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at eleven shillings, coffee at six shillings. All had advertisements of lotteries. Every description of retail traffic was then carried on by gambling. At the · Eagle and Child,' on Ludgate Hill, all sorts of fine silks and goods were to be had at seven pounds ten shillings a ticket; Mrs. Ogle's plate, value twenty pounds, was at sixpence a ticket; Mr. William Morris, “the fairest of dealers,” draws his lottery out of two wheels by two parish-boys, giving one hundred pounds for half-a-crown. There were lotteries drawing in May-Fair, and the chimble-rig was not unknown.
The May morning of 1701 sees the busy concourse in Brook Field of sellers and buyers. There is the Jew from Houndsditch and the grazier from Finchley. From the distant Bermondsey comes the tanner, with his peltry and his white leather for harness. Beer is freely drunk. Tobacco perfumes the air from one sunrise to another. It is almost difficult to believe that eleven million pounds of tobacco were then annually consumed by a population of five millions ; but so say the records. The graziers and the drovers were hungry: they indulged themselves with the seldomtasted wheaten bread of the luxurious Londoners. They had waded through roads scarcely practicable for horsemen. Pedestrians, who kept the crown of the causeway, on whose sides were perilous sloughs and foul ditches, travelled in company, for fear of the frequent highwayman and footpad. Happy were they when the sun lighted the high
way from Tottenham or Tyburn; for not a lantern was to be seen, and the flickering link made the morning fog seem denser than its reality. That May-day morning has little cheerfulness in its aspect.
The afternoon comes. Then the beasts and the leather are sold—and the revelry begins. It lasts through the night. We need not describe the brutality of the prize-fighting, nor record the licentiousness of the Merry Andrew. All the poetical character of the old May sports was gone. a scene of drunkenness and quarrel. May-Fair became a nuisance. The Grand Jury presented it seven years after; and the puppets, and the ropedancers, and the gambling-booths, the bruisers, and the thieves had to seek another locality. When Fashion obtained possession of the site, the form of profligacy was changed. The thimble-riggers were gone; but Dr. Keith married all comers to his chapel, “ with no questions asked, for a guinea, any time after midnight till four in the afternoon."
JOHN AUBREY, AND HIS EMINENT MEN.
THERE are few books that I take up more willingly in a vacant half-hour, than the scraps of biography which Aubrey, the antiquary, addressed to Anthony à Wood; and which were published from the original manuscripts in the Ashmolean Museum, in 1813. These little fragments are so quaint and characteristic of the writer-so sensible in some passages and so absurd in others-so full of what may be called the Prose of Biography, with reference to the objects of historical or literary reverence, and so encomiastic with regard to others whose memories have wholly perished in the popular view that I shall endeavour to look at them a little consecutively, as singular examples of what a clever man thought of his contemporaries and of others who were famous in his day, whether their opinions accord with, or are opposed to, our present estimates.
And first of John Aubrey himself.
Our common notion of the man used to be that he was a dreaming credulous old gossip, with some literary pretensions, and nothing more. He believed in astrology, in omens, dreams, apparitions, voices, knockings. Is he without followers, even at this hour? Anthony à Wood, who was under many obligations to his correspondence, calls him "a shiftless person, roving and maggotty-headed.” “ Roving," indeed he was; for he wandered up and down the land when travelling was not quite so easy as now; and, according to the testimony of Gough, an antiquary after the sober fashion of the race, “first brought us acquainted with the earliest monuments on the face of the country—the remains of Druidism, and of Roman, Saxon, and Danish fortifications.” “Shiftless" too, he might be called. He possessed an estate in Kent, which was destroyed by an irruption of the sea ; he became involved in law-suits ; he made an unhappy marriage; in a word, to use his own astrological solution of his misfortunes, he was “born in an evil hour, Saturn directly opposing my ascendant." But he was not shiftless,” in the sense of one who had no proper business in life. He wanted little for his support, and as he had rich friends his dependence was not very burthensome to them. He lived about in country houses with kind squires, with whom he “took his diet and sweet otiums." What could the man do when his estates were gone, but to enjoy what he called “ a happy delitescency”—the obscurity of one who was never idle in noting down what he saw around him, for the use of others, or the benefit of those who were to come after him. He had no constructive power to make a great original book. His age was not an age of periodicals, when his gossiping propensities might have shaped themselves into articles
fit for the literary market. It is true that he might have become an almanac maker like some of his friends ;—but perhaps there was a glut of the commodity. He had nothing for it but to lounge about in coffee-houses; and go to meetings of the Royal Society ; and gossip with Mr. Evelyn and Mr. Isaac Walton ; and venture to ask Mr. D'Avenant something about Shakspere, and speak of Milton to Mr. Dryden when they met at Will's; and correspond with Mr. Tanner, and Mr. à Wood, the famous antiquaries; and study a horoscope with Mr. Dee, or Mr. Vincent Wing, the astrologers. If he had concentrated his power of picking up anecdotes, and recording sayings, upon more of the really eminent of his time, as he has done upon Hobbes and Milton, he might have left Boswell without the merit of being the first, as well as the greatest, in his line. Wood, according to Hearne, used to say of him—“Look ! yonder goes such a one, who can tell such and such stories; and I'll warrant Mr. Aubrey will break his neck down stairs rather than miss him." My venerable friend Mr. Britton, in his "Memoir of John Aubrey* ' terms the notice of him by D’Israeli, in the Quarrels of Authors,' “hasty," for D'Israeli calls him “the little Boswell of his day.” We would desire no higher compliment for our “curious and talkative inquirer.” D'Israeli certainly does
* Mr. Britton's Memoir is a handsome 4to volume, published by the Wiltshire Topographical Society; it contains a great deal of curious matter, collected with much care.