To Richard Bentley, Esq.
My Dear Sir,
I should have replied sooner to your letter, but that the last three days in January are, as you are aware, always dedicated at the Hall to an especial battue, and the old house is full of shooting-jackets, shot-belts, and ‘double Joes.’ Even the women wear percussion caps, and your favourite (?) Rover, who, you may remember, examined the calves of your legs with such suspicious curiosity at Christmas, is as pheasant-mad as if he were a biped, instead of being a genuine four-legged scion of the Blenheim breed. I have managed, however, to avail myself of a lucid interval in the general hallucination (how the rain did come down on Monday!), and as you tell me the excellent friend whom you are in the habit of styling ‘a Generous and Enlightened Public’ has emptied your shelves of the first edition, and ‘asks for more,’ why, I agree with you, it would be a want of respect to that very respectable personification, when furnishing him with a further supply, not to endeavour, at least to amend my faults, which are few, and your own, which are more numerous. I have, therefore, gone to work con amore, supplying occasionally on my own part a deficient note, or elucidatory stanza, and on yours knocking out, without remorse, your superfluous i s, and now and then eviscerating your colon.
My duty to your illustrious friend thus performed, I have a crow to pluck with him — Why will he persist, — as you tell me he does persist — in calling me by all sorts of names but those to which I am entitled by birth and baptism — my ‘Sponsorial and Patronymic appellations,’ as Dr. Pangloss has it! — Mrs. Malaprop complains, and with justice, of an ‘assault upon her parts of speech,’ but to attack one’s very existence —— to deny that one is a person in esse and scarcely to admit that one may be a person in posse, Is tenfold cruelty; ‘it is pressing to death, whipping, and hanging!’ — let me entreat all such likewise to remember, that as Shakespeare beautifully expresses himself elsewhere — I give his words as quoted by a very worthy Baronet in a neighbouring county, when protesting against a defamatory placard at a general election —
‘Who steals my purse steals stuff! —
’Twas mine — ’ tisn’t his — nor nobody else’s!
But he who runs away with my Good NAME,
Robs me of what does not do him any good,
And makes me deuced poor!!’
(A reading which seems most unaccountably to have escaped the researches of all modern Shakespearians, including the rival editors of the new and illustrated versions.)
In order utterly to squash and demolish every gainsayer I had thought, at one time, of asking my old and, esteemed friend, Richard Lane, to crush them at once with his magic pencil, and to transmit my features to posterity, where all his works are sure to be ‘delivered according to the direction;’ but somehow the noble-looking profiles which he has recently executed of the Kemble family put me a little out of conceit of my own, while the undisguised amusement which my ‘Mephistopheles Eyebrow,’ as he termed it, afforded him, in the ‘full face,’ induced me to lay aside the design. Besides, my dear Sir, since, as has well been observed, ‘there never was a married man yet who had not somebody remarkably like him walking about town,’ it is a thousand to one but my lineaments might, after all, out of sheer perverseness be ascribed to any body rather than to the real owner. I have therefore sent you, instead thereof, a fair sketch of Tappington, taken from the Folkestone road (I tore it last night out of Julia Simpkinson’s album); get Gilks to make a woodcut of it. And now, if any miscreant (I use the word only in its primary and ‘Pickwickian’ sense of ‘unbeliever’) ventures to throw any further doubt upon the matter, why, as Jack Cade’s friend says in the play, ‘There are the chimneys in my father’s house, and the bricks are alive at this day to testify it!’
‘Why, very well then — we hope here be truths!’
Heaven be with you, my dear Sir! — I was getting a little excited; but you, who are mild as the milk that dews the soft whisker of the new-weaned kitten, will forgive me when, wiping away the nascent moisture from my brow, I ‘pull in,’ and subscribe myself,
Yours quite as much as his own,
Feb. 2nd, 1843.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10