The Elder Brother.

A poem by George Colman

Centrick, in London noise, and London follies,
Proud Covent Garden blooms, in smoky glory;
For chairmen, coffee-rooms, piazzas, dollies,
Cabbages, and comedians, fame'd in story!

On this gay spot, (upon a sober plan,)
Dwelt a right regular, and staid, young man;--
Much did he early hours and quiet love;
And was entitle'd Mr. Isaac Shove.

An Orphan he;--yet rich in expectations,
(Which nobody seem'd likely to supplant,)
From, that prodigious bore of all relations,
A fusty, canting, stiff-rump'd Maiden Aunt:
The wealthy Miss Lucretia Cloghorty,--
Who had brought Isaac up, and own'd to forty.

Shove on this maiden's Will relied securely;
Who vow'd she ne'er would wed, to mar his riches;
Full often would she say of men demurely,--
"I can't abide the filthy things in breeches!"

He had Apartments up two pair of stairs;
On the first floor lodge'd Doctor Crow;--
The Landlord was a torturer of hairs,
And made a grand display of wigs, below;
From the beau's Brutus, to the parson's grizzle:--
Over the door-way was his name;--'twas Twizzle.

Now, you must know,
This Doctor Crow
Was not of Law, nor Music, nor Divinity;--
He was obstetrick;--but, the fact is,
He didn't in Lucina's turnpike practise;
He took bye-roads,--reducing Ladies' shapes,
Who had secure'd themselves from leading apes,
But kept the reputation of virginity.

Crow had a roomy tenement of brick,
Enclose'd with walls, one mile from Hyde Park corner;
Fir trees, and yews, were planted round it, thick;--
No situation was forlorner![15]
Yet, notwithstanding folks might scout it,
It suited qualmish Spinsters, who fell sick,
And didn't wish the world to know about it.

Here many a single gentlewoman came,
Pro tempore,--full tender of her fame!
Who, for a while, took leave of friends in town;--
"Business, forsooth! to Yorkshire call'd her down,
Too weighty to be settle'd by Attorney!"--
And, in a month's, or six weeks' time, came back!
When every body cried, "Good lack!
How monstrous thin you've grown, upon your journey!"

The Doctor, knowing that a puff of Scandal
Would blow his private trade to tatters,
Dreaded to give the smallest handle
To those who dabble in their neighbours' matters;
Therefore, he wisely held it good
To hide his practice from the neighbourhood,
And not appear, there, as a resident;
But merely one who, casually, went
To see the lodgers in the large brick house;--
To lounge, and chat, not minding time a souse;--
Like one to whom all business was quite foreign;--
And, thus, he visited his female sick;
Who lay as thick,
Within his tenement of brick,
As rabbits in a warren.

He lodge'd in Covent Garden all the while,
And, if they sent, in haste, for his assistance,
He soon was with 'em;--'twas no mighty distance;--
From the town's end it was but a bare mile.

Now Isaac Shove
Living above
This Doctor Crow,
And knowing Barber Twizzle live'd below,
Thought it might be as well,
Hearing so many knocks, single and double,
To buy, at his own cost, a street-door bell,
And save confusion, in the house, and trouble;

Whereby his (Isaac's) visitors might know,
Without long waiting in the dirt, and drizzle,
To ring for him at once;--and not to knock for Crow,--
Nor Twizzle.
Besides he now began to feel
The want of it was rather ungenteel;
For he had, often, thought it a disgrace
To hear, while sitting in his room, above,
Twizzle's shrill maid, on the first landing-place,
Screaming, "a man below vants Mister Shove!"
The bell was bought; the wire was made to steal
Round the dark stair-case, like a tortur'd eel,--
Twisting, and twining;
The jemmy handle Twizzle's door-post grace'd,
And, just beneath, a brazen plate was place'd,
Lacquer'd and shining;--

Graven whereon, in characters full clear,
And legible, did "Mr. Shove" appear;
And, furthermore, which you might read right well,
Was--"Please to ring the bell."

At half-past ten, precisely to a second,--
Shove, every night, his supper ended;
And sipp'd his glass of negus, till he reckon'd,
By his stop-watch, exactly, one more quarter;
Then, as exactly, he untied one garter;--
A token 'twas that he for bed intended:

Yet having, still, a quarter good before him,
He leisurely undress'd before the fire;
Contriving, as the quarter did expire,
To be as naked as his mother bore him:

Bating his shirt, and night-cap on his head;--
Then, as the watchman bawl'd eleven,
He had one foot in bed,
More certainly than cuckolds go to Heaven.

Alas! what pity 'tis that regularity,
Like Isaac Shove's, is such a rarity!

But there are swilling Wights, in London town,
Term'd--Jolly dogs,--Choice Spirits,--alias, Swine,
Who pour, in midnight revel, bumpers down,
Making their throats a thoroughfare for wine.

These spendthrifts, who Life's pleasures, thus, out-run,
Dozing, with head-aches, till the afternoon,
Lose half men's regular estate of Sun,
By borrowing, too largely, of the Moon.

One of this kidney,--Toby Tosspot hight,--
Was coming from the Bedford, late at night:

And being Bacchi plenus,--full of wine,--
Although he had a tolerable notion
Of aiming at progressive motion,
'Twasn't direct,--'twas serpentine,
He work'd, with sinuosities, along,
Like Monsieur Corkscrew worming thro' a Cork;
Not straight, like Corkscrew's proxy, stiff Don Prong,
A Fork.

At length, with near four bottles in his pate,
He saw the moon shining on Shove's brass plate;
When reading, "Please to ring the bell,"
And being civil, beyond measure,
"Ring it!"--says Toby--"very well;
I'll ring it with a deal of pleasure."

Toby, the kindest soul in all the town,
Gave it a jerk that almost jerk'd it down.

He waited full two minutes; no one came;
He waited full two minutes more; and then,--
Says Toby, "if he's deaf, I'm not to blame;
I'll pull it for the gentleman again."

But the first peal woke Isaac in a fright,
Who, quick as lightning, popping up his head,
Sat on his head's Antipodes, in bed,--
Pale as a parsnip,--bolt upright.

At length he, wisely, to himself did say,--
Calming his fears,--
"Tush!--'tis some fool has rung, and run away;"--
When peal the second rattle'd in his ears!

Shove jump'd into the middle of the floor;
And, trembling at each breath of air that stirr'd,
He grope'd down stairs, and open'd the street door,
While Toby was performing peal the third.

Isaac eye'd Toby, fearfully askant,--
And saw he was a strapper,--stout, and tall;
Then, put this question;--"Pray, Sir, what d'ye want?"
Says Toby,--"I want nothing, Sir, at all."

"Want nothing!--Sir, you've pull'd my bell, I vow,
As if you'd jerk it off the wire!"
Quoth Toby,--gravely making him a bow,--
"I pull'd it, Sir, at your desire."

"At mine!"--"Yes, yours--I hope I've done it well;
High time for bed, Sir; I was hast'ning to it;
But if you write up Please to ring the bell,
Common politeness makes me stop, and do it."

Isaac, now, waxing wroth apace,
Slamm'd the street door in Toby's face,
With all his might;
And Toby, as he shut it, swore
He was a dirty son of--something more
Than delicacy suffers me to write:
And, lifting up the knocker, gave a knock,
So long, and loud, it might have raise'd the dead;
Twizzle declares his house sustain'd a shock,
Enough to shake his lodgers out of bed.

Toby, his rage thus vented in the rap,
Went serpentining home, to take his nap.

'Tis, now, high time to let you know
That the obstetrick Doctor Crow
Awoke in the beginning of this matter,
By Toby's tintinnabulary clatter:

And, knowing that the bell belong'd to Shove,
He listen'd in his bed, but did not move;

He only did apostrophize;--
Sending to hell
Shove, and his bell,
That wouldn't let him close his eyes.

But when he heard a thundering knock,--says he,
"That's, certainly, a messenger for me;--
Somebody ill, in the Brick House, no doubt;"--
Then mutter'd, hurrying on his dressing-gown,
"I wish my Ladies, out of town,
Chose more convenient times for crying out!"

Crow, in the dark, now, reached the stair-case head;
Shove, in the dark, was coming up to bed.

A combination of ideas flocking,
Upon the pericranium of Crow,--
Occasion'd by the hasty knocking,
Succeeded by a foot he heard below,--

He did, as many folks are apt to do,
Who argue in the dark, and in confusion;--
That is, from the Hypothesis, he drew
A false conclusion:

Concluding Shove to be the person sent,
With an express, from the brick tenement;
Whom Barber Twizzle, torturer of hairs,
Had, civilly, let in, and sent up stairs.

As Shove came up, tho' he had, long time, kept
His character, for patience, very laudably,
He couldn't help, at every step he stepp'd,
Grunting, and grumbling, in his gizzard, audibly.

For Isaac's mental feelings, you must know,
Not only were considerably hurt,
But his corporeal, also--
Having no other clothing than a shirt;--
A dress, beyond all doubt, most light and airy,
It being, then, a frost in January.

When Shove was deep down stairs, the Doctor heard,
(Being much nearer the stair top,)
Just here and there, a random word,
Of the Soliloquies that Shove let drop;--

But, shortly, by progression, brought
To contact nearer,
The Doctor, consequently, heard him clearer,--
And then the fag-end of this sentence caught:

Which Shove repeated warmly, tho' he shiver'd:--
"Damn Twizzle's house! and damn the Bell!
And damn the fool who rang it!--Well,
From all such plagues I'll quickly be deliver'd."

"What?--quickly be deliver'd!" echoes Crow;--
"Who is it?--Come, be sharp;--reply, reply;
Who wants to be deliver'd? let me know."
Recovering his surprise, Shove answer'd, "I."

"You be deliver'd!" says the Doctor,--"'Sblood!"
Hearing a man's gruff voice--"You lout! you lob!
You be deliver'd!--Come, that's very good!"
Says Shove, "I will, so help me Bob!"

"Fellow," cried Crow, "you're drunk with filthy beer!
A drunkard, fellow, is a brute's next neighbour;--
But Miss Cloghorty's time was very near,
And, I suppose, Lucretia's now in labour."

"Zounds!" bellows Shove, with rage and wonder wild,
"Why then, my maiden Aunt is big with child!"

Here was, at once, a sad discovery made!
Lucretia's frolick, now, was past a joke;--
Shove tremble'd for his Fortune, Crow, his Trade,
Both, both saw ruin,--by one fatal stroke;

But, with his Aunt, when Isaac did discuss,
She hush'd the matter up, by speaking thus:

"Sweet Isaac!" said Lucretia, "spare my Fame!--
Tho', for my babe, I feel as should a mother,
Your Fortune will continue much the same;
For,--keep the Secret,--you're his Elder Brother."

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