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Thomas Love Peacock
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Ay impute a honte plus que mediocre etre vu spectateur ocieux de tant vaillans,
disertz, et chevalereux personnaiges. RABELAIS.
LADY CLARINDA (to the Captain). I declare the creature has been listening to all
this rigmarole, instead of attending to me. Do you ever expect forgiveness? But
now that they are all talking together, and you cannot make out a word they say,
nor they hear a word that we say, I will describe the company to you. First, there
is the old gentleman on my left hand, at the head of the table, who is now leaning
the other way to talk to my brother. He is a good-tempered, half-informed person,
very unreasonably fond of reasoning, and of reasoning people; people that talk
nonsense logically: he is fond of disputation himself, when there are only one or
two, but seldom does more than listen in a large company of illumines. He made
a great fortune in the city, and has the comfort of a good conscience. He is very
hospitable, and is generous in dinners; though nothing would induce him to give
sixpence to the poor, because he holds that all misfortune is from imprudence,
that none but the rich ought to marry, and that all ought to thrive by honest
industry, as he did. He is ambitious of founding a family, and of allying himself
with nobility; and is thus as willing as other grown children to throw away
thousands for a gew-gaw, though he would not part with a penny for charity. Next
to him is my brother, whom you know as well as I do. He has finished his
education with credit, and as he never ventures to oppose me in anything, I have
no doubt he is very sensible. He has good manners, is a model of dress, and is
reckoned ornamental in all societies. Next to him is Miss Crotchet, my sister-in-
law that is to be. You see she is rather pretty, and very genteel. She is tolerably
accomplished, has her table always covered with new novels, thinks Mr. Mac
Quedy an oracle, and is extremely desirous to be called "my lady." Next to her is
Mr. Firedamp, a very absurd person, who thinks that water is the evil principle.
Next to him is Mr. Eavesdrop, a man who, by dint of a certain something like
smartness, has got into good society. He is a sort of bookseller's tool, and coins
all his acquaintance in reminiscences and sketches of character. I am very shy of
him, for fear he should print me.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. If he print you in your own likeness, which is that of an
angel, you need not fear him. If he print you in any other, I will cut his throat. But
proceed LADY CLARINDA. Next to him is Mr. Henbane, the toxicologist, I think
he calls himself. He has passed half his life in studying poisons and antidotes.
The first thing he did on his arrival here was to kill the cat; and while Miss
Crotchet was crying over her, he brought her to life again. I am more shy of him
than the other.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. They are two very dangerous fellows, and I shall take
care to keep them both at a respectful distance. Let us hope that Eavesdrop will
sketch off Henbane, and that Henbane will poison him for his trouble.
LADY CLARINDA. Well, next to him sits Mr. Mac Quedy, the Modern Athenian,
who lays down the law about everything, and therefore may be taken to
understand everything. He turns all the affairs of this world into questions of
buying and selling. He is the Spirit of the Frozen Ocean to everything like