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Orator Henley-another object of Fielding's satire-was a personage of more mark and note than the crack-brained author of "Hurlothrumbo." With all his charlatanism, he was a man of ability, and an effective declaimer. At an early period of his career, he aroused the animosity of his "cloth" by an inconvenient display of originality, and alarmed the dignitaries of the Establishment by rhetorical displays. Whilst officiating as a clergyman, his discourses were stigmatised as "theatrical and indecent" by the "humdrum" divines (so he calls them) of the day; but they attracted huge congregations, and were the admiration of the multitude. Never was a preacher more sedulously followed by the crowd, or more severely handled by theological critics. That Henley was a vain as well as a clever man is very evident; and the consequence was that, intoxicated with popular applause, he grew more and more disdainful of clerical criticism, and more and more ambitious of oratorical renown. Notoriety to such a man was as "the breath of his nostrils ;" and London the only arena where
a humiliating fact, that the miserable rant and fustian of a half-witted quack should have filled a theatre for more than a month, and obtained the applause of English audiences. So great, indeed, was its popularity for a short time, that a club was formed, called "The Hurlothrumbo Society;" of which a list of members was printed, with a frontispiece, on which was engraved the monster described in Horace's "Art of Poetry."
From the extravagances of "Hurlothrumbo" may be culled the following examples of terse and peculiar phraseology:
"Pride is the serpent's egg, laid in the hearts of all, but hatched by none but fools."
"Conscience is an intellectual caul that covers the heart, upon which all the faculties sport in terror, like boys that dance on the ice."
In "Byrom's Remains," above referred to, there is the following naïve account of Johnson's success :-"As for Mr. Johnson, he is at present one of the chief topics of talk in London: Dick's coffee-house resounds Hurlothrumbo!' from one end to the other. He had a full house, and much good company on Saturday night, the first time of acting, and report says all the boxes are taken for next Monday. . . . We had seven or eight Garters, they say, in the pit; I saw Lord Oxford and one or two more there, but was so intent upon the farce that I did not observe many quality that were there. We agreed to laugh and clap beforehand, and kept our word from beginning to end. . . . For my part, who think all stage entertainments stuff and nonsense, I consider this as a joke upon 'em all."-Byrom to Mrs. Byrom, April 2nd, 1729.
his peculiar talents could find scope. The Earl of Macclesfield-a generous patron of men of genius and learninghad given him a living in Suffolk of the value of £80 per annum; but it did not suit Henley's tastes to retire into the country; and having found a curate-of-all-work, who performed the varied duties of "preaching, praying, christening, marrying, and burying," for the moderate stipend of £20 (!), he obtained a dispensation for non-residence, and continued to astonish the religious world of the metropolis, instead of burying himself in a quiet country parsonage. The style of his sermons, however, at length subjected him. to the censure of his diocesan; and ill-natured rumours affecting his private character were at the same time busily circulated. It was now obvious that Henley was too obnoxious to his order to be permitted to occupy any longer his favourite position of a popular London preacher. The Bishop of London accordingly required him to resign his
(1) Pope, in the "Dunciad," tells us
"How Henley lay inspired beside a sink,
And to mere mortals seemed a priest in drink."--(Book ii.)
And the orator was subsequently too well known by the designation of "drunken Henley," to permit us to doubt that the imputation is unfounded. Here is an anecdote of him in subsequent years:—
"It must be nearly seventy years ago; yet, though then a boy, well do I remember every tittle of the conversation that once, in particular, passed at old Slaughter's [coffee-house, St. Martin's Lane], between my respected friend, William Gostling [a clergyman and antiquarian], and drunken Henley, who kept the mild man on the cold staircase, as we were going out together, in a long confabulation, and in a loud hoarse whisper, about a quarrel with Master Foote, who had written a satire upon his nonsensical rant at his chapel in the neighbouring market. You will tell Mr. Bully, from me that- 'Fye, fye!' said Gostling, putting his hand gently before his mouth, stifling an oath in its birth; fye, Mr. Henley! you are an old man, these quarrels bring disgrace upon our holy calling.' Henley looked at the good man, less angry than compunctious, and shook his head; his eyes were red with drinking, and he stood mute awhile, an awful personification of frail humanity. Can you spare me the loan of ten shillings?' said the orator. Gostling took from his purse a guinea, and put it in his hand. The wretched man looked in his reprover's face with the drunkard's ghastly smile, that hides a broken heart. God bless you!' said Henley; 'I'll call and pay you to-morrow.' Gostling saw him no more."Wine and Walnuts, by Ephraim Hardcastle, vol. i. p. 132. 1823.
metropolitan lectureship, and to retire to his Suffolk living. To these terms Henley haughtily refused to accede. "It was beneath him," he said, "to hold what it was the complainant's power to take away;" and he at once resigned both the lectureship and rectory, and shook off the shackles of ecclesiastical authority.
This was in 1725; and from that period, for many years, his name was constantly before the public. After leaving the Church of England, he fitted up at his own expense, in Newport Market, a place which he called "The Oratory." Here he gave full scope to his passion for notoriety and display, and rendered himself an object of curiosity and derision. His pulpit was hung with scarlet velvet, embroidered with gold, and the walls of his chapel were adorned with painted devices and inscriptions. Sundays he preached on theological subjects, but on Wednesdays he held forth on miscellaneous topics. Subscribers to the Oratory received a medal, on which was a rising star, with the motto "AD SUMMA ;" and below were the words, "INVENIAM VIAM AUT FACIAM."1 Casual auditors were admitted on the payment of a shilling-a practice which subjected the orator to much ridicule and censure. When pressed upon this subject, Henley defended himself by quoting the following well-known anecdote:-" Where then is the mighty difference," he said (addressing his congregation in the Oratory), "of paying (for pay is the word in every church and chapel in London) weekly or quarterly? Neither can I suppose you to be ignorant of the well-known and true story of my Lord Rochester's going, with another nobleman, to the parish church of sweet St. Giles's in the Fields, to hear Dr. Sharp, late Archbishop of York. The two peers went incog.,-but, as strangers, could not gain admittance into any of the lower aisles. Upon which my Lord Rochester ran up stairs, clapt a shilling into the blower's hand, and got into the
(1) Notes to the Dunciad, &c.
organ-loft; and looking down, and seeing his friend at last seated, he called out to him,- My Lord,' says he, 'what do you pay for the pit? I have paid a shilling for the upper-gallery.'
In his satirical "Puppet-Show," attached to the farce, Fielding introduces the Goddess of Nonsense, attended by "the Orator in a tub," who makes a ridiculous oration, quite appropriate to his situation, on the history of a fiddle; and who, with Signior Opera, Don Tragedio, and Monsieur Pantomime, is a candidate for the goddess's favour. Another character in the "Puppet-Show" is Count Ugly, the familiar nickname of the notorious Heidegger, to whom in the previous year Fielding addressed his satire called "The Masquerade."
A melancholy although ludicrous picture is presented in
(1) See Retrospective Review, vol. xiv., part 2.
The caustic pen of Pope has transmitted to posterity a portrait of "Orator Henley," in which some of his prominent peculiarities are thus humorously described:
"Imbrowned with native bronze, lo! Henley stands,
Tuning his voice, and balancing his hands.
Still break the benches, Henley! with thy strain,
While Sherlock, Hare, and Gibson preach in vain.
Oh, great restorer of the good old stage,
Preacher at once, and zany of thy age!"-Dunciad, book iii.
(2) In "The Craftsman," No. 141 (March 15, 1728-29), appears a discourse of Henley's upon Fishes, which is not altogether deficient in humour. "I went last night," says a correspondent of Mr. Caleb D'Anvers," to hear the celebrated Mr. Henley, at his new Oratory in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, and think myself obliged to acknowledge the agreeable entertainment which he gave us. His discourse was on Fishes; and he proved very learnedly and metaphysically that everything was fish, and that the world was nothing but a great fishpond, where mankind laid baits to ensnare and catch one another. He observed very acutely that politicians were crab-fish, who go backwards and forwards; or a sort of eels, that wriggle and twist, and slip through our fingers, do what we will; or pikes, who tyrannize in the waters, and devour almost every other fish that comes in their way, especially trouts and gudgeons; though it is remarkable, said he, that plaice is their most favourite food." The conversation of the fishermen in "Pericles" might have suggested this idea: " Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea. 1st Fish. Why, as men do a-land: the great ones eat up the little ones," &c.
"The Author's Farce" of the condition of the lowest class of literary craftsmen in Fielding's early days. Miserable indeed the trade of authorship, when taken up, as it often was, by ignorant pretenders. A bookseller's drudge was alternately the object of scorn and sympathy. He was chained to the desk like a merchant's clerk, and paid and treated worse than a ticket-porter. In Fielding's farce a wealthy bookseller is introduced, surrounded by his drudges, Dash, Quibble, Blot-page, and Scarecrow, and a characteristic scene ensues, in which the secrets of hack authorship are thus ruthlessly exposed :
Bookweight. Fye upon it, gentlemen! what not at your pens? Do you consider, Mr. Quibble, that it is a fortnight since your Letter to a Friend in the Country was published? Is it not high time for an answer to come out? At this rate, before your answer is printed, your letter will be forgot. I love to keep a controversy up warm. I have had authors who have writ a pamphlet in the morning, answered it in the afternoon, and answered that again at night.
Quibble. Sir, I will be as expeditious as possible; but it is harder to write on this side the question, because it's the wrong side.
Book. Not a jot. So far on the contrary that I have known some authors choose it as the properest to show their genius. But let me see what you have produced,-" With all deference to what that very learned and most ingenious person, in his Letter to a Friend in the Country, hath advanced-" Very well, sir; for besides that it may sell more of the Letters, all controversial writers should begin with complimenting their adversaries, as prize-fighters kiss before they engage. Let it be finished with all speed. Well, Mr. Dash, have you done that murder yet?
Dash. Yes, sir, the murder is done; I am only about a few moral reflections to place before it.
Scarecrow. Sir, I have brought you a libel against the ministry. Book. Sir, I shall not take anything against them; for I have two in the press already. (Aside.)
Scare. Then, sir, I have an apology in defence of them.
Book. That I shall not meddle with neither; they don't sell so well. Scare. I have a translation of Virgil's Æneid with notes on it, if we can agree about the price.
Book. Why, what price would you have?