Sometimes, from negligence (but be not negligent) or ill-luck, which is unavoidable, and attends the best directed efforts, you sit down to table with your stock ill arranged or incomplete, or of an inferior quality. Your object is to make men laugh. It must be done. I have known a pathetic passage, quoted timely and with a happy emphasis from a popular novel—say, “Alice, or the Mysteries”—I have known it, I say, do more execution upon the congregated amount of midriff, than the best joke of the evening. (There is one passage in that “thrilling” performance, where Alice, overjoyed that her lover is restored to her, is represented as frisking about him like a dog around his long-absent proprietor, which, whenever I have taken it in hand, has been rewarded with the most vociferous and gleesome laughter.)
And this reminds me that I should say a word about laughers. I know not whether it be prudent to come to terms with any man, however stentorian his lungs, or flexible his facial organs, with a view to engage him as a cachinnatory machine. A confederate may become a traitor—a rival he is pretty certain of becoming. Besides, strive as you may, you can never secure an altogether unexceptionable individual—one who will “go the whole hyaena,” and be at the same time the entire jackal. If he once start “lion” on his own account, furnished with your original roar, with which you yourself have supplied him, good-bye to your supremacy. “Farewell, my trim-built wherry”—he is in the same boat only to capsise you.
“And the first lion thinks the last a bore,”
and rightly so thinks. No; the best and safest plan is to work out your own ends, independent of aid which at best is foreign, and is likely to be formidable.
I may perhaps resume this subject more at large at a future time. My space at present is limited, but I feel I have hardly as yet entered upon the subject.
* * * * *
Ye banks and braes o’ Buckingham,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair,
When I am on my latest legs,
And may not bask amang ye mair!
And you, sweet maids of honour,—come,
Come, darlings, let us jointly mourn,
For your old flame must now depart,
Depart, oh! never to return!
Oft have I roam’d o’er Buckingham,
From room to room, from height to height;
It was such pleasant exercise,
And gave me such an appetite!
Yes! when the dinner-hour arrived,
For me they never had to wait,
I was the first to take my chair,
And spread my ample napkin straight.
And if they did not quickly come,
After the dinner-bell had knoll’d,
I just ran up my private stairs,
To say the things were getting cold!
But now, farewell, ye pantry steams,
(The sweets of premiership to me),
Ye gravies, relishes, and creams,
Malmsey and Port, and Burgundy!