+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

surably in thickening the lyric obscurities of his
country's Harp. On his arrival in London, Herr
von Müffe forwarded his letter of introduction
to Sir John by post, and immediately received,
in return, the usual hospitable invitation to
Coolcup House. The eminent poet arrived
barely in time to dress for dinner; and made his
first appearance in our circle while we were
waiting in the drawing-room for the welcome
signal of the bell. He waddled in among us
softly and suddenly, in the form of a very short,
puffy, florid, roundabout old gentleman, with
flowing grey hair and a pair of huge circular
spectacles. The extreme shabbiness and dinginess
of his costume was so singularly set off by
the quantity of foreign orders of merit which he
wore all over the upper part of it, that a sarcastic
literary gentleman among the guests defined
him to me, in a whisper, as a compound of
"decorations and dirt." Sir John advanced to
greet his distinguished guest, with friendly right
hand extended as usual. Herr von Müffe, without
saying a word, took the hand carefully in
both his own, and expressed affectionate recognition
of English hospitality, by transferring it
forthwith to that vacant space between his shirt
and his waistcoat which extended over the
region of the heart. Sir John turned scarlet,
and tried vainly to extricate his hand from the
poet's too affectionate bosom. The dinner-bell
rang, but Herr von Müffe still held fast. The
principal lady in the company half rose, and
looked perplexedly at her hostSir John made
another and a desperate effort to escapefailed
againand was marched into the dining-room,
in full view of his servants and his guests, with his
hand sentimentally imprisoned in his foreign
visitor's waistcoat.

After this romantic beginning, Herr von
Müffe rather surprised us by showing that he
was decidedly the reverse of a sentimentalist
in the matter of eating and drinking. Neither
dish nor bottle passed him, without paying
heavy tribute, all through the repast. He mixed
his liquors, especially, with the most sovereign
contempt for all sanitary considerations; drinking
champagne and beer, the sweetest Constantia
and the tawniest port, all together, with
every appearance of the extremest relish. Conversation
with Herr von Müffe, both at dinner,
and all through the evening, was found to be
next to impossible, in consequence of his knowing
all languages (his own included) equally
incorrectly. His German was pronounced to be a
dialect never heard before; his French was inscrutable;
his English was a philological riddle
which all of us guessed at and none of us found
out. He talked, in spite of these difficulties,
incessantly; and, seeing that he shed tears
several times in the course of the evening, the
ladies assumed that his topics were mostly of a
pathetic nature, while the coarser men compared
notes with each other, and all agreed that the
poet was drunk. When the time came for retiring,
we had to invite ourselves into the
Bachelor Bedroom; Herr von Müffe having no
suspicion of our customary midnight orgies, and
apparently feeling no desire to entertain us,
until we informed him of the institution of the
footman's tray, when he became hospitable on
a sudden, and unreasonably fond of his gay young
English friends.

While we were settling ourselves in our places
round the bed, a member of the company kicked
over one of the poet's capacious Wellington
boots. To the astonishment of every one, there
instantly ensued a tinkling of coin, and some
sovereigns and shillings rolled surprisingly out
on the floor from the innermost recesses of the
boot. On receiving his money back, Herr von
Müffe informed us, without the slightest appearance
of embarrassment, that he had not had
time, before dinner, to take more than his watch,
rings, and decorations, out of his boots. Seeing
us all stare at this incomprehensible explanation,
our distinguished friend kindly endeavoured to
enlighten us further by a long personal statement
in his own polyglot language. From what
we could understand of this narrative (which
was not much), we gathered that Herr von
Müffe had started at noon, that day, as a total
stranger in our metropolis, to reach the London-bridge
station in a cab; and that the driver had
taken him, as usual, across Waterloo-bridge.
On going through the Borough, the narrow
streets, miserable houses, and squalid population,
had struck the lively imagination of Herr von
Müffe, and had started in his mind a horrible suspicion
that the cabman was driving him into a
low neighbourhood, with the object of murdering
a helpless foreign fare, in perfect security,
for the sake of the valuables he carried on his
person. Chilled to the very marrow of his
bones by this idea, the poet raised the ends of
his trousers stealthily in the cab, slipped his
watch, rings, orders, and money into the legs of
his Wellington boots, arrived at the station
quaking with mortal terror, and screamed
"Help!" at the top of his voice, when the railway
policeman opened the cab door. The immediate
starting of the train had left him no
time to alter the singular travelling arrangements
he had made in the Borough; and he
arrived at Coolcup House, the only individual
who had ever yet entered that mansion with his
property in his boots.

Amusing as it was in itself, this anecdote
failed a little in its effect on us at the time, in
consequence of the stifling atmosphere in which
we were condemned to hear it. Although it
was then the sultry middle of summer, and we
were all smoking, Herr von Müffe insisted on
keeping the windows of the Bachelor Bedroom
fast closed, because it was one of his peculiarities
to distrust the cooling effect of the night
air. We were more than half inclined to go,
under these circumstances; and we were altogether
determined to remove, when the tray
came in, and when we found our German friend
madly mixing his liquors again by pouring gin
and sherry together into the same tumbler. We
warned him, with a shuddering prevision of consequences,
that he was mistaking gin for water;
and he blandly assured us in return that he was