debtor in the Queen's Bench Prison, who, when he got a day rule, invariably spent it in the Fleet.
According to Mr Jesse, we owe this new glimpse into these times to a habit of Selwyn's, which it is difficult to reconcile with