Gryll Grange, by Thomas Love Peacock

Chapter 8


Cool the wine, Doris. Pour it in the cup,

Simple, unmixed with water. Such dilution

Serves only to wash out the spirit of man.

The doctor, under the attraction of his new acquaintance, had allowed more time than usual to elapse between his visits to Gryll Grange, and when he resumed them he was not long without communicating the metamorphosis of the old Tower, and the singularities of its inhabitants. They dined well as usual, and drank their wine cool.

Miss Gryll. There are many things in what you have told us that excite my curiosity; but first, what do you suppose is the young gentleman’s religion?

The Rev. Dr. Opimian. From the great liking he seems to have taken to me, I should think he was of the Church of England, if I did not rather explain it by our Greek sympathy. At the same time, he kept very carefully in view that Saint Catharine is a saint of the English Church Calendar. I imagine there is less of true piety than of an abstract notion of ideal beauty, even in his devotion to her. But it is so far satisfactory that he wished to prove his religion, such as it is, to be within the pale of the Church of England.

Miss Gryll. I like the idea of his closing the day with a hymn, sung in concert by his seven Vestals.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian. I am glad you think charitably of the damsels. It is not every lady that would. But I am satisfied they deserve it.

Mr. Gryll. I should like to know the young gentleman. I wish you could manage to bring him here. Should not you like to see him, Morgana?

Miss Gryll. Yes, uncle.

Mr. Gryll. Try what you can do, doctor. We shall have before long some poetical and philosophical visitors. That may tempt him to join us.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian. It may; but I am not confident. He seems to me to be indisposed to general society, and to care for nothing but woods, rivers, and the sea; Greek poetry, Saint Catharine, and the seven Vestals. However, I will try what can be done.

Mr. Gryll. But, doctor, I think he would scarcely have provided such a spacious dining-room, and so much domestic accommodation, if he had intended to shut himself up from society altogether. I expect that some day when you go there you will find a large party. Try if he will cooperate in the Aristophanic comedy.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian. A good idea. That may be something to his mind.

Miss Gryll. Talking of comedy, doctor, what has become of Lord Curryfin, and his lecture on fish.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian. Why, Lord Michin Malicho,1 Lord Facing-both-ways, and two or three other arch-quacks, have taken to merry-andrewising in a new arena, which they call the Science of Pantopragmatics, and they have bitten Lord Curryfin into tumbling with them; but the mania will subside when the weather grows cool; and no doubt we shall still have him at Thornback Bay, teaching the fishermen how to know a herring from a halibut.

Miss Gryll. But pray, doctor, what is this new science?

The Rev. Dr. Opimian. Why that, Miss Gryll, I cannot well make out. I have asked several professors of the science, and have got nothing in return but some fine varieties of rigmarole, of which I can make neither head nor tail. It seems to be a real art of talking about an imaginary art of teaching every man his own business. Nothing practical comes of it, and, indeed, so much the better. It will be at least harmless, as long as it is like Hamlet’s reading, ‘words., words, words.’ Like most other science, it resolves itself into lecturing, lecturing, lecturing, about all sorts of matters, relevant and irrelevant: one enormous bore prating about jurisprudence, another about statistics, another about education, and so forth; the crambe repetita of the same rubbish, which has already been served up ‘twiës hot and twiës cold,’2 at as many other associations nicknamed scientific.

Miss Gryll. Then, doctor, I should think Lord Curryfin’s lecture would be a great relief to the unfortunate audience.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian. No doubt more amusing and equally profitable. Not a fish more would be caught for it, and this will typify the result of all such scientific talk. I had rather hear a practical cook lecture on bubble and squeak: no bad emblem of the whole affair.

Mr. Gryll. It has been said a man of genius can discourse on anything. Bubble and squeak seems a limited subject; but in the days of the French Revolution there was an amusing poem with that title;3 and there might be an amusing lecture; especially if it were like the poem, discursive and emblematical. But men so dismally far gone in the affectation of earnestness would scarcely relish it.

That hath been twiës hot and twiës cold.

Chaucer: The Coke’s Prologue.

1 ‘Marry, this is miching mallecho: it means mischief.’ — Hamlet.

2 And many a Jacke of Dover hast thou sold,

3 ‘Babble and Squeak: a Gallimaufry of British Beef with the Chopped Cabbage of Gallic Philosophy.’ By Huddesford.

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