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idiot" is the term which Pottle privately
applies to the king. Yet they are very
fond of one another, as indeed I think we
almost all are. Our prime favourite, perhaps,
is Rollar, who, from being passionately
addicted to aquatics, and having, in
consequence a general disability to sit with
comfort, is known amongst us familiarly as the
merman. If it can be possibly managed, we
contrive that he shall be a sea-captain, or
second mariner, because he doesn't like those
parts, and blushes, and reads them in a strange
falsetto voice, very like a mermaiden's. He is
likewise termed the stroke; he being, indeed,
the stroke oar of the Leander boats; and,
sometimes, on account of his stoutness, the
apoplectic stroke. But we all like him
immensely. We have an Irishman and a
Welchman in the company, with great
brogues and their national characteristics
in their fullest bloom. They sit next to each
other, and read from the same book, but
they never fail to quarrel every night. "You
pe tam'd," in a low but perfectly distinct
tone, too often interrupts the harmony of
our periods, and the president's hammer
elicits from these two foreigners a good deal
more recrimination than apology. I think
the tenderness of our love-passages is
increased by O'Brien's Irish pathos, but for
Cadwallader ap Morgan I cannot say so
much. The most amusing speech I ever heard
in my life, perhaps, was Hamlet's famous
soliloquy as delivered by this voice from the
Principalities; while his passion, when we
screamed at him, was Owen Glendower's to the
very life.

Our best lady-reader is Mervyn Haverse,
the curate. The snowy-banded, delicate-
handed, but not dilettanti priest, to whom
these Wednesday evenings of ours are perhaps
more pleasant than they are to any of us.
They make for him little resting-places in
weeks of up-hill labour, in a great London
parish, and afford meetings with his old
college friends which otherwise could hardly
be; and, indeed, apart from the intellectual
pleasantry of our Shakespeare, it is something
to have discovered a nest in this populous
city, from which our companions, however
full-fledged, are not likely to depart. "When
half of you are judges and myself a bishop,"
says Haverse, "I hope we shall go on Old
Boy-ing one another all the same."

I declare I can't bear Dowdler to sit next
to me (although in other respects he is
perfectly satisfactory), on account of the habit
he has acquired of whispering to himself. I
thought at first he was following the other
readers in their parts, as if they were
accomplishing the Psalms, and that was distressing
enough; but now I know he is rehearsing
his own speech before it comes to his turn.
I hear sometimes half-a-dozen leaves or more
turned over very softly (he wets his finger to
do it, on the sly), and then a low monotonous
talk begins, like voices in the chamber of
death, until his passage comes upon him
unawares, and "Dowdler," from the president,
makes him turn red all over, if I may judge,
at least, from the roots of his hair, and his
ears, and the back of his neck. Also, old
Dowdler is remarkable whenever a portion
of French happens to occur in a speech of
his; for, from inability to pronounce that
language, he will leap the whole passage like
a fence, and start from the other side, or else
leave the room with his handkerchief to his
face as though his nose were bleeding, which
it is not.

Last comes the eighth man of our
ShakespeareVincent; or, as I should rather
say, and as he would much rather I should
say, the Honourable Marmaduke Plantagenet
Smythe Vincent. He is a very tall
young man indeed. How tall, I cannot
accurately say, but I took an opportunity
while he was standing with his back to
me (a relative position toward people in
general which pleases him) of measuring
from his coat collar to the skirts of his
raiment, and found that to be five feet eight
inches; the heels of his boots to be three
inches, and the height of his all-rounder to
be three inches and a quarter; we thus
have his total altitude, with the exception
of a small piece of leg below the calf,
and of his honourable head. I think he
would read better, upon the whole, if he did
not lisp; and particularly as his range of
characters is more extended than that of any
other member of the society. I doubt whether
the sudden death of any member would
disturb him (I am sure mine would not) so
much as the appropriation of his speech for
that evening would please him. The prologues
have become his perquisites, and he goes
quietly through the choicest epilogues amidst
the clash of knives and pop of corks, as though
supper was nothing in comparison to his
confounded lisp. Despite drawbacks, we all read
well enough to enjoy our adored author
among ourselves. Being an ancient institution
as such institutions go, we do not tolerate
innovations or new readings; and I should
be very sorry to see Mr. Payne Collier, or
Mr. Halliwell drop in accidentally when we
are on this topic; especially after the toasted-
cheese period of the evening.

  Now ready, in Twenty-eight pages, stitched,
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