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

forgotten. Beaumarchais, the famous author
of the Marriage de Figaro was arrested at
an inn in Vienna by order of Maria Theresa.
To step centuries back, it was also in a Viennese
inn that our Richard the Lion-hearted
was discovered and captured by his perfidious
enemy, the Duke of Austria. The author
of Manon Lescaut died at an inn; and in an inn
(or at least a private hotel) in Bond Street
died Laurence Sterne. It was his wish to die
so, tended by the hands of strangers, and his
wish was accomplished to the letter. He had
himself in his works helped to immortalise
"mine inn." At the village inn lay sick to
death Lieutenant Lefevre: there he was
tended by his son: from that inn, and truly,
staunch Corporal Trim declared that he would
never march again; from that inn my Uncle
Toby vowed that he should march. And
the man who could write the story of Lefevre
could be a sensualist and wish to die at an
inn, untended and uncared for by friends and
relatives, and could, and did die so.

"In the worst inn's worst room"—you
know the restdied the great George
Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. He had
outlived his fame, his health, his fortune and his
friends, and expired miserably at the house
of a tenant at Kirby Moorside in Yorkshire.
The deathless lines of Pope still place before
us vividly the wretched apartment, half hung
with mats, the plaster walls, the flock bed
repaired with straw, the tape-tied curtains,
the diamond George dangling from the bed
where tawdry yellow vied with dirty red.

Verily inns have their moralities as well as
their humours. While the glasses jingle, and
toasts and healths are drunk, and the song
circulates in the parlour, mortality is putting
on immortality above stairs, clay is returning
to clay, dust to dust, ashes to ashes,
Georges and Garters, stars and ribbons,
pomps and vanities, all sinking quietly into
nothingness; there is nothing but a dead man
in number three, and the undertaker must be
sent for, and business will be rather dull above
and brisk below until the gentleman in number
three is buried. Do you remember that curious
story in one of Theodore Hook's novels of
the dead young lady in the inn bedroom?
There is a whole history of inn philosophy in
that. We sing and rejoice: hot meats are
brought in and out, and presently there drives
up to the door a hearse, and something is
brought down the stairsthe same stairs we
have so often mounted to the club-room; the
mourners hide their faces in their white
pocket-handkerchiefs; the mutes take their
last drain of gin or porter; the "black job"
(as the crazy Lord Portsmouth used to call a
funeral) moves slowly off; the traveller who
had put up at that inn sick and had died
there, is borne off on that journey from
which no traveller returns; the windows are
thrown up, the shutters opened, number
three is dusted and arranged for, peradventure,
wedding guests, and the inn resumes
the current of its existence. Such are inns
and such is life.

I have been so prolix about famous men
who have, by their lives and writings, cast
immortality upon inns thatnot forgetting I
have as yet omitted to notice how many good
writers of our own time have been eloquent
upon innswe are not, with impunity, to
forget the many excellent inns as excellently
depicted in the novels of the author of
Pelham, There is a certain Slaughters, an
inn for military gentlemen; also a Bootjack
Hotel; also a villanous thieves' inn, where
one Corporal Brock and an Irish gentleman
have a difficulty with Mrs. Catherine Hayes;
all of which inns are artistically described in
the best style of inn lore by a certain author,
who may as well be nameless here, inasmuch
as everybody knows him and his writings.
And that famous scribe Washington Irving,
has he not discoursed delightfully of inns in
Flanders, to which bold dragoons resorted;
of inns in England, notably at Stratford-on-
Avon; and of a never-to-be-forgotten inn, in
rainy weather, where there was a Stout
Gentleman? Inns are not without their
white days, their chronicles of royal and
noble authors. From Apuleius in the Golden
Ass to the editor of the Times in his yesterday's
leaders, the wisest and most solemn
big-wigs of literature have not thought inns
(for praise or blame) beneath their notice.

It is not my intention in this present paper
to enter upon the subject of hotels; the
younger yet aristocratic brothers of inns.
Touching hotel life, hotel charges, and hotel
character, I have, saving your excellencies'
permission, acquired a considerable amount
of experience and information; but as the
quarrel between travellers and hosts is a
very pretty quarrel as it stands, I shall not
meddle in it. Meanwhile I would commend
to you the consideration of inns. "Mine
inn'' is rapidly becoming an institution of
the past; it will soon be numbered among
the things departed. The roadside inn, and
the coaching inn, should have disappeared
with post-chaises and fast stage coaches.
They still linger on; but they are daily being
pushed from their stools by Railway Hotels,
Terminus Taverns, and Locomotive Coffee-
houses. They will soon have to say with the
Latin Accidence, eramuswe were.