Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stuart amuses his companions while travelling by coach.

The artist was travelling by stage in England.  His fellow-passengers were a number of gentlemen who were strangers to him, and who, finding him very amusing, ventured to ask him who he was, and what was his calling.
Mr. Stuart answered with a grave face and a serious tone, that he sometimes dressed gentlemen's and ladies' hair (at that time the high-craped pomatumed hair was all the fashion.)  "You are a hair-dresser, then?"
"What!" said he, "do you take me for a barber?"
"I beg your pardon, sir, but I inferred it from what you said.  If I mistook you, may I take the liberty to ask what you are, then?"
"Why, I sometimes brush a gentleman's coat, or hat, and sometimes adjust a cravat."
"Oh, you are a valet, then, to some nobleman?"
"A valet! Indeed, sir, I am not.  I am not a servant, --to be sure, I make coats and waistcoats for gentlemen."
"Oh, you are a tailor?"
"A tailor! Do I look like a tailor?  I assure you, I never handled a goose, other than a roasted one."
By this time they were all in a roar. "What the devil are you, then?" said one.
"I'll tell you," said Stuart. "Be assured all I have said is literally true.  I dress hair, brush hats and coats, adjust a cravat, and make coats, waistcoats and breeches, and likewise boots and shoes, at your service."
"Oh, a boot and shoe maker after all!"
"Guess again gentlemen; I never handle boots or shoes but for my own feet and lets, yet all I have told you is true."
"We may as well give up guessing!"
After checking his laughter, and pumping up a fresh flow of spirits by a large pinch of snuff, he said to them very gravely; "Now gentlemen, I will not play the fool with you any longer, but will tell you, upon my honor as a gentleman, my bona fide profession.  I get my bread by making faces."  He then screwed his countenance, and twisted the lineaments of his visage in a manner such as a Samuel Foote or Charles Mathews might have envied.  When his companions, after loud peals of laughter, had composed themselves, each took credit to himself for having all the while suspected that the gentleman belonged to the theater, and they all knew he must be a comedian by profession; when, to their utter surprise, he assured them that he was never on the stage, and very rarely saw the inside of a play-house, or any similar place of amusement.  They now all looked at each other in blank astonishment.  Before parting, Stuart said to his companions;

"Gentlemen, you will find that all I have said of my various employments is comprised in these words: I am a portrait painter."

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