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Times of Nix" will be "read with pleasure by his contemporaries, nor altogether neglected when Hoppy shall be but a name !” (pp. i.-v.)
The preface continues :
“The great difficulty of the compiler has been in selecting from the vast mass of materials furnished to him by the amiable and afflicted daughter of the Captain. For, in addition to his invaluable Journal in his own hand-writing; his most interesting Personal Narrative of his walk for a wager to Poppleton-End; and the highly-exciting Correspondence in which he became engaged in consequence of the prominent and unflinching part which he took in the ever-memorable case of the abduction of the ladle from the new pump, when the question arose whether or not a new ladle should be supplied, and the town was divided into Pro-ladletonians and Anti-ladletonians-a division which, for a time, shook Little Pedlington to its centre:- in addition to these were a collection of the Captain's washerwomen's weekly bills from the 13th February, 1805, to the 27th August, 1836; his tavern and coffeehouse bills from 1794 to 1835; and every note or card of invitation he had ever received in the course of his long and valuable life, with copies of his answers thereto! It was the wish of Miss Nix—a wish prompted, doubtless, by filial affection, and the notion she entertained that every, the minutest, record relating to her eminent father would be interesting to Little Pedlington-that the whole of those valuable documents should be published. This, however (though greatly to the dissatisfaction, and, it is feared also, the displeasure of Miss N.) was found to be impracticable ; and selections, according to the best of the compiler's judgment, have been made. As for instance : it cannot but be interesting to the reader to know that by bill, 20th June, 1807, it appears that the Captain had, about that time, discontinued the use of ruffles ; by another of the 4th May, 1828, that he left off wearing frilled shirts ; and that the first mention of his using false collars occurs in a bill dated the 7th October, 1832*.
“ To the following ladies and gentlemen the compiler returns his best thanks for the assistance, in the way either of anecdotes or correspondence, which they have afforded him :-To Miss Cripps, so justly termed the Sappho of Little Pedlington; to Miss Jane Scrubbs (better known as Enaj Sbburcs), the highly-gifted Charadiste; to JUBB, whom to name is sufficient; to Daubson, our Sir Joshua; to,” &c. &c. [Here follow the Hobbledays, the Snargates, the Stintums, and the less eminent of the Little Pedlingtonians.]—“to Captain Sniggerstone for his Secret History of Captain Nix's sudden and unexpected promotion from the ranks to a Captaincy in the L. P. L. V.; to Mr. Scrawly (secretary to the Cock-and-Bottle Club, of which, for many years, the Captain had been president) for his invaluable communications, which have furnished the larger portion of the Nixiana, Table-talk, and Opinions ; and (though last, not least) to Mr. Rummins, the intelligent, erudite, and all-accomplished editor of that most ably-conducted journal, the 'Little Pedlington Weekly Observer,' for numberless most useful and valuable suggestions during the progress of this arduous work.”. (pp. vi.-viii.) O, Mr. Hoppy! what do you mean by this compliment to a critic?
“ See Appendix S, No. 14. It is much to be regretted that ihe bills for the months of May and June, 1821, are missing; it is feared, indeed, irrecoverably lost: thus rendering this otherwise unique collection incomplete !"
As a specimen of the Preface, I have selected the whole of it: the omission of some half-dozen unimportant lines scarcely forming an exception. In this I do but act upon a system which, I understand, is prevalent in Little Pedlington, and is found to be of great advantage to the reading public. This, however, would be a consideration of but little value, were not the system of some advantage also to the liberal extractors to whom we are indebted for the invention of it. And, surely, it will be said, the labourer is worthy of his hire: so let us see how the case really stands. Here is Mr. Yawkins, a self-styled liberal publisher, who has the effrontery to charge eighteen-pence for“ Hoppy's Life and Times of Nix,” and for no other reason, forsooth, than that having, for the encouragement of literature, risked large sums in the making of the book, a smaller charge could not remunerate him; whilst the truly liberal caterers for the edification of the public, the proprietors of the “Little Pedlington Penny Pilferer,” will, in their next number, give you the work, all but entire, at the small charge of one penny!-and, simply, for the reason that they stole -(this is an ugly word, gentlemen, but none more appropriate immediately occurs to me)-stole* the work ready-made. Mr. Yawkins is quite at liberty to complain of the invasion of his property, and refuse, therefore, to risk his money upon the next work which may be offered to him ; but it is perfectly childish in him to go about wondering why his shop is deserted, whilst the doors of the “ Penny-Pilserer” office are besieged ?
With respect to the invention of the system, it occurs to me, upon reflection, that it is not strictly with the “ Penny-Pilferer" gentry of Little Pedlington. I think it may be traced farther back. Years ago there was a class of “extractors” and “selectors” who made their elegant extracts on the highways. They would request leave to inspect a traveller s purse; and, having “extracted,” or selected,” from it the twenty golden guineas, they would leave him the odd half-crown to pay turnpikes. But even though this should be disputed as the precedent, the principle, in both cases, is the same.
To return to the work; the first chapter of which is entirely devoted to the pedigree of the Captain, and the no less important point of the various ways-Nichts, Knycks, Knyks, or Knyx-in which his name could have been, might have been, ought to have been, or had been spelt, till it settled down into its present shape. With respect to the Captain's pedigree, Mr. Hoppy has, with indefatigable industry, tracell it as far back as- -But let me quote his own words, which detract nothing from the dignity essentially belonging to the subject :
“ Toiling with unwearied step through the mouldering archives of Little Pedlington'-(Qy. the Parish-Register ?)—“ I find mention of the vame of Nix (sometimes written Nyx, sometimes Nicks) as far back as the early part of the reign of our third George, or, in other words, about thirty years prior to the close of the eighteenth century; that is to say, that in the year 1770, there came to settle in Little Pedlington-a town unconscious then of the proud position it was destined in after-times to assume--one Hugo Nix, a general merchant, warehouseman, haberdasher, or (as in the barbarous jargon of that age he was called) pedler. There is every reason to believe that from this Ilugo descended our hero: for, on the 1st July of that year (1770), we
* What has become of the pillory and the cart-tail ?
What business has the question here ?-PRINTER's Devil.
find him married to Lucretia Shanks (a name still celebrated in this town), only daughter of Ephraim and Virginia Shanks. But here the labours of the genealogist must cease: beyond this period all traces of the Nixes are lost. It is pleasing, however, to reflect that the accuracy of my researches (so far as circumstances would allow me to extend them) is established by the fact, that, on the 1st of April, 1771, Lucretia, the wife of Hugo Nix, was safely delivered of a son. This WAS OUR HERO!"
And here Mr. Hoppy is justified in halting to take breath for a fresh and vigorous start in a new chapter.
Into this one chapter (the second) has Mr. Hoppy, with unusual skill, compressed the first three years of the life of the little Nix: a period which, abounding as it does in rash and thrush, chicken-cough and hoopingcough, measles, scarlet-fever, chicken-pox, small-pox, and all the “ills” that such young “flesh is heir to,” might easily have betrayed him into more copious detail. Even the particulars concerning the cutting of his teeth occupies no more than three pages, although that portion of the chapter commences with—" It cannot but be interesting to know,". phrase which the biographer very properly uses whenever he has anything to narrate of more than usual importance. Thus, in the next chapter :-“ It cannot but be interesting to know that, at this time, the little Nix, being then in his ninth year, the time had arrived when his parents considered it high time that some time should be devoted to his education; and, at that time, Mr. Whipsley's seminary for young gentlemen being the most celebrated, if not indeed the only one in the place, thither, without loss of time, was young Pomponius daily sent.” And, again, in chapter the fourth :-“ It cannot but be interesting to know that at this time Pomponius, or, as, throughout life, he was familiarly called, Pompo, having now attained his fourteenth year, and finished his education in reading, writing, and arithmetic with brilliant success; Pompy, we say, was removed from that seat of learning, and taken by his father (now an eminent dispenser of many of the smaller articles of commerce, and a Vestryman of considerable oratorical distinction) to act as his deputy in the Emporium, and assist him in supplying the wants of his numerous clients.'
How may not the meanest subject be elevated by fine writing! Mr. Hoppy, in this place, judiciously uses the language prevalent in the Waterloo Houses, and Trafalgar Emporiums of Little Pedlington. To have said that young Nix was taken from school to assist his father in serving the customers in his haberdasher's-shop, would have been so undignified as to be quite intelligible. But, thanks to the march-ofintellect refinements of the new vocabulary, a tailor's customers are now his “clients,” a linen-draper's shopman is an “ assistant,” a shoemaker's apprentice a “student,” and-and the police-magistrates are smothered with cases of “ irregularly transferring” from the warehouse, and “unauthorizedly abstracting” from the till.
As the work advances we find the use of the phrase, “ It cannot but be interesting to know,” becoming more and more frequent. This is to be accounted for by the ever-increasing importance of the incidents in the life of such a man as Nix. Thus, in the year 1801, Nix, not having yet attained his thirty-first year, has the misfortune to be left an unprotected orphan-both his parents dying within the same week. “ And, now," says the M. C., “ to quote Milton, the talented author of Paradise Lost—«The world was all before him where to choose :" so, inheriting his father's property and succeeding to his business, he wisely preferred staying where he was, viz.: in Little Pedlington. In the June or (as Mr. Jubb is inclined to believe) the July of this year, also, commenced his acquaintance with the illustrious Rummins; nor can it be uninteresting to know that that acquaintance soon ripened into the closest and most familiar friendship, as will appear by the tone of the letters Nos. 98, 99.-(Vide CORRESPONDENCE.)”
Turning to the CorrESPONDENCE, I find, amongst numerous other letters, all of nearly equal interest with them, the following:
LETTER 98.-Rummins to Nix. “ Dear Pompo,
“L. P. Septr. 28th, 1801. “ To-morrow being Michaelmas, or, as it is sometimes called, St. Michael's day, have got a goose for dinner at three o'clock. Will you come and eat a bit ?
“ Your sincere friend,
“Simcox RUMMINS, F.S.A.” LETTER 99.-Nix to Rummins. “ Dear Rummy, “ Don't care if I do.
“ Your sincere friend,
“ Pomps. Nix." Journals are, in most cases, records of dull trivialities, and, to all persons except their makers, monotonous and tiresome, “ stale, flat, and unprofitable.” For this, however, no blame ought to attach to the Journaliser : the fault lies in that foolish practice, in which the world has so long, and so obstinately persisted, of having the year to consist of so many as three-hundred-and-sixty-five days. Now of that unconscionable number, to most of those worthy persons who daily note down what they call the events of their lives, at least three-hundred-and-sixty are as like to each other as peas; whilst of the remaining five, it is well if one may be illustrated by the death of a cat, and a second by the birth of a kitten. Even the Journals of Nix are occasionally liable to this objection. Take for example the following—“taken at random,” as is usual with reviewers, not carefully selected for the purpose :- Sept. 26th. Rose at 8-shaved-9, brekd.”—[For breakfasted.] “3, Biled beaf for dinr. and carots hot.”-[It adds considerably to the interest of the work that, in all cases where Nix's MSS. are consulted, his own system of orthography is adhered to. The same may be said of his peculiar pronunciation whenever he is madeto appear as the narrator or interlocutor. Of these the dramatic effect is thereby considerably heightened.] “6, Walkd. to Vale of Health-10, Supper. Welsh rabbet, gin and water-11, bed.”
“ Sept. 27. Rose 8-shaved—9, brekd.--3, biled beaf for dinr., cold-6, walkd. to V. of H.--10, supp., Welsh r., gin and water11, bed."
“ Sept. 28. Rose 8-shavd.-9, brekd.-3, dinr. rost leg muton and potat.—Note from Rummy to dine to-morrow; answered, Go.6, walk to Vale of H.--10, super, briled red herrin, no cheese, gin and W. 2 glass.-11, bed.”
The following day is one of those few the events of which are worthy to be recorded. But a journal-anybody's journal-made up entirely
of such“ rivetting incidents” is no more to be expected than a pudding all of plums.
“Sept. 29. At 8 rose-shave-9, brekd.-2, to put on best blue coat to go to Rummy'scould not find key of draws for near an hour—found it at last in desk in shop-wondered how it got there-coudnt tell-at almost 3 got to Rummy's—had to go all the way back home for pocket hanf.-got to R.'s rather latish-rather disturbed my enaquimity, as I call it—soon recovered and sed the best thing I ever sed in all my lifeRummy, says I, I'm so peckish I shall eat all the goose and leave you the rest of it-Rummy laughd amazing-so did Jubb who was there—so did I. -Dinner came in, rost goose, apple sarse, and tators. Upon the whole never was such a capital day in all the world.—All of us tip-top sperits -feast of reason & so forth-Says Rummy, says he, a goose is a foolish bird-So says I, thats what Jack Spiggins used to say—a goose is a foolish bird, says Jack. But says i, to Jack, that's 'cause it is too much for one and not enough for two. And a remarkable coincidence it is ; thats just eight—no, nine-yes, it is eight years ago this very day, says I, that I said so to Jack. As to your godse here, says I-Rummy, says I, foolish as it is, us three will make it look a den sight foolisher afore we're done with it. So Jubb laughed, and so did Rummy, and so did I. And thats keeping up the ball, as I call it. Sed another capital thing, better than t'others. It warn't long afore Rummins says to me, Pompo,"says he, d---mme, says he, isn't the coat you've got on rather too short, says he. So says [ to Rummy, d-mme, says I, it will be long enough afore I get another. So we all laughed."
Now all this is very well : it affords an admirable specimen of Nix's Table-talk. But what shall we say of the following ?
“Goose tolerable good, but not so good as goose eat with Jack Spiggins eight years ago. Stuffing decided bad; and as for apple-sarse, not enough to go twice round!”
Now, whatever may be thought of the taste and feeling which could dictate the record of a fact so unfavourable to the learned antiquary's character for hospitality, surely there can be no doubt of Mr. Hoppy's indiscretion--to apply the mildest term to the proceeding—in publishing it to all the world, and handing it down to the latest posterity. It may be pleasing to the gossips of Little Pedlington to learn, for the first time, that Mr. Rummins invited his friends to partake of a goose with him, yet meanly economized in the essential accompaniment of apple-sauce; but how are the feelings of the surviving relatives of the eminent Antiquary likely to be affected by such a slander of him? And not a single extenuating circumstance suggested! Mr. Hoppy does not even hint that apples, at the time, might have been scarce; or that the cook, or (the common offender in such cases) the cat, might have eaten half the quantity which had been provided for the purpose. But Jubb, who was present on the occasion, still lives; and doubtless he will instantly step forward to vindicate the character of his great Contemporary in a letter to the Editor from “Fair Play,” or “Hear both Sides,” or, haply, from “ One of the Goose-party.”
“An important event,” says Hoppy, “ was now hovering on the wings of Destiny. Towards the close of this year (1801) Pomponius Nix was drawn to serve in the militia. From this moment may be dated the commencement of his military career; for, regardless of expense, and with a promptitude most honourable to his patriotism, he