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Chapter 62

The Travellers depart for Antwerp, at which place the Painter gives a loose to his Enthusiasm.

Our adventurer, baffled in all his efforts to retrieve his lost Amanda, yielded at length to the remonstrances of his governor and fellow-travellers, who, out of pure complaisance to him, had exceeded their intended stay by six days at least; and a couple of post-chaises, with three riding-horses, being hired, they departed from Brussels in the morning, dined at Mechlin, and arrived about eight in the evening at the venerable city of Antwerp. During this day’s journey Pallet was elevated to an uncommon flow of spirits, with the prospect of seeing the birthplace of Rubens, for whom he professed an enthusiastic admiration. He swore, that the pleasure he felt was equal to that of a Mussulman, on the last day of his pilgrimage to Mecca; and that he already considered himself a native of Antwerp, being so intimately acquainted with their so justly boasted citizen, from whom, at certain junctures, he could not help believing himself derived, because his own pencil adopted the manner of that great man with surprising facility, and his face wanted nothing but a pair of whiskers and a beard, to exhibit the express image of the Fleming’s countenance. He told them he was so proud of this resemblance, that, in order to render it more striking, he had, at one time of his life, resolved to keep his face sacred from the razor; and in that purpose had persevered, notwithstanding the continual reprehensions of Mrs. Pallet, (who, being then with child), said, his aspect was so hideous, that she dreaded a miscarriage every hour, until she threatened in plain terms, to dispute the sanity of his intellects, and apply to the chancellor for a committee.

The doctor, on this occasion, observed, that a man who is not proof against the solicitations of a woman, can never expect to make a great figure in life; that painters and poets ought to cultivate no wives but the Muses; or, if they are by the accidents of fortune encumbered with families, they should carefully guard against that pernicious weakness, falsely honoured with the appellation of natural affection, and pay no manner of regard to the impertinent customs of the world. “Granting that you had been for a short time deemed a lunatic,” said he, “you might have acquitted yourself honourably of that imputation, by some performance that would have raised your character above all censure. Sophocles himself, that celebrated tragic poet, who, for the sweetness of his versification, was styled Melitta, or “the Bee,” in his old age, suffered the same accusation from his own children. who, seeing him neglect his family affairs, and devote himself entirely to poetry, carried him before the magistrate, as a man whose intellects were so much impaired by the infirmities of age, that he was no longer fit to manage his domestic concerns; upon which the reverend bard produced his tragedy of Oidipus epi Kolono, as a work he had just finished; which being perused, instead of being declared unsound of understanding, he was dismissed with admiration and applause. I wish your beard and whiskers had been sanctioned by the like authority; though I am afraid you would have been in the predicament of those disciples of a certain philosopher, who drank decoctions of cummin seeds, that their faces might adopt the paleness of their master’s complexion, hoping that, in being as wan, they would be as learned as their teacher.” The painter, stung by this sarcasm, replied, “or like those virtuosi, who, by repeating Greek, eating sillikicaby, and pretending to see visions, think they equal the ancients in taste and genius.” The physician retorted, Pallet rejoined, and the altercation continued until they entered the gates of Antwerp, when the admirer of Rubens broke forth into a rapturous exclamation, which put an end to the dispute and attracted the notice of the inhabitants, many of whom by shrugging up their shoulders and pointing to their foreheads, gave shrewd indications that they believed him a poor gentleman disordered in his brain.

They had no sooner alighted at the inn, than this pseudo-enthusiast proposed to visit the great church, in which he had been informed some of his master’s pieces were to be seen, and was remarkably chagrined, when he understood that he could not be admitted till next day. He rose next morning by day-break, and disturbed his fellow-travellers in such a noisy and clamorous manner, that Peregrine determined to punish him with some new infliction, and, while he put on his clothes, actually formed the plan of promoting a duel between him and the doctor, in the management of which, he promised himself store of entertainment, from the behaviour of both.

Being provided with one of those domestics who are always in waiting to offer their services to strangers on their first arrival, they were conducted to the house of a gentleman who had an excellent collection of pictures; and though the greatest part of them were painted by his favourite artist, Pallet condemned them all by the lump, because Pickle had told him beforehand that there was not one performance of Rubens among the number.

The next place they visited was what is called the Academy of Painting, furnished with a number of paltry pieces, in which our painter recognised the style of Peter Paul, with many expressions of admiration, on the same sort of previous intelligence.

From this repository, they went to the great church; and being led to the tomb of Rubens, the whimsical painter fell upon his knees, and worshipped with such appearance of devotion, that the attendant, scandalized at his superstition, pulled him up, observing, with great warmth, that the person buried in that place was no saint, but as great a sinner as himself; and that, if he was spiritually disposed, there was a chapel of the Blessed Virgin, at the distance of three yards on the right hand, to which he might retire. He thought it was incumbent upon him to manifest some extraordinary inspiration, while he resided on the spot where Rubens was born; and, therefore, his whole behavi............

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