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"Familiar in their Mouths as HOUSEHOLD WORDS"Shakespeare.


HOUSEHOLD WORDS.

 

A WEEKLY JOURNAL.

CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS.

 


No. 294.] SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 1855. Price 2d.
Stamped 3d.


 

HOBBIES. HOBBIES are, in the intellectual and moral world, what horses are supposed to be in the material : you may judge of a man's (intel- lectual or moral) wealth by the number he affords to keep. I myself keep a stable-full of fifty ; and this definition is the apple of the eye of one. It does not by any means express a commonly-received opinion. Why is that, when everybody, commonly, is so much in the right 1 It happens in this way : one man's hobby bores all those among his neighbours who are not so lucky as to have its match. When people are bored, they are unable to keep their judgments well in hand ; they form opinions without patience, and at random ; in fact, they misjudge. Thus it is that, in this matter, except when a man pro- nounces an opinion upon himself, there is no getting at truth and justice. It so happens that Mrs. Stickleback Mrs. Honor Stickleback, lady of Jehoiachim Z. Stickleback, Esq., myself, much at your ser- vice Mrs. S. happens to have cherished, for the last two years, the noblest pair of piebald ponies ; call them hobbies if you will. There is nobody upon earth by whom those ponies are understood and appreciated so completely as by Mrs. Stickleback ; and they are main- tained, let me add, wholly at her own ex- pense, out of her private jointure. Let any feeling person judge how out of patience my dear lady was, when, some months ago, the house opposite ours, in Crotchet Place, was taken by a foreign person, Mrs. Inderella, who drives four cream-coloured I was going to say mice. Since the turn-out first stood before our window, I have had, every day, mice for breakfast, mice for dinner, mice for tea. Were Mrs. Stickleback the owner of the creams, and Mrs. Inderella mistress of the piebalds, I know who would drive four- in-hand with passing state, and dasli by the piebalds if she overtook them on the road, with the pride of a woman who is mistress of their betters. Now, when the ladies meet, each with her team in front of her, as it has been well said by the bard O gracious Muse ! What kindling motions in their breasts do fry ! And yet the ponies are good ponies, the whole BIX of them. Even so are the hobbies of our neighbours good hobbies ; a great many, no doubt, are blind, and some are lame ; none are snort- winded. But, after allowing an extreme per- centage for disease (and the diseases of hob- bies are worth studying), there remains enough to stock the country with a sound and wholesome breed. Now, let me drop the material side of the argument, which is mere figure of speech, to become intellectual and moral. I maintain that a man's hobbies are his spiritual ver- tebrae, that they compose the back-bone and the marrow of his character. A man with a hobby or two, sleek and well kept, is well to do in his mind ; is to that extent, although it may be in no other respect, mentally respect- able. A man's hobby is the point upon which he is strong, and we respect strength. But it is more than that. Mrs. Stickleback, who derives her information from the lady's maid, knows the private affairs of most people living in our street. Let me then, profiting by her knowledge, put my case in the form of three or four examples. As the attic windows and part of the roof at number seven Crotchet Place, were blown out into the road, only last Wednesday, that house is at present open to the dropping of a good deal of remark. Its master, Mr. Priestly Bomb, is stock-jobber; and, as we opine, from the number of anxious men, most of them young, who communicate their agita- tion to his knocker, he lends money at inter- est, and is much less warm in his heart than in his pocket. His whole manner of life is mean, and he looks mean : he is fat and bald- headed, the bald expanse being all roof, none of it wall ; his skull above his eyes slopes up to a high point in the bump of veneration (which is large in him), so that I should be disposed, if I might, to call him gable-headed. He has pillows of fat under his sly little eyes, very large ears, a massive jaw, and dewlaps. This man is very warlike in his conversation. Russian acquisitiveness scandalises him. The Russian seizui-e of material guarantees he re- gards as infamous. As X. Y. Z., he has sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, calling it conscience-money, a large balance of incom- tax, for property that had not been accounted for in former years. He pays up now to the uttermost mite, and his hobby is to bring the VOL. XII. 294