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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Tobias George Smollett (1721–1771)

Bramble and Barton at Court

From “Humphrey Clinker”

TWO days ago Barton persuaded my uncle and me to accompany him to St. James’s, where he undertook to make us acquainted with the persons of all the great men in the kingdom. And, indeed, there was a great assemblage of distinguished characters, for it was a high festival at court. Our conductor performed his promise with great punctuality. He pointed out almost every individual of both sexes, and generally introduced them to our notice with a flourish of panegyric. Seeing the king approach, “There comes,” said he, “the most amiable sovereign that ever swayed the sceptre of England: the deliciæ humani generis, Augustus in patronising merit, Titus Vespasian in generosity, Trajan in beneficence, and Marcus Aurelius in philosophy.”

“A very honest, kind-hearted gentleman,” added my uncle; “he is too good for the times. A king of England should have a spice of the devil in his composition.”

Barton, then turning toward the Duke of C——, proceeded:

“You know the duke: that illustrious hero, who trod rebellion under his feet, and secured us in possession of everything we ought to hold dear, as Englishmen and Christians. Mark what an eye—how penetrating, yet specific! What dignity in his mien! What humanity in his aspect! Even malice must own that he is one of the greatest officers in Christendom.”

“I think he be,” said Mr. Bramble. “But who are those young gentlemen that stand beside him?”

“Those,” cried our friend, “those are his royal nephews, the princes of the blood. Sweet young princes! The sacred pledges of the Protestant line; so spirited, so sensible, so princely.”

“Yes, very sensible! Very spirited!” said my uncle, interrupting him. “But see—the queen! Ha, there’s the queen! Let me see—let me see—where are my glasses? Ha! there’s meaning in that eye! There’s sentiment! There’s expression! Well, Mr. Barton, what figure do you call next?”

The next person he pointed out was the favourite “yearl,” who stood solitary by one of the windows. “Behold yon northern star,” said he, “shorn of his beams!”

“What! the Caledonian luminary that lately blazed so bright in our hemisphere? Methinks at present it glimmers through a fog; like Saturn without his ring, bleak, and dim, and distant. Ha! there’s the other great phenomenon, the Grand Pensionary, that weathercock of patriotism, that veers about in every point of the political compass, and still feels the wind of popularity in his tail. He, too, like a portentous comet, has risen again above the court horizon; but how long he will continue to ascend it is not easy to foretell, considering his great eccentricity. Who are those two satellites that attend his motions?”

When Barton told him their names——

“To their characters,” said Mr. Bramble, “I am no stranger. One of them, without a drop of red blood in his veins, has a cold, intoxicating vapour in his head, and rancour enough in his heart to inoculate and affect a whole nation. The other is, I hear, intended for a share in the administration, and the pensionary vouches for his being duly qualified. The only instance I ever heard of his sagacity was his deserting his former patron when he found him declining in power and in disgrace with the people. Without principle, talent, or intelligence, he is ungracious as a hog, greedy as a vulture, and thievish as a jackdaw; but, it must be owned, he is no hypocrite. He pretends to no virtue, and takes no pains to disguise his character. His ministry will be attended with one advantage: no man will be disappointed by his breach of promise, as no mortal ever trusted to his word. I wonder how Lord —— first discovered this happy genius, and for what purpose Lord —— has now adopted him. But one would think that, as amber has power to attract dirt, and straws, and chaff, a minister is endued with the same kind of faculty, to lick up every knave and blockhead in his way.”

His eulogium was interrupted by the arrival of the old Duke of N——, who, squeezing into the circle with a busy face of importance, thrust his head into every countenance, as if he had been in search of somebody to whom he wanted to impart something of great consequence. My uncle, who had been formerly known to him, bowed as he passed; and the duke, seeing himself saluted so respectfully by a well-dressed person, was not slow in returning the courtesy. He even came up, and, taking him cordially by the hand, “My dear friend, Mr. A——,” said he, “I am rejoiced to see you. How long have you been come from abroad? How did you leave our good friends, the Dutch? The King of Prussia don’t think of another war, eh? He’s a great king, a great conqueror—a very great conqueror! Your Alexanders and Hannibals were nothing at all to him, sir! Corporals, drummers, dross, mere trash—damned trash, eh?”

His Grace being by this time out of breath, my uncle took the opportunity to tell him he had not been out of England, that his name was Bramble, and that he had the honour to sit in the last parliament but one of the late king, as representative for the borough of Dymkymraig.

“Odso!” cried the duke, “I remember you perfectly well, my dear Mr. Bramble! You was always a good and loyal subject—a stanch friend to administration. I made your brother an Irish bishop.”

“Pardon me, my lord,” said the squire; “I once had a brother, but he was a captain in the army.”

“Ha!” said his Grace, “he was so—he was, indeed! But who was the bishop, then? Bishop Blackberry—sure, it was Bishop Blackberry. Perhaps some relation of yours?”

“Very likely, my lord,” replied my uncle; “the Blackberry is the fruit of the Bramble. But I believe the bishop is not a berry of our bush.”

“No more he is, no more he is—ha, ha, ha!” exclaimed the duke. “There you gave me a scratch, good Mr. Bramble. Ha, ha, ha! Well, I shall be glad to see you at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. You know the way. Times are altered. Though I have lost the power, I retain the inclination. Your very humble servant, good Mr. Blackberry!”

So saying, he shoved to another corner of the room.

“What a fine old gentleman!” cried Mr. Barton. “What spirits! What a memory! He never forgets an old friend.”