Memoir of Beau Nash by Unknown

Richard Nash—or Beau Nash, as he is commonly called—was born at Swansea, in the autumn of the year 1674. His father possessed a moderate income, which he derived from a partnership in a glass manufactory; and his mother was niece to Colonel Poyer, a chivalrous old Cavalier, who was executed by order of Cromwell for defending Pembroke Castle against the assaults of the Roundheads. At the usual age young Nash was sent to a private school at Carmarthen, whence in due time he was transferred to Jesus College, Oxford, where he distinguished himself by an extraordinary and precocious genius for intrigue and gallantry. Before he was seventeen, he had got himself into at least a dozen delicate dilemmas; and, but for the seasonable interference of his college tutor, would have married a female of abandoned character, whose wit and beauty had completely turned his brain.

Disheartened by such licentious conduct, his father abruptly recalled him from the university, and purchased him a commission in the army; a profession of which he soon grew weary, the more especially as he had little besides the slender pay of an ensign to support him. Finding, however, that it was necessary to make some sort of exertion in order to obtain a decent livelihood, our Beau entered himself as a law-student in the Temple, and for some months applied himself assiduously to study. But his natural volatility soon regained its usual ascendency over him, and, dismissing all thoughts of acquiring fortune and reputation as a lawyer, he set up for a man of wit and fashion about town, dressing, as one of his biographers observes, "to the very edge of his finances," exhibiting himself conspicuously in the side-boxes of the theatres, cultivating the acquaintance of young men of rank and wealth, and practising those arts of address and persuasion for which he was afterwards so celebrated.

It was while he was a student in the Temple that a circumstance occurred which gave a wondrous lift to his sense of self-importance, and brought him before the gay world in the very way he most preferred. It seems that it had been long the custom of the different inns of court to entertain our sovereigns on their accession to the crown with a dramatic pageant; and, on the accession of William the Third, Nash was appointed to conduct this entertainment, a task which he fulfilled so much to his Majesty's satisfaction, that he made him an offer of knighthood. But he refused this honour, at the same time hinting that he should have no objection to be made one of the Poor Knights of Windsor, for then he should have a fortune sufficient to maintain his new dignity. The King smiled, but took no further notice of this broad hint, for he was not one to give pensions without value received; and jokes, even of the first water, always ranked low in his estimation.

This affair of the pageant procured Nash many associates among the rich and the titled, who were delighted by his good-humoured vivacity, his easy assurance, his clever after-dinner stories, and his familiar acquaintance with the habits of town life. Many characteristic anecdotes are told of him at this gay period of his life. On one occasion, when called on by the masters of the Temple for certain accounts, among other items he made this odd charge, "For making one man happy, ten pounds." "What is the meaning of this, sir?" said one of the dignitaries in his gravest and most authoritative manner. "Why, to tell you the truth," replied Nash, "I happened a few days ago to overhear a poor man, who had a large family, say that ten pounds would make him happy for life, and I could not resist the opportunity of trying the experiment." The masters were so much struck with the singularity of this explanation, that they not only allowed the charge, but even insisted on doubling it, in testimony of their approbation of Nash's benevolence. On another occasion, having gone down on a sporting excursion to York, our thoughtless Beau lost all his money at the gaming-table; and on applying for assistance to a college friend whom he met with in the city, was promised the loan of fifty pounds, provided he would stand at the great door of the Minster in a blanket, just as the people were coming out of church. Nash unhesitatingly agreed to do so, but had not stood there long before he was discovered by the dean, who had some slight acquaintance with him. "What!" exclaimed the divine, "Mr. Nash in masquerade?" "Not so, reverend sir; I am merely doing penance for keeping bad company;" saying which, he pointed to his companion, who was not a little annoyed at finding the laugh thus unexpectedly turned against him. A few days afterwards, Nash won another wager by riding naked through a country village on a cow, a freak which in those times was considered a clever practical joke!

But the strangest of all his adventures is the following. He was once invited by some convivial officers of the navy on board a frigate that had just received sailing orders for the Mediterranean; and, after spending some hours in revelry, found that during his debauch the vessel had set sail, and that to return to land was wholly out of the question. He accordingly, nothing loth, made the whole voyage with his boon companions, and in the course of it was engaged in action, and severely wounded in the leg, while one of his friends was shot dead by his side. In after years Nash was singularly fond of repeating this story; but as he was apt, like Foote's liar, to be occasionally "poetical in his prose," his hearers always received it with a wholesome distrust. "I don't believe one word about your having been kidnapped on board ship," said a lady of distinction to him one day in the Bath pump-room. "Fact, upon my honour," replied the unabashed Beau; "and, if you will step with me into another room, I shall be happy to show you my leg, which will convince you whether I speak truth or not."

On his return from this naval trip, Nash, who had now reached the age of thirty, and had neither fortune nor profession to rely on for support, turned his whole attention to gambling. He encountered the usual vicissitudes attendant on this course of life, sometimes winning, but more frequently losing, but always bearing his reverses with equanimity. Vive la bagatelle! was his motto. He was not one to sit down and despond because luck had gone against him. If it rained one day, he felt sure it would clear up the next; so, shrugged his shoulders, and waited patiently the approach of more sunny weather.

We now come to the great epoch in Nash's life,—his accession to the throne of fashion! About the year 1705, a short visit paid by Queen Anne to Bath had the effect of directing the eyes of the gay world to that city. Our Beau, among others, was attracted to it; and, having amassed a large sum by gambling, soon made himself conspicuous by the splendour of his equipage, his trim attire, courteous manners, and invincible good-humour. In those primitive days Bath was little better than an ordinary country town; but Nash, with the prophetic eye of taste, discerned its capabilities as a fashionable watering-place, and by adroitly flattering the local authorities, and worming himself into the good graces of all the most influential inhabitants, succeeded in obtaining the appointment of Master of the Ceremonies, with sole and uncontrolled power to raise subscriptions for building pump-rooms, laying out public walks, and making whatever improvements he might think expedient. From this period down nearly to the day of his death, Nash was, to all intents and purposes, sovereign of the city. King George might rule at St. James's, but King Richard ruled at Bath.

"The eagle he was lord above,
But Rob was lord below."

One of the first reforms projected by the new monarch was in the dress of his subjects. Previous to his accession to the throne it had invariably been the custom for gentlemen to dance in boots. Nash resolved to put a stop to this barbarism, and accordingly issued a ukase ordering his people never henceforth to make their appearance at the Assembly Rooms, save in pumps, silk stockings, and all the finery of full dress. For some time this arbitrary mandate was resisted by more than one Bath Hampden; but perseverance at length gained the day, and the patriots surrendered at discretion. But not only was Nash omnipotent at the city of Bladud, but he subdued also Tunbridge Wells to his authority. In fact, he was as successful a despot as Napoleon, with this difference in his favour,—that he ruled by the force of address, while the other ruled solely by force of arms. Napoleon tamed refractory subjects by threats of exile or imprisonment; Nash, by threats of epigrams in the county newspapers.

Having crushed rebellion by the strong arm of power, and brought to a successful issue the important question of boots, or no boots, our Beau next proceeded to draw up a social code, which in the strictness with which it was enforced, and the benefits it conferred on the community for whose use it was intended, may vie with the famous Code Napoléon. "I shall go down to posterity," said the French emperor, "with my code in my hand." Nash has come down to posterity with his code also in his hand. We have diligently perused this celebrated document, which, although it contains as many violations of grammar as a king's speech, is remarkable for the good sense and simplicity of its directions. On the conduct, in particular, to be observed by both sexes at public assemblies, it is shrewd and explicit to a degree. Here Nash showed himself the very incarnation of punctilious etiquette. Even royalty itself endeavoured in vain to mitigate the severity of his decrees. The Princess Amelia having one night humbly requested him to permit her to join in one more country-dance after the hour of breaking up had arrived, Nash assured her that the "established rules of Bath resembled the laws of Lycurgus, which would admit of no alteration without an utter overthrow of all legitimate authority." Of course, as a member of the constitutional House of Brunswick, her Royal Highness succumbed to the force of this logic.

One of Nash's special objects of dislike, and against which he pointed the whole artillery of his sarcasm, was a white apron, then much worn by ladies at public assemblies. To such an extent did he carry his abhorrence of this article of female apparel, that he actually stripped the Duchess of Queensberry one evening at a ball, "and threw her apron," says his biographer, "upon the hinder benches among the ladies' women;" a significant hint which had all the good effect he could have desired. If Peter the Great has been universally praised for his address in prevailing on his countrywomen to adopt European costumes, surely Richard the Great deserves equal credit for having been able to persuade his female subjects to lay aside their darling prejudices in favour of aprons!

Nash had now been upwards of three years Master of the Ceremonies at Bath; and such was the attention which he paid to its amusements, and so numerous the improvements he made in the architecture and public walks of the city, that it soon became the most fashionable watering-place in the empire. But even this did not satisfy his thirst for notoriety, and accordingly he founded another kingdom at Tunbridge Wells, whither he was in the habit of travelling once a year, in a post-chariot drawn by six greys, with out-riders, French horns, and all the paraphernalia of royalty. His arrival at this picturesque spot was always followed by that of the nobility and gentry, who regarded him as their "Sir Oracle." Even the announcement, "Nash is coming," was quite sufficient to raise the price of lodgings, and set every adventurer on the qui vive.

And here it may be asked, how was it that Nash, who started on his career without a sixpence in his pocket, and was generally unsuccessful at play, contrived for so many years to maintain such a splendid establishment? The answer is soon given. He was a sleeping partner in one of the most thriving of the Bath gambling-houses. Connected with his transactions in this line we give the following curious anecdotes, which will show that whatever were the defects of his head, his heart was always in the right place. The Earl of T——, when a young man, was inordinately addicted to gambling, and in particular loved to have the King of Bath for his opponent. He was, however, no match for his majesty, who, after winning several trifling sums from him, resolved to attempt his cure, foreseeing that otherwise he would fall a prey to adventurers who might not be so forbearing as himself. Accordingly he engaged his lordship one evening in play to a very serious amount, and won from him, first, all his ready money, then the title-deeds of his estates, and, finally, the very watch in his pocket and the rings on his fingers. When he had thus sufficiently punished the young nobleman for his infatuation, Nash read him a lecture on the flagrant impropriety of attempting to make money by gambling, when poverty cannot be pleaded in justification of such conduct; after which he returned him all his winnings, merely exacting from him a promise that he would never play again! Not less generously did he behave to an Oxford student who had come to spend the long vacation at Bath. This greenhorn, who also affected to be a gamester, was lucky enough to win a large sum of money from our Beau, and after the game was ended, was invited by him to supper. "Perhaps," said Nash, "you think I have asked you for the purpose of securing my revenge; but I can assure you that my sole motive in requesting your company is, to set you on your guard, and to entreat you to be warned by my experience, and shun play as you would the devil. This is strange advice for one like me to give; but I feel for your youth and inexperience, and am convinced that if you do not stop where you now are, you will infallibly be ruined." Nash was right. A few nights afterwards, having lost his entire fortune at the gaming-table, the young man blew his brains out!

Though it was one of Nash's foibles to be thought "a lady-killer," yet this did not prevent him from befriending the fair sex whenever opportunity offered. He was the means of exposing many a scheming libertine, and more than one heiress owed to him her escape from the snares of penniless adventurers. About the time of the treaty of Utrecht, a certain Colonel M——, a gallant, handsome officer of dragoons, was in great favour with all the Bath ladies. As, however, he had nothing to depend on but his pay, it was an object with him to marry for money; and accordingly he singled out a Miss L——, a wealthy heiress, whose father was desirous that she should espouse a nobleman of distinction. But the colonel had gained her affections; whereupon Nash, who was well acquainted with his circumstances, wrote to the young lady's parents, advising them strongly to put an end to the connexion, which they did, by abruptly removing her from Bath. The disappointed suitor, enraged at the Beau's interference, instantly sent him a challenge, which was declined; for, among other of his prejudices, Nash held the monomachia or duello in the most unequivocal abhorrence. Finding his only chance of retrieving his finances thus cut off, the colonel quitted Bath, where his creditors were become quite clamorous, and in a fit of desperation hurried over to the Continent, and joined the Dutch army in Flanders. Here he enlisted himself as a volunteer; while his friends, not hearing of or from him for a considerable period, gave out that he had been killed in battle. Meantime the nobleman, taking advantage of his rival's absence, pushed his suit with ardour; but, before he could bring it to a satisfactory conclusion, the young lady's father died, leaving her property to the amount of fifteen hundred pounds per annum! It was at this crisis of her fate that Nash happened to hear that the colonel had returned to England, but, fearful of being discovered by his creditors, had changed his name, joined a company of strolling actors, and was then playing at Peterborough. On learning these particulars, our Beau thought that the time was come for him to make reparation to the colonel, especially as the lady was now of age, and fully competent to make her own choice of a husband. He invites her accordingly to join him and some mutual friends in a short trip to Peterborough, where they arrive early in the forenoon, and, by way of passing the evening agreeably, pay a visit to the theatre. Just as they are entering the box, the colonel appears on the stage. The young lady recognises him in an instant, and is so much affected by his altered circumstances, that she faints away. On regaining consciousness, she finds him standing beside her. Nash has brought him there. "You thought me your enemy," said the kind-hearted monarch, "but I was no such thing; I merely thought one of you too extravagant, and the other too inexperienced, to be likely to make a happy match of it. But the case is altered now; if, therefore, you feel inclined to marry, do so in God's name, and d—n him, say I, that would part you!" They were married within the month, and Nash spent many a pleasant day at their villa in the neighbourhood of Bristol.

Mr. Wood, the architect, of Bath, has left on record another anecdote of Nash, which redounds equally to his credit. About the period of his greatest popularity, there came to the city a young lady well known by the name of Sylvia, who, as she was handsome, accomplished, of "gentle blood," and possessed of a large fortune, soon became one of the ruling belles of the day. Among the number of this lady's admirers was a gentleman, nicknamed by his friends the "Good-natured Man," from his easy and indolent temper. He was of sadly improvident habits; and having contracted heavy debts, which he was wholly unable to discharge, he was arrested and thrown into prison, which coming to the ears of Sylvia, she went to consult Mr. Nash upon the best means of freeing him from his embarrassments. His majesty strongly endeavoured to persuade her from interfering in the matter; observing that her interference would be sure to be misconstrued, and that to evince such extreme interest in a young man who had no claim on her consideration further than having occasionally flirted with her in society, would expose her to the cruellest calumnies; and, moreover, that she could do him no good, for that her entire fortune, ample as it was, would be scarcely sufficient to satisfy the demands of his creditors. The thoughtless and enamoured girl listened to, but was not convinced by, Nash's arguments. She expended a large portion of her property in defraying the "Good-natured Man's" debts; but before she could accomplish his liberation he died, and she had the mortification to discover that she had not only lost the greatest part of her fortune, but, which was of more value, her reputation also. In this forlorn condition, her spirits broken, and her society avoided by those who had formerly been proud to rank themselves among her flatterers, she accepted the offer of a plausible old demirep, who kept one of the most splendid gaming establishments at Bath, to pay an occasional visit to her rooms, for the hag was shrewd enough to foresee that Sylvia's beauty would prove a powerful magnet of attraction to the libertines who frequented such places. Here Nash used often to meet her, and, believing that she was still innocent, however thoughtless her conduct might be, remonstrated with her in the kindest terms, and at length succeeded in persuading her to take up her residence with Mr. Wood's family in Queen Square. While here, Mr. Wood describes her as having been most exemplary in her habits, seldom going out, but confining herself to the solitude of her chamber, where she spent the greatest portion of her time in reading. About a month after she had been domesticated in his house, business of importance took her host to London; and it was during his absence that Sylvia first meditated the idea of suicide. One evening, after having been more than usually cheerful, and amused herself by dandling one of Mr. Wood's children in her arms, she ordered supper to be got ready in the library, and, having spent some hours alone there, went up into her bed-room. On her way, she had to pass through the chamber where her host's children lay asleep, and struck with their happy, innocent countenances, and the consciousness of her own meditated guilt, she burst into tears; but, recovering herself with an effort, hurried into her own apartment, carefully locking the door behind her. She then proceeded to dress herself in white like a bride's-maid, neatly arranged her hair, and, having procured a pink silk girdle, which she lengthened by means of another made of gold thread, placed it on the table, and, throwing herself on the bed, spent some time in reading. About midnight she rose, and, after kneeling for a few minutes in prayer, mounted upon a chair, drove a large nail into the closet-door, and, attaching one end of the girdle to it, fastened the other tightly about her neck, and so hung suspended. Her weight, however, proving too much for it, the girdle broke, and she fell to the floor with violence; but, still resolute to destroy herself, she made a second attempt, in which she unfortunately succeeded. Her death created an extraordinary sensation throughout Bath; the coroner's jury brought in a verdict of lunacy; and Nash, who, with Mr. Wood, was the only friend the poor girl had left, attended her funeral, and did his best to protect her memory from insult.

In the year 1734 Bath was honoured by a visit from the Prince of Orange, and in 1738 by another from the Prince of Wales, both of whom took particular notice of Nash; for which, in return, the grateful Beau erected obelisks in their honour. He had now attained the climax of his popularity. His word was law; his bow an honour; his acquaintance a sure passport into the best circles. The Prince of Wales having made him a present of a magnificent gold snuff-box, the rest of the nobility thought it incumbent on them to follow the example; and, accordingly, it soon became the fashion—a fashion which he most disinterestedly encouraged—to give Nash snuff-boxes. As if this were not sufficient distinction, the corporation, in a paroxysm of gratitude for the benefits which he had conferred on their city, determined on erecting a full-length statue of him in the Pump-room, between the busts of Newton and Pope, which gave rise to one of Lord Chesterfield's wittiest and most caustic epigrams. We subjoin the closing stanza of this brilliant gem:—

'The statue, placed the busts between,
Adds to the satire strength;
Wisdom and Wit are little seen,
But Folly's at full length,"

Poor Nash's brains were half-turned by such brilliant prosperity. He had his levees, where he affected all the airs of a legitimate monarch; his buffoons, his parasites, and even his poet-laureate. But, so far was he from being satisfied with the flatteries constantly lavished on him, that his appetite "grew by what it fed upon." If a beggar in the street called him "Your honour," he always bowed low to the compliment; but if he called him "Your lordship," he would give him every farthing he had about him. He has even been known, when in London, to stand a whole day at the window of the Smyrna Coffee-house, merely in the hope of receiving a passing bow from the Prince of Wales or the Duchess of Marlborough!

The numerous dedications to Nash are not the least curious proofs of his universal celebrity. Some of these are such exquisite samples of the servile, that we cannot resist the temptation of extracting a sentence or two from them. One is from a noted highwayman, who was taken up for attempting to rob and murder a Dr. Handcock. This scamp, whose name was Baxter, published a book, dated from Taunton jail, exposing the tricks of thieves and gamblers, which he dedicated to Nash, as follows: "As your honour's wisdom, humanity, and interest, are the friend of the virtuous, I make bold to lay at your honour's feet the following work," &c. Another dedication is from a professor of cookery, who says, "As much as the oak exceeds the bramble, so do you, honoured sir, exceed the rest of mankind in benevolence, charity, and every other virtue that adorns, ennobles, and refines the human species. I have, therefore, made bold to prefix your name, though without your permission, to the following volume, which stands in need of such a patron." We next find a musical composer essaying the complimentary. "To whom," asks this sycophantic dedicator, "could I presume to offer these, my first attempts at musical composition, but to the great encourager of all polite arts; for your generosity knows no bounds, nor are you more famed for that dignity of mind which ennobles and gives a grace to every part of your conduct, than for that humanity and beneficence, which make you the friend and benefactor of all mankind!" These dedications, and a hundred others of the same calibre, which might have turned the stomach of an ostrich, Nash digested with uncommon facility. But it was with the flatteries of the poets that he used to be most tickled; and many a hungry browser on Parnassus has been rescued by his thirst for praise from the fangs of an unimaginative bailiff.

But the hour was at hand when this Wolsey of the fashionable world was doomed to experience the caprice and neglect of those circles whom he had so long ruled with despotic authority. His sun had attained its meridian, and was already journeying westward. Intoxicated with self-conceit, and firmly persuaded that he was the first man of the age, he began to lay aside those magic arts of address to which he owed all his success; became morose and fidgety; and took a pleasure in speaking unpleasant truths, which he mistook for wit. He was, besides, getting fast on in years; and age, which brings wisdom to some, to men like Nash is apt to bring nothing but petulance and imbecility. But he was not splenetic without reason; for his fortune, which he had never husbanded, diminished rapidly, and he had no earthly means left of recruiting it. His greatest grievance, however, was the gradual dropping off of his old friends the nobility, who, it is said, exerted all their influence with the corporation of Bath to get him superannuated, and Quin, the actor, appointed Master of the Ceremonies in his stead. This unparalleled ingratitude, as he called it, stung Nash to the quick, and he threatened to take his revenge of a degenerate aristocracy by writing his memoirs! His intention, however, was never carried into effect; which is a pity, for, judging by the few scraps of composition he left behind, his book would have been a literary phænomenon of the first water.

Nash was now become a confirmed old dotard; nevertheless, he still aped the character of a young beau,—still continued to haunt like a spectre the scenes of his departed glory. Though the snows of eighty-six winters were whitening on his head, it was still his proudest ambition to "settle the fashion of a lady's cap," and assign her her proper station in a country-dance. This, which, to say the worst of it, was but harmless drivelling, roused against him the pious wrath of the more straight-laced among the Somersetshire clergy, who pelted him with the most minaceous pamphlets; exhorted him to quit the assembly-room for the church, and to repent of those colossal enormities of which they charitably took for granted he had been guilty. One of these clerical pamphleteers addressed him in the following indulgent terms: "Repent! repent! or wretched will you be, silly, vain old man, to eternity! The blood of souls will be laid to your charge; God's jealousy, like a consuming flame, will smoke against you, as you yourself will see in that day when the mountains shall quake, and the hills melt, and the earth be burned up at his presence." Another says, "God will bring you to judgment. He sees me now I write; he will observe you while you read. He notes down my words; he will also note down your consequent procedure. Not then upon me, not upon me, but upon your own soul will the neglecting or despising my sayings turn." How different these fanatical fulminations from the honied flatteries, in the shape of poems and dedications, on which Nash's vanity had been so long fed!

The poor old man was now hourly decaying; but this quite as much from grief as age. The season of snuff-boxes was over; the great had altogether forgotten him; and he was preserved from utter penury solely by the munificence of the Bath corporation, who granted him ten guineas the first Monday of every month. For some weeks previous to his decease it was evident that his last hour was at hand; but he himself would never admit it. He clung to life with all the tenacity of a Johnson; and roundly asserted that he was in robust health at the very moment when he was treading, with palsied head and tottering limbs, on the threshold of the grave. At length his exhausted powers wholly gave way, and he expired in the eighty-seventh year of his age, at his house in St. John's Court, Bath, in the spring of 1761.

No sooner was his death known than the press teemed with tributes to his memory. The Muses were called on to lament the eclipse of the brightest luminary of the age; and epitaphs were written on him,—one in Latin, and another in English,—by two of the most accomplished scholars in the kingdom. That in Latin, by Dr. King, is a fine sample of mock-solemnity, comparing Nash, as a legislator, with Solon and Lycurgus, and giving him the preference to both. But, in his own capital, the sensation occasioned by our Beau's decease was unexampled. The very day after, the corporation, with the mayor at their head, met in full and solemn conclave, and voted nem. con. fifty pounds towards defraying their monarch's funeral expenses. The corpse lay four days in state; after which it was conveyed to the Abbey Church, in the midst of one of the greatest crowds that had ever assembled in Bath. The following week, the principal local journal commented on the mournful event as follows: "Sorrow sate on every face, and even children lisped that their sovereign was no more. The peasant discontinued his toil; the ox rested from the plough; all nature seemed to sympathise with our loss; and—the muffled bells rung a peal of bob-major!" It must be confessed, to our shame, that we have no such newspaper writing as this now-a-days. We have become as unimaginative as steam-engines, and no longer indulge in those astounding bursts of eloquence and sensibility which used to electrify our grandfathers and grandmothers.

In person Nash was large and awkward, with harsh, strong, and irregular features. Nevertheless, he was popular with women, and not unsuccessful as a gallant; for he dressed showily, had some wit, abundance of small talk, and was by no means encumbered with modesty. He used frequently to say of himself, that he was, "like Nestor, a man of three generations." The Beau of his youth, he would observe, was stiff, solemn, and formal to a degree; visiting his mistress, as Jupiter visited Semele, in state; toasting her on bended knees; and languishing, a timid suppliant, at her feet, by the hour together. The Beau of his manhood was just the reverse; being a pert, grinning, lively chatterbox,—such as we meet with in Congreve's comedies; ready for any absurd, outré display of sentiment; and deeming it an exalted proof of gallantry to eat "a pair of his idol's shoes tossed up in a fricassee." The Beau of his old age was a still more extraordinary character, for his whole secret in intrigue consisted in perfect indifference. If his mistress honoured him with her approbation, well; if not, she might let it alone. He had no notion of breaking his heart for love. Women were as plentiful as mushrooms, and always to be had for the asking. Nash was a great theorist on all matters of sentiment. It was a favourite maxim with him that good-humour and fine clothes were enough to ruin a nunnery; but that "flummery," or the art of saying nothings, was worth them both put together. Women, he used to say, dote upon lively nonsense; always talk to them, therefore, in the language they best understand. The instant you begin to converse rationally with them the game is up, which is the reason why learned men make such indifferent lovers.

Next to his powers of gallantry, Nash piqued himself on his wit. But he was by no means remarkable for this quality, though never did mortal man labour harder to say good things. His best jokes were always cracked unawares. The majority of them are well known to the world, for Smollett, with the coolest effrontery, has transferred them, unacknowledged, into his own novels. We will, however, give one or two of them. Meeting one morning, in the Pump-room, a lady who was deformed, Nash asked her where she came from. Her reply was, "Straight from London." "Then, madam," replied the Beau, "you must have been confoundedly warped by the way." Doctor Cheney, on some occasion having recommended to him a vegetable diet, he tartly observed, "I suppose you would have me go grazing and eating thistles like Nebuchadnezzar!" "No, no," said the doctor, who was also a wag, "there needs no such metamorphosis; your ears are quite long enough already." Being once confined to his house by sickness, the same physician drew up a prescription for him, and, calling on his patient next day, found him up and well. "I'm glad you had the good sense to follow my prescription, Mr. Nash," quoth the leech. "Follow it!" exclaimed the other. "Egad, if I had, I should have broke my neck, for I flung it out of my bed-room window." We are not without our suspicions that this last witticism is a regular Joe Miller, for we have detected it in at least a dozen different publications. But this is not to be wondered at, for your good joke is the greatest of travellers. The "facetiæ" of the old Greek wag, Hierocles, have been naturalised in every language of Europe.

Though convivial in his youth, yet, for the greatest portion of his life, Nash was rigidly abstemious in his habits. He loved plain dishes, seldom remained long at table, and usually contented himself with two glasses of wine. But he liked to see his friends enjoy themselves, and would encourage them in these elegant and emphatic terms: "Eat, gentlemen,—eat and drink, in God's name; spare, and the devil choke you!" His favourite meal was supper; and so fond was he of potatoes, which he called the English pine-apple, that he used to eat them, like fruit, after dinner. He was also remarkable for his love of early rising, being seldom in bed after four in summer, and five in winter. His generosity and benevolence were unbounded. He gave away enormous sums in charity, and founded a hospital at Bath, the expenses of which for a time almost beggared him. Though he had a great respect for rank, yet he discouraged anything like aristocratic assumption; and, whenever he heard a young lord boasting of his family, never failed to put him down with a sneer. In this respect he resembles the late John Kemble, of whom it is recorded, that, when dining with the Dukes of Hamilton and Gordon, who were boasting somewhat ostentatiously of the antiquity of their blood, he lost all patience, and put an abrupt stop to their egotism by exclaiming, "D—n both your bloods; pass the bottle!" Owing to his frequent intercourse with small poets, Nash fancied that he was a judge of the art. A volume of Pope, who was his favourite writer, generally lay on his table, though we question much whether he ever got beyond the "Rape of the Lock." This, however, was a production every way calculated to please him; and, accordingly,—a rich trait of character,—he was never weary of repeating the lines,

"Sir Plume, of amber snuff-box justly vain,
And the nice conduct of a clouded cane."

Though he had mixed so much with the world, yet Nash was a man of great simplicity of character. He imagined that others were as frank and sincere as himself; and, in his connexion with the gambling establishments at Bath and Tunbridge Wells, never kept an account, but trusted entirely to the honour of his partners. He was never married, though he once made proposals to a young lady, whose parents favoured his suit, for he was then at the summit of his celebrity. She, however, declined his addresses; but, apprehensive of her father's indignation, went to Nash, and candidly told him that her affections were fixed upon another. He immediately sent for his rival; gave him the lady with his own hand; and reconciled her parents to the match by settling on her a fortune equal to that which they proposed to give her. Unfortunately, however, his generosity was thrown away; for soon after her marriage she ran away with her footman, and her husband died of grief.

Late in life Nash set up for a teller of good stories, which he would repeat half-a-dozen times in the same day. As he seldom allowed truth to stand in the way of a point, his anecdotes were sometimes amusing, despite the "says he's" and "says I's" with which he stuffed them usque ad nauseam. The surest way to gain his favour,—next to dedicating a work to him,—was to laugh, in the right place, at his conceits, and call him an "odd fellow;" for, like the majority of mankind, he looked upon eccentricity as a sure test of genius. But, indeed, vanity was his ruling foible. He had numerous other weaknesses; but this, "like Aaron's serpent, swallowed all the rest." He considered his office to be the most important in the world, and himself the greatest man in it. Yet he was not naturally devoid of good sense; but, having been long accustomed to pursue trifles, his mind insensibly shrunk to the size of the petty objects on which it was employed. Even the most frivolous duties of his office he discharged with the gravest punctiliousness; and, though overflowing with the milk of human kindness, never forgave a breach of his regulations. The man might relent; but the Master of the Ceremonies was inexorable!

The influence that Nash had on the social character of his age was greater than has been generally supposed. Men of far more exalted pretensions than he have not effected one half the good. He was the first who promoted a taste for elegant amusements, and an ease of address, among a people notorious for their anti-gregarious habits, and reserved and awkward bearing. The disposition for familiar intercourse, which—encouraged by his example—strangers acquired at Bath and Tunbridge Wells, they carried with them to the metropolis, and whatever other place they might visit; and thus the whole kingdom became gradually more refined and social in its character. When it is borne in mind that Nash laid the foundation of this wholesome change without any help from birth, fortune, connexions, or superior intellect; that, with nothing but his good-humour and his address to support his claims, he reigned the undisputed monarch of the empire of fashion for upwards of half a century; though we cannot affirm that he was a great man, it is impossible to deny that he was an extraordinary one.