The poet’s adage, All the world’s a stage,
Has stood the test of each revolving age;
Another simile perhaps will bear,
’Tis a Stage Coach, where all must pay the fare;
Where each his entrance and his exit makes,
And o’er life’s rugged road his journey takes.
Some unprotected must their tour perform,
And bide the pelting of the pitiless storm;
While others, free from elemental jars,
By fortune favour’d and propitious stars,
Secure from storms, enjoy their little hour,
Despise the whirlwind, and defy the shower.
Such is our life — in sunshine or in shade,
From evil shelter’d, or by woe assay’d:
Whether we sit, like Niobe, all tears,
Or calmly sink into the vale of years;
With houseless, naked Edgar sleep on straw,
Or keep, like Cæsar, subject worlds in awe —
To the same port our devious journeys tend,
Where airy hopes and sickening sorrows end;
Sunk every eye, and languid every breast,
Each wearied pilgrim sighs and sinks to rest.
Among the writers of English novels, Henry Fielding holds the first rank; he was the novelist of nature, and has described some scenes which bear a strong resemblance to that which is here delineated. The artist, like the author, has taken truth for his guide, and given such characters as are familiar to all our minds. The scene is a country inn yard, at the time passengers are getting into a stage-coach, and an election procession passing in the back-ground. Nothing can be better described; we become of the party. The vulgar roar of our landlady is no less apparent than the grave, insinuating, imposing countenance of mine host. Boniface solemnly protests that a bill he is presenting to an old gentleman in a laced hat is extremely moderate. This does not satisfy the paymaster, whose countenance shows that he considers it as a palpable fraud, though the act against bribery, which he carries in his pocket, designates him to be of a profession not very liable to suffer imposition. They are in general less sinned against than sinning. An ancient lady, getting into the coach, is from her breadth a very inconvenient companion in such a vehicle; but to atone for her rotundity, an old maid of a spare appearance, and in a most grotesque habit, is advancing towards the steps.
A portly gentleman, with a sword and cane in one hand, is deaf to the entreaties of a poor little deformed postilion, who solicits his customary fee. The old woman smoking her short pipe in the basket, pays very little attention to what is passing around her: cheered by the fumes of her tube, she lets the vanities of the world go their own way. Two passengers on the roof of the coach afford a good specimen of French and English manners. Ben Block, of the Centurion, surveys the subject of La Grande Monarque with ineffable contempt.
In the window are a very curious pair; one of them blowing a French-horn, and the other endeavouring, but without effect, to smoke away a little sickness, which he feels from the fumes of his last night’s punch. Beneath them is a traveller taking a tender farewell of the chambermaid, who is not to be moved by the clangour of the great bar bell, or the more thundering sound of her mistress’s voice.
The back-ground is crowded with a procession of active citizens; they have chaired a figure with a horn-book, a bib, and a rattle, intended to represent Child, Lord Castlemain, afterwards Lord Tylney, who, in a violent contest for the county of Essex, opposed Sir Robert Abdy and Mr. Bramston. The horn-book, bib, and rattle are evidently displayed as punningly allusive to his name.4
Some pains have been taken to discover in what part of Essex this scene is laid; but from the many alterations made by rebuilding, removal, &c. it has not been positively ascertained, though it is probably Chelmsford.
4 At this election a man was placed on a bulk, with a figure representing a child in his arms: as he whipped it he exclaimed, “What, you little child, must you be a member?” This election being disputed, it appeared from the register-book of the parish where Lord Castlemain was born, that he was but twenty years of age when he offered himself a candidate.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55