Elia and The Last Essays of Elia / Charles Lamb, by Charles Lamb

All Fools’ Day

The compliments of the season to my worthy masters, and a merry first of April to us all!

Many happy returns of this day to you — and you — and you, Sir — nay, never frown, man, nor put a long face upon the matter. Do not we know one another? what need of ceremony among friends? we have all a touch of that same— you understand me — a speck of the motley. Beshrew the man who on such a day as this, the general festival, should affect to stand aloof. I am none of those sneakers. I am free of the corporation, and care not who knows it. He that meets me in the forest today, shall meet with no wise-acre, I can tell him. Stultus sum. Translate me that, and take the meaning of it to yourself for your pains. What, man, we have four quarters of the globe on our side, at the least computation.

Fill us a cup of that sparkling gooseberry — we will drink no wise, melancholy, politic port on this day — and let us troll the catch of Amiens —duc ad meduc ad me— how goes it?

Here shall he see

Gross fools as he.

Now would I give a trifle to know historically and authentically, who was the greatest fool that ever lived. I would certainly give him in a bumper. Marry, of the present breed, I think I could without much difficulty name you the party.

Remove your cap a little further, if you please: it hides my bauble. And now each man bestride his hobby, and dust away his bells to what tune he pleases. I will give you, for my part,

— The crazy old church clock.

And the bewildered chimes.

Good master Empedocles, you are welcome. It is long since you went a salamander-gathering down Ætna. Worse than samphire-picking by some odds. ’Tis a mercy your worship did not singe your mustachios.

Ha! Cleombrotus! and what salads in faith did you light upon at the bottom of the Mediterranean? You were founder, I take it, of the disinterested sect of the Calenturists.

Gebir, my old free-mason, and prince of plasterers at Babel, bring in your trowel, most Ancient Grand! You have claim to a seat here at my right hand, as patron of the stammerers. You left your work, if I remember Herodotus correctly, at eight hundred million toises, or thereabout, above the level of the sea. Bless us, what a long bell you must have pulled, to call your top workmen to their nuncheon on the low grounds of Sennaar. Or did you send up your garlick and onions by a rocket? I am a rogue if I am not ashamed to show you our Monument on Fish-street Hill, after your altitudes. Yet we think it somewhat.

What, the magnanimous Alexander in tears? — cry, baby, put its finger in its eye, it shall have another globe, round as an orange, pretty moppet!

Mister Adams —‘odso, I honour your coat — pray do us the favour to read to us that sermon, which you lent to Mistress Slipslop — the twenty and second in your portmanteau there — on Female Incontinence — the same — it will come in most irrelevantly and impertinently seasonable to the time of the day.

Good Master Raymund Lully, you look wise. Pray correct that error. —

Duns, spare your definitions. I must fine you a bumper, or a paradox. We will have nothing said or done syllogistically this day. Remove those logical forms, waiter, that no gentleman break the tender shins of his apprehension stumbling across them.

Master Stephen, you are late. — Ha! Cokes, is it you? — Aguecheek, my dear knight, let me pay my devoir to you. — Master Shallow, your worship’s poor servant to command. — Master Silence, I will use few words with you. — Slender, it shall go hard if I edge not you in somewhere. — You six will engross all the poor wit of the company today. — I know it, I know it.

Ha! honest R— — my fine old Librarian of Ludgate, time out of mind, art thou here again? Bless thy doublet, it is not over-new, threadbare as thy stories:— what dost thou flitting about the world at this rate? — Thy customers are extinct, defunct, bed-rid, have ceased to read long ago. — Thou goest still among them, seeing if, peradventure, thou canst hawk a volume or two. — Good Granville S— — thy last patron, is flown.

King Pandion, he is dead,

All thy friends are lapt in lead. —

Nevertheless, noble R— — come in, and take your seat here, between Armado and Quisada: for in true courtesy, in gravity, in fantastic smiling to thyself, in courteous smiling upon others, in the goodly ornature of well-apparelled speech, and the commendation of wise sentences, thou art nothing inferior to those accomplished Dons of Spain. The spirit of chivalry forsake me for ever, when I forget thy singing the song of Macheath, which declares that he might be happy with either, situated between those two ancient spinsters — when I forget the inimitable formal love which thou didst make, turning now to the one, and now to the other, with that Malvolian smile — as if Cervantes, not Gay, had written it for his hero; and as if thousands of periods must revolve, before the mirror of courtesy could have given his invidious preference between a pair of so goodly-propertied and meritorious-equal damsels, * * * * *

To descend from these altitudes, and not to protract our Fools’ Banquet beyond its appropriate day — for I fear the second of April is not many hours distant — in sober verity I will confess a truth to thee, reader. I love a Fool— as naturally, as if I were of kith and kin to him. When a child, with child-like apprehensions, that dived not below the surface of the matter, I read those Parables— not guessing at their involved wisdom — I had more yearnings towards that simple architect, that built his house upon the sand, than I entertained for his more cautious neighbour; I grudged at the hard censure pronounced upon the quiet soul that kept his talent; and — prizing their simplicity beyond the more provident, and, to my apprehension, somewhat unfeminine wariness of their competitors — I felt a kindliness, that almost amounted to a tendre, for those five thoughtless virgins. — I have never made an acquaintance since, that lasted; or a friendship, that answered; with any that had not some tincture of the absurd in their characters. I venerate an honest obliquity of understanding. The more laughable blunders a man shall commit in your company, the more tests he giveth you, that he will not betray or overreach you. I love the safety, which a palpable hallucination warrants; the security, which a word out of season ratifies. And take my word for this, reader, and say a fool told it you, if you please, that he who hath not a dram of folly in his mixture, hath pounds of much worse matter in his composition. It is observed, that “the foolisher the fowl or fish — woodcocks — dotterels — cod’s-heads, &c. the finer the flesh thereof,” and what are commonly the world’s received fools, but such whereof the world is not worthy? and what have been some of the kindliest patterns of our species, but so many darlings of absurdity, minions of the goddess, and, her white boys? — Reader, if you wrest my words beyond their fair construction, it is you, and not I, that are the April Fool.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/lamb/charles/elia/book1.8.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38