When I had brought it to her, she turned to Captain Brown —
“Now allow me to read you a scene, and then the present company can judge between your favourite, Mr Boz, and Dr Johnson.”
She read one of the conversations between Rasselas and Imlac, in a high-pitched, majestic voice: and when she had ended, she said, “I imagine I am now justified in my preference of Dr Johnson as a writer of fiction.” The Captain screwed his lips up, and drummed on the table, but he did not speak. She thought she would give him a finishing blow or two.
“I consider it vulgar, and below the dignity of literature, to publish in numbers.”
“How was the Rambler published, ma’am?” asked Captain Brown in a low voice, which I think Miss Jenkyns could not have heard.
“Dr Johnson’s style is a model for young beginners. My father recommended it to me when I began to write letters—I have formed my own style upon it; I recommended it to your favourite.”
“I should be very sorry for him to exchange his style for any such pompous writing,” said Captain Brown.
Miss Jenkyns felt this as a personal affront, in a way of which the Captain had not dreamed. Epistolary writing she and her friends considered as her forte. Many a copy of many a letter have I seen written and corrected on the slate, before she “seized the half-hour just previous to post-time to assure” her friends of this or of that; and Dr Johnson was, as she said, her model in these compositions. She drew herself up with dignity, and only replied to Captain Brown’s last remark by saying, with marked emphasis on every syllable, “I prefer Dr Johnson to Mr Boz.”
It is said—I won’t vouch for the fact—that Captain Brown was heard to say, sotto voce, “D-n Dr Johnson!” If he did, he was penitent afterwards, as he showed by going to stand near Miss Jenkyns’ arm-chair, and endeavouring to beguile her into conversation on some more pleasing subject. But she was inexorable. The next day she made the remark I have mentioned about Miss Jessie’s dimples.
It was impossible to live a month at Cranford and not know the daily habits of each resident; and long before my visit was ended I knew much concerning the whole Brown trio. There was nothing new to be discovered respecting their poverty; for they had spoken simply and openly about that from the very first. They made no mystery of the necessity for their being economical. All that remained to be discovered was the Captain’s infinite kindness of heart, and the various modes in which, unconsciously to himself, he manifested it. Some little anecdotes were talked about for some time after they occurred. As we did not read much, and as all the ladies were pretty well suited with servants, there was a dearth of subjects for conversation. We therefore discussed the circumstance of the Captain taking a poor old