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Chapter 85

Peregrine is celebrated as a Wit and Patron, and proceeds to entertain himself at the Expense of whom it did concern.

In the meantime, Peregrine flourished in the gay scenes of life, and, as I have already observed, had divers opportunities of profiting in the way of marriage, had not his ambition been a little too inordinate, and his heart still biased by a passion, which all the levity of youth could not balance, nor all the pride of vanity overcome. Nor was our hero unmarked in the world of letters and taste; he had signalized himself in several poetical productions, by which he had acquired a good share of reputation: not that the pieces were such as ought to have done much honour to his genius; but any tolerable performance from a person of his figure and supposed fortune, will always be considered by the bulk of readers as an instance of astonishing capacity; though the very same production, ushered into the world with the name of an author in less affluent circumstances would be justly disregarded and despised; so much is the opinion of most people influenced and overawed by ridiculous considerations.

Be this as it will, our young gentleman was no sooner distinguished as an author, than he was marked out as a patron by all the starving retainers to poetry; he was solemnised in odes, celebrated in epigrams, and fed with the milk of soft dedication. His vanity even relished this incense; and, though his reason could not help despising those that offered it, not one of them was sent away unowned by his munificence. He began to think himself, in good earnest, that superior genius which their flattery had described; he cultivated acquaintance with the wits of fashion, and even composed in secret a number of bon-mots, which he uttered in company as the impromptus of his imagination. In this practice, indeed, he imitated some of the most renowned geniuses of the age, who, if the truth were known, have laboured in secret, with the sweat of their brows, for many a repartee which they have vended as the immediate production of fancy and expression. He was so successful in this exercise of his talents, that his fame actually came in competition with that great man who had long sat at the helm of wit; and, in a dialogue that once happened between them, on the subject of a corkscrew, wherein the altercation was discharged, according to Bayes, slap for slap, dash for dash, our hero was judged to have the better of his lordship, by some of the minor satellites, that commonly surround and reflect the rays of such mighty luminaries.

In a word, he dipped himself so far in these literary amusements, that he took the management of the pit into his direction, putting himself at the head of those critics who call themselves the town; and in that capacity chastised several players, who had been rendered insolent and refractory by unmerited success. As for the new productions of the stage, though generally unspirited and insipid, they always enjoyed the benefit of his influence and protection; because he never disliked the performance so much as he sympathized with the poor author, who stood behind the scenes in the most dreadful suspense, trembling, as it were, on the very brink of damnation. Yet, though he extended his generosity and compassion to the humble and needy, he never let slip one opportunity of mortifying villainy and arrogance. Had the executive power of the legislature been vested in him, he would have doubtless devised strange species of punishment for all offenders against humanity and decorum; but, restricted as he was, he employed his invention in subjecting them to the ridicule and contempt of their fellow-subjects.

It was with this view he set on foot the scheme of conjuration, which was still happily carried on, and made use of the intelligence of his friend Cadwallader; though he sometimes converted this advantage to the purposes of gallantry, being, as the reader may have perceived, of a very amorous complexion. He not only acted the reformer, or rather the castigator, in the fashionable world, but also exercised his talents among the inferior class of people, who chanced to incur his displeasure. One mischievous plan that entered our hero’s imagination was suggested by two advertisements published in the same paper, by persons who wanted to borrow certain sums of money, for which they promised to give undeniable security. Peregrine, from the style and manner of both, concluded they were written by attorneys, a species of people for whom he entertained his uncle’s aversion. In order to amuse himself and some of his friends with their disappointment, he wrote a letter signed A. B. to each advertiser, according to the address specified in the newspaper, importing, that if he would come with his writings to a certain coffee-house near the Temple, precisely at six in the evening, he would find a person sitting in the right-hand box next to the window, who would be glad to treat with him about the subject of his advertisement; and, should his security be liked, would accommodate him with the sum which he wanted to raise. Before the hour of this double appointment, Pickle, with his friend Cadwallader, and a few more gentlemen, to whom he had thought proper to communicate the plan, went to the coffee-house, and seated themselves near the place that was destined for their meeting.

The hope of getting money had such an evident effect upon their punctuality, that one of them arrived a considerable time before the hour; and having reconnoitred the room, took his station according to the direction he had received, fixing his eye upon a dock that stood before him, and asking of the barkeeper, if it was not too slow. He, had not remained in this posture many minutes, when he was joined by a strange figure that waddled into the room, with a bundle of papers in his bosom, and. the sweat running over his nose. Seeing a man in the box to which he had been directed, he took it for granted that he was the lender; and as soon as he could recover his breath, which was almost exhausted by the despatch he had made, “Sir,” said he, “I presume you are the gentleman I was to meet about that loan.” Here he was interrupted by the other, who eagerly replied, “A. B., sir, I suppose.” “The same,” cried the last-comer: “I was afraid I should be too late; for I was detained beyond my expectation by a nobleman at the other end of the town, that wants to mortgage a small trifle of his estate, about a thousand a year; and my watch happens to be in the hands of the maker, having met with an accident a few nights ago, which set it asleep. But, howsomever, there is no time lost, and I hop............

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