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THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PETER PRIGGINS,*
COLLEGE SCOUT AND BEDMAKER.
I hate shaving, or being shaved ; its a disagreeable operation, admitting only of the alternative of cutting yourself, or being cut by some one else ; and no man likes to be cut, either actually or metaphorically. Then the temporary obscuration of three-fourths of one's face by a mass of soapsuds is unpleasant; for no one, even a schoolboy, likes to be lathered, though the mowing process is certainly the most objectionable, particularly when one's countenance, like Esau's, the founder of the sect called hairy'uns, bears such a harvest as to ret quire being laid in swarthes, like a grass-field with a heavy crop upon it; not to mention having one's nose made a handle of by the operator, and having to twist one's facial muscles into positions both ludicrous and painful. But however disagreeable the operation is, it is one which both fashion and cleanliness require; and if a man cannot per form upon himself, like a self-acting pianoforte, he must employ a substitute, however discordant it may be to his feelings.
Every college has, as part and parcel of its establishment, an officer called a tonsor, who, like the chest of drawers in the Deserted Village, has “ a double debt to pay,” being not only required at any moment to respond to the call of “one hair cut and curled” (as Mr. Keeley says in the farce called the “Burlington Arcade”) or “one gentleman to be shaved,” but also to procure a supply of servitors and bible-clerks, sub rosa, who are able and willing, in order to increase their very limited allowances, to do impositions and college exercises for those who are unable or unwilling to do them themselves. This is now the most profitable part of their profession, as they get a prettier per centage from the inside of their employe's heads, than they do from the outside of those of their employers—at least, since the expulsion of pigtails, powder, and pomatum.
Mr. Chops, the tonsor of St. Peter's, kindly operates half-price on the college servants, and I gladly avail myself of his services, as I am too nervous to look myself in the face with an edged tool in my
hand ever since, in my first attempt to remove few sprouting signs of manhood, I mowed off not only the crop itself, but three inches and a half of the epidermis on which it grew, along with it. Mr. Chops makes me nervous sometimes, as he has acquired by constant practise, and at a considerable expense, that peculiar tremulousness of the hand which invariably follows potations pottle deep;” and when he has exceeded beyond his wont “cut follows cut," as the broadsword-players say, in rapid succession, and all expostulations are speedily ended by a thrust of the soap-brush so near the region of eloquence, 'as to render it unsafe to “show one's teeth," so he can“ cut and come again” with impunity, One thing, however, I must in justice state, he supplies styptics and sticking-plaster, gratis.
Continued from No. ccxxiv., page 501.
I have but little doubt in my own mind that Xenophon and the other Greeks of old, called their foreign foes de Bapßapol from their proficiency in cutting, gashing, and drawing blood, and that thence the modern designation barber was derived; though it must be allowed the ancients had the advantage of us moderns, as they could and did return the compliment, which the rigidity of our laws will not permit us to do. We must “grin and bear it,” as Mr. Polito used to assure the laughing hyena when he disturbed his slumbers by stirring him up with the long pole.
A few mornings since when Mr. Chops called to operate upon me, I felt that I was in danger of being mangled more unmercifully than usual, as he always indicates an addition to his habitual shakiness, by humming the tune of “Come where the aspens quiver," to prepare his victim for his fate; and this particular morning i shuddered as I heard him harmonizing louder than usual, and ending with a prolonged shake upon the penultima of the last word as he opened my parlour-door.
“M-m-mor-morning, Peter,” said he, for he stammers most awfully
I politely returned his salutation, and with timorous fortitude submitted my bare throat to his weapon. The application of the brush was indicative of what was to follow for the first thrust which he made at my chin, lighted upon my nose, and then he Aourished and ran as rapidly over the lineaments of my face as a harper, ignorant of his art, does over the strings of his instrument, seldom hitting the right chord, as Horace better expresses it
“ Qui chordâ semper oberrat eâdem.” He then proceeded to strop his razor, and to my surprise, succeeded in doing so without cutting his thumb off. He next seized me by the nose, and putting the high pressure upon his thumb and finger, in order to "hold on by," as the sailors say, applied the cold iron to my cheek with much the same sort of touch that a miniature-painter uses in putting in his background. Having cleared about three inches, and drawn blood in three places, he relinquished his hold to apply his styptic, and coolly observed
“You've ——cotched it n-ni-nicely —”
I could not speak, so I merely nodded to intimate that I felt the truth of his remark; but when he added, " In the p-p-apers, " I threw a look interrogatory into my eyes which elicited this explanation.
“Mrs. Ch-Ch—Ch—ops and my gals t-take in the p-p- enny P-p--eriodical of 1-l-itterater and B-B-ell's Letters, and there's a cr-cr-itic (meaning critique I presume) on your ‘L-1-ife and T-t-imes' in this n-n-umber; they l_lay it on p-pretty thick (here he renewed the application of the soap-brush) I can t-t-ell you, they've c-a-ut you up m—most inhumanely ( a gash an inch long just under mynose); they're sh—sh—arp pr-pr-actitioners, and don't se-eem to care for the f-f-eelings of no—body (two drops of styptic that burnt like caustic, and brought the tears into my eyes). I se-ee you f-feels it. You shall se—ee it when they've d-dwith it in the b-b-uttery; they've w—wiped you down handsome ;" and he concluded his performances and remarks by removing the superfluous soapsuds with his napkin.
I put on my coat and a philosophical sneer, and positively declined reading “ Mrs. Ch-Ch-op's ch-ch-eap publication."
“Well, if you w-w-on't, good b_b-y,” said Mr. Chops, resuming his rounds and his roundelay, “Come where the aspens quiver.' I was congratulating myself on having escaped without having my nose chopped off, and my best feelings lacerated by the concentrated venom of some “judex fatalis incestusque,” when I was interrupted by a loud single rap, which would have thrown any of my former masters into sudorifics, and which caused Mrs. Priggins to look out of temper and the window, and say,
“ Deary me, how very tiresome! Brome and Dusterly coming to call, and my hair still in puppy lots," which, she says, is French for curl-papers.
No woman is exempt from what I call personal hypocrisy, and Mrs. P., of course, has her share. She tells every body " she wears her own hair,” and so she does; but it has been cut off her head for these ten years, and made up, by Chops's ingenuity, into false-fronts; each of which looks to me, as it lies for the night in its oblong pasteboard-box, like two poodle-dog's ears nailed to a long leather-strap; to render the deception practised on the public more complete, the curls are put into papillotes as long as Mrs. P. “is in dish-a-bill," which is, until she “ cleans herself” for dinner.
“She, of course, vanished up stairs, as “she was not fit to be seen that figger," and I opened the door to admit my friends Broome and Dusterly, who always run in couples like the Pylades and Orestes of ancient, and the Pontos and Snowballs of modern days. They seem to be almost as inseparable as those pretty little Indian birds, which my youngest daughter calls affidavits, though their proper name is, I believe, Averdevats.
I concluded that they had merely called to take their customary “ morning," and was going to send Peter, jun., to the buttery to procure the requisites, but was interrupted by Dusterly, who called out, emphatically as usually,
Stop ha hinstant! now Mr. Broome, hout with the hinformation." Broome dived into the depths of his coat-pocket, and with some difficulty brought out a double diurnal newspaper, and covering the dining-table with it, turned it inside and outside, and at last found and pointed out to me an article headed“ Reviews of the Periodicals," directing my attention more particularly to the remarks on the N. M.M. Upon skimming it over as rapidly as possible, I found “Paper by the Editor-good as usual. By Mrs. Trollope-satirical as ever, with two engravings. Several others, all intended to please, which will be much approved of by some people, but perhaps not by others. Peter Priggins again-more university profligacy-we've no doubt it's all false that is, fictitious, imaginary, though we think it a true picture of Oxford life-rather over-coloured, or over-drawn-but by the hand of an artist. We think it bad taste to bring such scenes before the public, though we confess we approve of their exposition, especially as we have had scenes of naval and military life, and of high life or low life usque
ad nauseam, and though we think the publication of life at college and public schools may do a great deal of harm, we are still of opinion that it will certainly produce a great deal of good. The author, we understand, has been offered 30001. and a D.C.L. degree, by the delegates of the University Press, if he will allow his MS. to be printed at the Clarendon, and published amongst the other standard works of that admirable and useful institution."
“Well," said Broome, dodging me round the dining-table, until he got me into a favourable position for an examination, by placing his back against the window, and causing the light to fall upon my face, “ well, is that true?--are we to congratulate you on being an honourary doctor ?”
“ Hand hif you his to ave hall that here hammount, you can hafford to beave andsome to han hold friend-his hit true ?"
“Quite as true," I replied, “ as the accounts you may have seen lately in the papers of the enormous sums of money given by their respective publishers to the authors of the most popular works of the day.”
But,” continued Broome, smiling at the dubious looks of Dusterly, who could not quite comprehend whether I was to be a D.C.L. or not, “ what answer do you make to the charge of overcharging your descriptions-overcolouring or overdrawing, as the critic calls it ?”
“Haye, hexhaggerhating as I call it! What do you say to that?"
“Simply this : You both of you know as well as I do, that many such scenes as I have described, have really been witnessed in Oxford -and in Cambridge too, I've no doubt-similes similibus gaudent), unsanctioned, of course, by the authorities. To please the taste of the public, which, in these days, requires highly seasoned dishes, it is absolutely necessary to embellish, or in the words of the critic before us, to overdraw and overcolour. This remark will apply not only to writings intended to amuse, but to those meant to instruct; indeed, to very many things besides, do you think,” said I, pointing to a very flattering likeness of Mrs. P. in a very handsome gilt frame, carefully covered over with fly-defying yellow gauze,“ do you think that my old woman would have allowed that misrepresentation of herself to hang there if the artist had not improved upon nature ? ut pictura poesisthe best book that ever was written would not sell in these days without a great name, a grand and startling title-page, or plenty of puffing and patronage, and scarcely with all these advantages, without twentyfour.etchings by Mr. Straightlegs. This is peculiarly the age of embellishment,
• Ætas nostra nova rerum nomina protulit.' What mamma would send her son to Mister Birch's school ? but Doctor B.'s classical and commercial academy for the instillation of merchant's accounts and metaphysics, though alter et idem, is a very different thing. Mrs. P. calls having a few friends to tea and talk,
giving a swurry and conversationy, and designates her little backbedroom as her boodoye;' a common headach is termed a nervous disarrangement of the internal contents of the occiput,' and even a pair of boots are called a 'membraneous envelopement of the lower extremities.”
“ True,” said Broome," for Mrs. B. calls my old arm-chair a'footeel, and the footstool an'ottymum.'.
“And my missus,” observed Dusterly, « calls hour hass hon which hour Enry rides, his · helegant portatory hanimal.””
“ As to the critic's speculation," I continued, “ about the good or harm likely to result from my stories of college life, I can only say that they are not written with a view of effecting any change whatever in the sentiments of the public towards the universities, but merely to amuse the readers of the N.M.M.; and if they prove offensive to any one of its numerous perusers, he has the remedy in his own power let him leave my leaves uncut,
my contributions unread." Mrs. P. here made her appearance “commyfo,” and invited my friends to a " little déjinnay," in the shape of bread, cheese, and ale, of which Dusterly eat enormously, declaring that a “ little snap was more ealthy than a great cloggy meal."
When they had taken their “ little snap," and their departure, I strolled into my garden, and found my son and successor, Peter, junr., busily employed in washing out the barrels of a double gun, under the pump, preparatory to “ the first," not for himself, but for one of his masters, who always resides during " the long,” for the purpose of enjoying a little fishing and shooting, without being pestered and annoyed by the interruptions of the undergraduates.
The sight of the gun brought to my mind an old story of “ a day's shooting," which I shall tell by and by.
The shooting about Oxford would be very good if the men could only get leave to go into the preserves, but as that is a very difficult thing to obtain, unless they happen to have a good introduction to the land. lords or farmers in the neighbourhood, they are driven to the open and unpreserved parts of the country, which are not very thickly populated with partridges or pheasants, except for the first week or two of the season. I myself have seen ten men, snobs, in top boots, and tinder-boxes (i. e. flint guns) in their hands, marching down Wolvercot field, massacreing every thing, feathered or flicked, that got up before them, without leave or licence, and that in the good old times when gentlemen did not pay their fishmongers in kind, but distributed their game to their friends. So that when the men come up in October there are but a few larks left for them to practice upon, with now and then a solitary rabbit in a hedgerow, who has been shot at too often to venture out except at midnight. This scarcity of game in the unpreserved districts compels them, much against their will, to intrude upon the neighbouring preserves, and to resort to all manner of tricks to elude the vigilance of the keepers and their employers.
Sometimes this is effected by driving up to the cover-side, having a pull right and left at the pheasants, and driving off before the keeper can get to the spot. Sometimes by sneaking into cover without a dog, going directly to the barley-rick, where the birds are fed, and after bagging a brace, lying quietly in a ditch, or up in a thick tree, until the search is over. At other times it is necessary to bribe the keeper, and if he is too conscientious to accept the offer, to give him a false name, or the governor's certificate, and if that won't do to give him, which he must take, a sound threshing, and then run for their lives. One or other of these plans generally answers.
Some of the uninitiated may ask if shooting is allowed by the authorities of the university. The statute “ De armis non gestandis,” expressly forbids“ intra universitatis ambitum,” “ the carrying of arms, either offensive or defensive, such as swords, daggers, little dittos, com