Chapter 7 A Town Wit Described — The Dullest Fellows may Learn to b_omical for a Night or Two.
WHEN the morning arrived on which we were to entertain our young landlord, i_ay be easily supposed what provisions were exhausted to make an appearance.
It may also be conjectured that my wife and daughters expanded their gayes_lumage upon this occasion. Mr. Thornhill came with a couple of friends, hi_haplain and feeder. The servants, who were numerous, he politely ordered t_he next ale-house; but my wife, in the triumph of her heart, insisted o_ntertaining them all; for which, by the by, our family was pinched for thre_eeks after. As Mr. Burchell had hinted to us the day before that he wa_aking proposals of marriage to Miss Wilmot, my son George's former mistress,
this a good deal damped the heartiness of his reception; but accident, in som_easure, relieved our embarrassment, for one of the company happening t_ention her name, Mr. Thornhill observed with an oath that he never kne_nything more absurd than calling such a fright a beauty, "For, strike m_gly!" continued he, "if I should not find as much pleasure in choosing m_istress by the information of a lamp under the clock at St. Dunstan's." A_his he laughed, and so did we:-the jests of the rich are ever successful.
Olivia, too, could not avoid whispering loud enough to be heard, that he ha_n infinite fund of humor.
After dinner I began with my usual toast, the Church. For this I was thanke_y the chaplain, as he said the Church was the only mistress of hi_ffections. "Come, tell us honestly, Frank," said the 'Squire, with his usua_rchness, "suppose the Church, your present mistress, dressed in lawn sleeves,
on one hand, and Miss Sophia, with no lawn about her, on the other, whic_ould you be for?"-"For both, to be sure," cried the chaplain.-"Right, Frank,"
cried the 'Squire; "for may this glass suffocate me, but a fine girl is wort_ll the priestcraft in the creation. For what are tithes and tricks but a_mposition, all a confounded imposture, and I can prove it!"-"I wish yo_ould," cried my son Moses; "and I think," continued he, "that I should b_ble to answer you."-"Very well, sir," cried the 'Squire, who immediatel_moked him, and winking on the rest of the company, to prepare us for th_port, "if you are for a cool argument upon that subject, I am ready to accep_he challenge. And first, whether are you for managing it analogically, o_ialogically?"-"I am for managing it rationally," cried Moses, quite happy a_eing permitted to dispute."Good again," cried the 'Squire; "and firstly, o_he first. I hope you'll not deny that whatever is, is. If you don't grant m_hat, I can go no further.""Why," returned Moses, "I think I may grant that,
and make the best of it."-"I hope too," returned the other, "you'll grant tha_ part is less than the whole."-"I grant that too," cried Moses; "it is bu_ust and reasonable."-"I hope," cried the 'Squire, "you will not deny that th_hree angles of a triangle are equal to two right ones."-"Nothing can b_lainer," returned t'other, and looked round with his usual importance.-"Ver_ell," cried the 'Squire, speaking very quickly; "the premises being thu_ettled, I proceed to observe that the concatenation of self-existence,
proceeding in a reciprocal duplicate ratio, naturally produces a problematica_ialogism, which in some measure proves that the essence of spirituality ma_e referred to the second predicable."-"Hold, hold!" cried the other, "I den_hat. Do you think I can thus tamely submit to such heterodo_octrines?""What!" replied the 'Squire, as if in a passion, "not submit!
Answer me one plain question: Do you think Aristotle right when he says tha_elatives are related?"-"Undoubtedly," replied the other.-"If so, then," crie_he 'Squire, "answer me directly to what I propose: Whether do you judge th_nalytical investigation of the first part of my enthymem deficient secundu_uoad, or quoad minus, and give me your reasons: give me your reasons, I say,
directly."-"I protest!" cried Moses. "I don't rightly comprehend the force o_our reasoning; but if it be reduced to one simple proposition, I fancy it ma_hen have an answer."-"O sir!" cried the 'Squire, "I am your most humbl_ervant; I find you want me to furnish you with argument and intellects too.
No, sir, there I protest you are too hard for me." This effectually raised th_augh against poor Moses, who sat the only dismal figure in a group of merr_aces; nor did he offer a single syllable more during the whole entertainment.
But though all this gave me no pleasure, it had a very different effect upo_livia, who mistook it for humor, though but a mere act of the memory. Sh_hought him, therefore, a very fine gentleman, and such as consider wha_owerful ingredients a good figure, fine clothes, and fortune are in tha_haracter, will easily forgive her. Mr. Thornhill, notwithstanding his rea_gnorance, talked with ease, and could expatiate upon the common topics o_onversation with fluency. It is not surprising, then, that such talent_hould win the affections of a girl who by education was taught to value a_ppearance in herself, and consequently to set a value upon it in another.
Upon his departure, we again entered into a debate upon the merits of ou_oung landlord. As he directed his looks and conversation to Olivia, it was n_onger doubted but that she was the object that induced him to be our visitor.
Nor did she seem to be much displeased at the innocent raillery of her brothe_nd sister upon this occasion. Even Deborah herself seemed to share the glor_f the day, and exulted in her daughter's victory as if it were her own. "An_ow, my dear," cried she to me, "I'll fairly own that it was I that instructe_y girls to encourage our landlord's addresses. I had always some ambition,
and you now see that I was right; f or who knows how this may end?"-"Ay, wh_nows that indeed!" answered I, with a groan. "For my part, I don't like it,
and I could have been better pleased with one that was poor and honest, tha_his fine gentleman with his fine fortune and infidelity; for depend on 't, i_e be what I suspect him, no freethinker shall ever have a child of mine. "
"Sure, father," cried Moses, "you are too severe in this: for Heaven wil_ever arraign him for what he thinks, but for what he does. Every man has _housand vicious thoughts, which arise without his power to suppress. Thinkin_reely of religion may be involuntary with this gentleman; so that allowin_is sentiments to be wrong, yet as he is purely passive in his assent, he i_o more to be blamed for his errors, than the governor of a city without wall_or the shelter he is obliged to afford an invading enemy."
"True, my son," cried I; "but if the governor invites the enemy there, he i_ustly culpable. And such is always the case with those who embrace error. Th_ice does not lie in assenting to the proof s they see, but in being blind t_any of the proof s that offer. So that though our erroneous opinions b_nvoluntary when formed, yet as we have been wilfully corrupt, or ver_egligent in forming them, we deserve punishment for our vice, or contempt fo_ur folly."
My wife now kept up the conversation, though not the argument. She observe_hat several very prudent men of our acquaintance were freethinkers and mad_ery good husbands; and she knew some sensible girls that had skill enough t_ake converts of their spouses. "And who knows, my dear," continued she, "wha_livia may be able to do? The girl has a great deal to say-upon every subject,
and to my knowledge is very skilled in controversy."
"Why, my dear, what controversy can she have read?" cried I. "It does no_ccur to me that I ever put such books into her hands; you certainly overrat_er merit."
"Indeed, papa," replied Olivia, "she does not. I have read a great deal o_ontroversy. I have read the disputes between Thwackum and Square, th_ontroversy between Robinson Crusoe and Friday the savage, and I am no_mployed in reading the controversy in 'Religious Courtship.'"
"Very well," cried I, "that's a good girl; I find you are perfectly qualifie_or making converts, and so go help your mother to make the gooseberry-pie."