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

Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802–1839)

Rhyme and Reason

From “Essays”

JONATHAN sees with the eye of a merchant, and Charles with that of an enthusiast; Jonathan is a man of business, and Charles is a poet. The contrast between their tempers is frequently the theme of conversation at the social meetings of the neighbourhood; and it is always found that the old and the grave shake their heads at the almost boyish enthusiasm of Charles, while the young and the imprudent indulge in severe sarcasms at the mercenary and uninspired moderation of his brother. All parties, however, concur in admiring the uninterrupted cordiality which subsists between them, and in laughing good-humouredly at the various whims and foibles of these opposite characters, who are known throughout the country by the titles of Rhyme and Reason.

We arrived at the farm as Jonathan was sitting down to his substantial breakfast. We were delighted to see our old friend, now in the decline of life, answering so exactly the description of Cowper:

  • “An honest man close-buttoned to the chin,
  • Broadcloth without, and a warm heart within.”
  • We felt an inward satisfaction in contemplating his frieze coat, whose début we remember to have witnessed five years ago, and in speculating upon the snows which five additional winters had left upon his head since our last interview. It was some time before we recovered sufficiently from our reverie to inquire after the well-being of our younger companion, who had not yet made his appearance at the board. “Oh!” said Jonathan, “Charles is in his heyday years; we must indulge him for the present; we can’t expect such regularity from five-and-twenty as from six-and-fifty.” He had hardly done speaking when a loud halloo sounded as an avant-courier of Charles’s approach, and in less than a minute he presented himself before us. “Ten thousand pardons!” he cried. “One’s enough,” said his brother. “I’ve seen the finest sunrise,” said Charles. “You’re wet through,” said Jonathan. “I’m all over rapture,” said Rhyme. “You’re all over dirt,” said Reason.

    With some difficulty Charles was persuaded to retire for the readjustment of his dress, while the old man continued his meal with a composure which proved he was not unused to the morning excursions of his volatile yoke-fellow. By the time he had got through his beef-steak, and three columns of the Courier, Charles re-entered, and despatched the business of eating with a rapidity in which many a modern half-starved rhymer would be glad to emulate him. A walk was immediately proposed; but the one had scarcely reached an umbrella, and the other prepared his manuscript book, when a slight shower of rain prevented our design. “Provoking,” said Rhyme. “Good for the crop,” said Reason.

    The shower, however, soon ceased, and a fine clear sun encouraged us to resume our intentions, without fear of a second disappointment. As we walked over the estate, we were struck with the improvements made by our friend, both as regarded the comfort and the value of the property; while now and then we could not suppress a smile on observing the rustic arbour which Charles had designed, or the verses which he had inscribed on our favourite old oak.

    It was determined that we should ascend a neighbouring hill, which was dear to us from its having been the principal scene of our boyhood’s amusements. “We must make haste,” said Charles, “or we shall miss the view.” “We must make haste,” said Jonathan, “or we shall catch cold on our return.” Their actions seemed always to amalgamate, though their motives were always different. We observed a tenant of our friend ploughing a small field, and stopped a short time to regard the contented appearance of the man, and the cheerful whistle with which he called to his cattle. “Happy the man who far from city marts—” quoted the poet. “A poor team, though,” said his brother.

    Our attention was next excited by a level meadow, whose green hue, set off by the mixture of the white fleeces of a beautiful flock of sheep, was, to the observer of nature, a more enviable sight than the most studied landscape of Gainsborough’s pencil. “Lovely colours!” ejaculated Charles. “Fine mutton,” observed Jonathan. “Delightful scene for a rustic hop!” cried the enthusiast. “I am thinking of planting hops,” said the farmer.

    We reached the summit of the hill, and remained for some moments in silent admiration of one of the most variegated prospects that ever the country presented to the contemplation of its most ardent admirer. The mellow verdure of the meadows, intermingled here and there with the sombre appearance of ploughed land, the cattle reclining in the shade, the cottage of the rustic peeping from behind the screen of a luxuriant hedge, formed a tout-ensemble which every eye must admire, but which few pens can describe. “A delightful landscape!” said Charles. “A rich soil,” said Jonathan. “What scope for description!” cried the first. “What scope for improvement!” returned the second.

    As we returned we passed the cottage of the peasant whom we had seen at his plough in the morning. The family were busily engaged in their several domestic occupations. One little chubby-faced rogue was conducting Dobbin to his stable, another was helping his sister to coop up the poultry, and a third was incarcerating the swine, who made a vigorous resistance against their youthful antagonist. “Tender!” cried Rhyme; he was listening to the nightingale. “Very tender!” replied Reason; he was looking at the pigs.

    As we drew near home, we met an old gentleman walking with his daughter, between whom and Charles a reciprocal attachment was said to exist. The lateness of the evening prevented much conversation, but the few words which were spoken again brought into contrast the opposite tempers of my friends. “A fine evening, madam,” said the man of sense, and bowed. “I shall see you to-morrow, Mary!” said the lover, and pressed her hand. We looked back upon her as she left us. After a pause—“She is an angel!” sighed Charles. “She is an heiress,” observed Jonathan. “She has ten thousand perfections!” cried Rhyme. “She has ten thousand pounds,” said Reason.

    We left them the next morning, and spent some days in speculations on the causes which enabled such union of affections to exist with such diversities of taste. For ourselves, we must confess that, while Reason has secured our esteem, Rhyme has run away with our hearts; we have sometimes thought with Jonathan, but we have always felt with Charles.