Published by Longman & Co. 1825-11Novr.November 1825.
in Prose and Verse,
By the Late
Printed for Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green,
Printed by Richard Taylor, Shoe-Lane, London.
The late Mrs. Barbauld was one of the best friends of youth. In her Early Lessons, and Prose Hymns, she has condescended to apply her admirable genius to the instruction even of infant minds. Several excellent pieces, adapted to children of different ages, she contributed to Dr. Aikin’s Evenings at Home. That elegant volume of verse and prose The Female Speaker, was compiled by her for the use of young ladies, for whom she also made a selection from the Tatlers, Spectators, and Guardians, prefixing to it an instructive and beautiful Essay. In other of her productions she has given valuable advice iv A2v iv to parents on the subject of instruction; and her Poems contain many pieces worthy to be early reposited among the choicest stores of an elegant and ingenuous mind.
Many young persons of both sexes partook, during the course of her long life, of the benefit of her personal instructions; and in the present volume she may be regarded as continuing even from the grave to delight and improve the rising generation.
These pieces were found among her papers by the members of her own family. Some of them enforce moral truths; others contain instruction in history and other branches of the graver studies of youth; but the greater number are of a light and elegant cast, adapted to exercise the ingenuity and amuse the fancy while they refine the taste. Those in the form of letters v A3r v were all addressed to different ladies whom she favoured with her friendship.
Had she herself presented these pieces to the public, it is probable that she would in some instances have extended them by additions which, from her own pen, would have enhanced their value, but which it would have been presumption in any other to attempt. None of them, however, can properly be called fragments: and it was so natural to her to express herself with the highest beauty and perfection of style, that in this respect little difference would be found either in verse or prose, between the slightest sketch she ever traced and the most finished of her admired productions.
Lucy Aikin.Hampstead, 1825-12Dec.December 1825.
A Legacy for Young Ladies.
To Miss C.
My Dear Sarah,
I have often reflected, since I left you, on the wonderful powers of magic exhibited by you and your sister. The dim obscurity of that grotto hollowed out by your hands under the laurel hedge, where you used to mix the ingredients of your incantations, struck us with awe and terror; and the broom which you so often brandished B 2 B1v 2 in your hands made you look very like witches indeed. I must confess, however, that some doubts have now and then arisen in my mind, whether or no you were truly initiated in the secrets of your art; and these suspicions gathered strength after you had suffered us and yourself to be so drenched as we all were on that rainy Tuesday; which to say the least was a very odd circumstance, considering you had the command of the weather.—As I was pondering these matters alone in the chaise between Epsom and London, I fell asleep and had the following dream.
I thought I had been travelling through an unknown country, and came at last to a thick wood cut out into several groves and avenues, the gloom of which inspired thoughtfulness, and a certain mysterious dread of unknown powers came upon me. I entered however one of the avenues, and found it terminated in a magnificent portal, through which I could discern confusedly among thick foliage, cloistered 3 B2r 3 arches and Grecian porticoes, and people walking and conversing amongst the trees. Over the portal was the following inscription: Here dwell the true magicians. Nature is our servant. Man is our pupil. We change, we conquer, we create.
As I was hesitating whether or no I should presume to enter, a pilgrim who was sitting under the shade offered to be my guide, assuring me that these magicians would do me no harm, and that so far from having any objection to be observed in their operations, they were pleased with any opportunity of exhibiting them to the curious. In therefore I went, and addressed the first of the magicians I met with, who asked me whether I liked panoramas. On replying that I thought them very entertaining, she took me to a little eminence and bade me look round. I did so, and beheld the representation of the beautiful vale of Dorking, with Norburypark and Box-hill to the north, Riegate to the east, and Leith tower with the B2 4 B2v 4 Surry hills to the south. After I had admired for some time the beauty and accuracy of the painting, a vast curtain seemed to be drawn gradually up, and my view extended on all sides. On one hand I traced the windings of the Thames up to Oxford, and stretched my eye westward over Salisbury Plain, and across the Bristol Channel into the romantic country of South Wales; northward the view extended to Lincoln cathedral, and York minster towering over the rest of the churches. Across the Sussex downs I had a clear view of the British Channel, and the opposite coast of France, with its ports blockaded by our fleets. As the horizon of the panorama still extended, I spied the towers of Notre Dame, and the Tuilleries, and my eye wandered at large over The vine-covered hills and gay regions of France, quite down to the source of the Loire. At the same time the great Atlantic ocean opened to my view; and on the other hand I saw the lake of Geneva, 5 B3r 5 and the dark ridge of mount Jura, and discovered the summits of the Alps covered with snow; and beyond, the orange groves of Italy, the majestic dome of St. Peter’s, and the smoking crater of Vesuvius. As the curtain still rose, I stretched my view over the Mediterranean, the scene of ancient glory, the Archipelago studded with islands, the shores of the Bosphorus, and the gilded minarets and cypress groves of Constantinople. Throwing back a look to the less attractive north, I saw pictured the rugged, broken coast of Norway, the cheerless moors of Lapland, and the interminable desolation of the plains of Siberia. Turning my eye again southward, the landscape extended to the plains of Barbary, covered with date-trees; and I discerned the points of pyramids appearing above the horizon, and saw the Delta and the seven-mouthed Nile. In short, the curtain still rose, and the view extended further and further till the panorama took in the whole globe. I cannot 6 B3v 6 express to you the pleasure I felt as I saw mountains, seas, and islands, spread out before me. Sometimes my eye wandered over the vast plains of Tartary, sometimes it expatiated in the savannahs of America. I saw men with dark skins, white cotton turbans wreathed about their heads, and long flowing robes of silk; others almost naked under a vertical sun. I saw whales sporting in the northern seas, and elephants trampling amidst fields of maize and forests of palm-trees. I seemed to have put a girdle about the earth, and was gratified with an infinite variety of objects which I thought I never could be weary of contemplating. At length, turning towards the magician who had entertained me with such an agreeable exhibition, and asking her name, she informed me it was Geography.
My attention was next arrested by a sorceress, who, I was told, possessed the power of calling up from the dead whomsoever she pleased, man or woman, in their 7 B4r 7 proper habits and figures, and obliging them to converse and answer questions. She held a roll of parchment in her hand, and had an air of great dignity. I confess that I felt a little afraid; but having been somewhat encouraged by the former exhibition, I ventured to ask her to give me a specimen of her power, in case there was nothing unlawful in it. Whom, said she, do you wish to behold? After considering some time, I desired to see Cicero the Roman orator. She made some talismanic figures on the sand, and presently he rose to my view, his neck and head bare, the rest of his body in a flowing toga, which he gathered round him with one hand, and stretching out the other very gracefully, he recited to me one of his orations against Catiline. He also read to me, which was more than I could in reason have expected, several of his familiar letters to his most intimate friends. I next desired that Julius Cæsar might be called up: on which he appeared, his hair 8 B4v 8 nicely arranged, and the fore part of his head, which was bald, covered with wreaths of laurel; and he very obligingly gave me a particular account of his expedition into Gaul. I wished to see the youth of Macedon, but was a little disappointed in his figure, for he was low in stature and held his head awry; but I saw him manage Bucephalus with admirable courage and address, and was afterwards introduced with him into the tent of Darius, where I was greatly pleased with the generosity and politeness of his behaviour. I afterwards expressed some curiosity to see a battle, if I might do it with safety, and was gratified with the sea-fight of Actium. I saw, after the first onset, the galleys of Cleopatra turning their prows and flying from the battle, and Antony, to his eternal shame, quitting the engagement and making sail after her. I then wished to call up all the kings of England, and they appeared in order one after the other, with their crowns and the insignia of their dignity,9 B5r 9 nity, and walked over the stage for my amusement, much like the descendants of Banquo in Macbeth. Their queens accompanied them, trailing their robes upon the ground, and the bishops with their mitres, and judges, and generals, and eminent persons of every class. I asked many questions as they passed, and received a great deal of information relative to the laws, manners, and transactions of past times. I did not, however, always meet with direct answers to my questions. For instance, when I called up Homer, and after some other conversation asked him where he was born, he only said, Guess! And when I asked Louis the Fourteenth who was the man in the iron mask, he frowned and would not tell me. I took a great deal of pleasure in calling up the shades of distinguished people in different ages and countries, making them stand close by one another, and comparing their manners and costume. Thus I measured Catherine of Russia against Semiramis, and Aristotle against Lord Bacon. B5 10 B5v 10 I could have spent whole years in conversation with so many celebrated persons, and promised myself that I would often frequent this obliging magician. Her name, I found, was in heaven Clio, on earth History.
I saw another who was making a charm for two friends, one of whom was going to the East Indies: they were bitterly lamenting that when they were parted at so great a distance from each other they could no longer communicate their thoughts, but must be cut off from each other’s society. Presenting them with a talisman inscribed with four-and-twenty black marks, Take this, she said; I have breathed a voice upon it: by means of this talisman you shall still converse, and hear one another as distinctly when half the globe is between you, as if you were talking together in the same room. The two friends thanked her for such an invaluable present, and retired. Her name was Abracadabra.
I was next invited to see a whispering- 11 B6r 11 gallery of a most curious and uncommon structure. To make the experiment of its powers, a young poet of a very modest appearance, who was stealing along in a retired walk, was desired to repeat a verse in it. He applied his lips to the wall, and whispered in a low voice, Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes. The sound ran along the walls for some time in a kind of low whisper; but every minute it grew louder and louder, till at length it was echoed and re-echoed from every part of the gallery, and seemed to be pronounced by a multitude of voices at once, in different languages, till the whole dome was filled with the sound. There was a strong smell of incense. The gallery was constructed by Fame.
The good pilgrim next conducted me to a cave where several sorceresses, very black and grim, were amusing themselves with making lightning, thunder, and earthquakes. I saw two vials of cold liquor mixed together, and flames burst forth 12 B6v 12 from them. I saw some insignificant-looking black grains, which would throw palaces and castles into the air. I saw—and it made my hair stand on end—a headless man who lifted up his arm and grasped a sword. I saw men flying through the air, without wings, over the tops of towns and castles, and come down unhurt. The cavern was very black, and the smoke and fires and mephitic blasts and sulphureous vapours that issued from it gave the whole a very tremendous appearance. I did not stay long, but as I retired I saw Chemistry written on the walls in letters of flame, with several other names which I do not now remember.
My companion whispered me that some of these were suspected of communication with the evil genii, and that the demon of War had been seen to resort to the cave. But now, said the pilgrim, I will lead you to enchanters who deserve all your veneration, and are even more beneficent than those you have already seen. He then 13 B7r 13 led me to a cavern that opened upon the sea shore: it blew a terrible storm, the waves ran mountains high, the wind roared, and vessels were driven against each other with a terrible shock. A female figure advanced and threw a little oil upon the waves; they immediately subsided, the winds were still, the storm was laid, and the vessels pursued their course in safety. By what magic is this performed? exclaimed I. The magician is Meekness, replied my conductor: she can smooth the roughest sea, and allay the wildest storm.
My view was next directed to a poor wretch who lay groaning in a most piteous manner, and crushed to the earth with a mountain on his breast: he uttered piercing shrieks, and seemed totally unable to rise or help himself. One of these good magicians, whose name I found was Patience, advanced and struck the mountain with a wand; on which, to my great surprise, it diminished to a size not more 14 B7v 14 than the load of an ordinary porter, which the man threw over his shoulders with something very like a smile, and marched off with a firm step and very composed air.
I must not pass over a charmer of a very pleasing appearance and lively aspect. She possessed the power (a very useful one in a country so subject to fogs and rains as this is) of gilding a landscape with sunshine whenever she breathed upon it. Her name was Cheerfulness. Indeed you may remember that your papa brought her down with him on that very rainy day when we could not go out at all, and he played on his flute to you, and you all danced.
I was next struck, on ascending an eminence, with a most dreary landscape. All the flat country was one stagnant marsh. Amidst the rushy grass lay the fiend Ague, listless and shivering: on the bare and bleak hills sat Famine, with a few shells of acorns before her, of which she had 15 B8r 15 eaten the fruit. The woods were tangled and pathless; the howl of wolves was heard. A few smoky huts, or caves not much better than the dens of wild beasts, were all the habitations of men that presented themselves. Miserable country! I exclaimed; step-child of nature! This, said my conductor, is Britain as our ancestors possessed it. And by what magic, I replied, has it been converted into the pleasant land we now inhabit? You shall see, said he. It has been the work of one of our most powerful magicians. Her name is Industry. At the word she advanced and waved her wand over the scene. Gradually the waters ran off into separate channels, and left rich meadows covered with innumerable flocks and herds. The woods disappeared, except what waved gracefully on the tops of the hills, or filled up the unsightly hollows. Wherever she moved her wand, roads, bridges, and canals laid open and improved the face 16 B8v 16 of the country. A numerous population, spread abroad in the fields, were gathering in the harvest. Smoke from warm cottages ascended through the trees, pleasant towns and villages marked the several points of distance. Last, the Thames was filled with forests of masts, and proud London appeared with all its display of wealth and grandeur.
I do not know whether it was the pleasure I received from this exhilarating scene, or the carriage having just got upon the pavement, which awakened me; but I determined to write out my dream, and advise you to cultivate your acquaintance with all the true Arts of Magic.
A Lecture on the Use of Words.
My dear mamma, who worked you this scarf? it is excessively pretty.
I am sorry for it, my dear.
Sorry, mamma! are you sorry it is pretty?
No, but I am sorry if it is excessively pretty.
Why so?—a thing cannot be too pretty, can it?
If so, it cannot be excessively pretty. Pray what do you mean by excessively pretty?
Why excessively pretty means—it means very pretty.
What does the word excessively come from? What part of speech is it? You know your grammar?
It is an adverb: the words that end in ly are adverbs.18 B9v 18
Adverbs are derived from adjectives by adding ly, you should have said;—excessive, excessively. And what is the noun from which they are both derived?
And what does excess mean?
It means too much of any thing.
You see then that it implies a fault, and therefore cannot be applied as a commendation. We say a man is excessively greedy, excessively liberal; a woman excessively fine: but not that a man is excessively wise, a woman excessively faithful to her husband; because in these there is no excess: nor is there in beauty, that being the true and just proportion which gives pleasure.
But we say excessively kind.
We do, because kindness has its limits. A person may be too kind to us, who exposes himself to a great and serious inconvenience to give us a slight pleasure: we also may mean by it exceeding that kindness which we have a claim to expect. But 19 B10r 19 when people use it, as they often do, on the slightest occasion, it is certainly as wrong as excessively pretty.
But, mamma, must we always consider so much the exact meaning of words? Every body says excessively pretty, and excessively tall, and infinitely obliged to you.— What harm can it do?
That every body does it I deny; that the generality do it is very true; but it is likewise true, that the generality are not to be taken as a pattern in any thing. As to the harm it does,—in the first place it hurts our sincerity.
Why, it is not telling a lie sure?
Certainly I do not mean to say it is; but it tends to sap and undermine the foundations of our integrity, by making us careless, if not in the facts we assert, yet in the measure and degree in which we assert them. If we do not pretend to love those we have no affection for, or to admire those we despise, at least we lead them to think we admire them more and 20 B10v 20 love them better than we really do; and this prepares the way for some serious deviations from truth. So much for its concern with morality:—but it has likewise a very bad effect on our taste. What, think you, is the reason that young people, especially, run into these vague and exaggerated expressions?
What is vague, mamma?
It means what has no precise, definite signification. Young people run into these, sometimes indeed from having more feeling than judgement, but more commonly from not knowing how to separate their ideas and tell what it is they are pleased with. They either do not know, or will not give themselves the trouble to mark, the qualities, or to describe the scenes which disgust or please them, and hope to cover their deficiency by these overwhelming expressions; as if your dress-maker, not knowing your shape, should make a large loose frock that would cover you over were you twice as tall as you are. Now 21 B11r 21 you would have shown your taste if in commending my scarf you had said that the pattern was light, or it was rich, or that the work was neat and true; but by saying it was excessively pretty, you showed you had not considered what it was you admired in it. Did you never hear of the countryman who said there will be monstrous few apples this year, and those few will be huge little. Poets run into this fault when they give unmeaning epithets instead of appropriate description;—young ladies, when in their letters they run into exaggerated expressions of friendship.
You have often admired in this painting the variety of tints shaded into one another. Well! what would you think of a painter who should spread one deep blue over all the sky, and one deep green over the grass and trees?—would not you say he was a dauber? and made near objects and distant objects, and objects in the sun and objects in the shade, all alike? I think I have some of your early performances22 B11v 22 ances in which you have coloured prints pretty much in this style; but you would not paint so now?
Then do not talk so: do not paint so with words.
The Pine and the Olive:
A Stoic, swelling with the proud consciousness of his own worth, took a solitary walk; and straying amongst the groves of Academus, he sat down between an Olive and a Pine tree. His attention was soon excited by a murmur which he heard among the leaves. The whispers increased; and listening attentively, he plainly heard the Pine say to the Olive as follows: Poor tree! I pity thee; thou now spreadest thy green leaves and exultest in all the pride of youth and spring; but how soon will thy beauty be tarnished! The fruit which thou exhaustest thyself to bear, shall hardly be shaken from thy boughs before thou shalt grow dry and withered; thy green veins, now so full of juice, shall be frozen; naked and bare thou wilt stand exposed to 24 B12v 24 all the storms of winter, whilst my firmer leaf shall resist the change of the seasons. Unchangeable is my motto, and through the various vicissitudes of the year I shall continue equally green and vigorous as I am at present.
The olive, with a graceful wave of her boughs, replied: It is true thou wilt always continue as thou art at present. Thy leaves will keep that sullen and gloomy green in which they are now arrayed, and the stiff regularity of thy branches will not yield to those storms which will bow down many of the feebler tenants of the grove. Yet I wish not to be like thee. I rejoice when nature rejoices; and when I am desolate, nature mourns with me. I fully enjoy pleasure in its season, and I am contented to be subject to the influences of those seasons and that economy of nature by which I flourish. When the spring approaches, I feel the kindly warmth; my branches swell with young buds, and my leaves unfold; crowds of singing birds which never visit 25 C1r 25 thy noxious shade, sport on my boughs, my fruit is offered to the Gods and rejoices men; and when the decay of nature approaches, I shed my leaves over the funeral of the falling year, and am well contented not to stand a single exemption to the mournful desolation I see everywhere around me.
The Pine was unable to frame a reply; and the philosopher turned away his steps rebuked and humbled.
My Dear Young Friends,
I presume you are now all come home for the holidays, and that the brothers and sisters and cousins, papas and mammas, uncles and aunts, are all met cheerfully round a Christmas fire, enjoying the company of their friends and relations, and eating plum pudding and mince pie. These are very good things; but one cannot always be eating plum pudding and mince pie: the days are short, and the weather bad, so that you cannot be much abroad; and I think you must want something to amuse you. Besides, if you have been employed as you ought to be at school, and if you are quick and clever, as I hope you are, you will want some employment for that part of you which thinks, as well as 27 C2r 27 that part of you which eats; and you will like better to solve a riddle than to crack a nut or a walnut. Finding out riddles is the same kind of exercise to the mind which running and leaping and wrestling in sport are to the body. They are of no use in themselves,—they are not work, but play; but they prepare the body, and make it alert and active for any thing it may be called to perform in labour or war. So does the finding out of riddles, if they are good especially, give quickness of thought, and a facility of turning about a problem every way, and viewing it in every possible light. When Archimedes coming out of the bath cried in transport, Eureka! (I have found it!) he had been exercising his mind precisely in the same manner as you will do when you are searching about for the solution of a riddle.
And pray, when you are got together, do not let any little Miss or Master say, with an affected air, O! do not ask me; I am so stupid I never can guess. They C2 28 C2v 28 do not mean you should think them stupid and dull; they mean to imply that these things are too trifling to engage their attention. If they are employed better, it is very well; but if not, say, I am very sorry indeed you are so dull, but we that are clever and quick will exercise our wits upon these; and as our arms grow stronger by exercise, so will our wits.
Riddles are of high antiquity, and were the employment of grave men formerly. The first riddle that we have on record was proposed by Sampson at a wedding feast to the young men of the Philistines, who were invited upon the occasion. The feast lasted seven days; and if they found it out within the seven days, Sampson was to give them thirty suits of clothes and thirty sheets; and if they could not guess it, they were to forfeit the same to him. The riddle was; Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. He had killed a lion, and left its carcase: on returning soon after, he found a swarm 29 C3r 29 of bees had made use of the skeleton as a hive, and it was full of honeycomb. Struck with the oddness of the circumstance, he made a riddle of it. They puzzled about it the whole seven days, and would not have found it out at last if his wife had not told them.
The Sphinx was a great riddle-maker. According to the fable, she was half a woman and half a lion. She lived near Thebes, and to every body that came she proposed a riddle; and if they did not find it out, she devoured them. At length Œdipus came, and she asked him, What is that animal which walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three at night? Œdipus answered, Man:—in childhood, which is the morning of life, he crawls on his hands and feet; in middle age, which is noon, he walks erect on two; in old age he leans on a crutch, which serves for a supplementary third foot.
The famous wise men of Greece did not disdain to send puzzles to each other. They 30 C3v 30 are also fond of riddles in the East. There is a pretty one in some of their tales.— What is that tree which has twelve branches, and each branch thirty leaves, which are all black on one side and white on the other?—The tree is the year; the branches the months; the leaves black on one side and white on the other signify day and night. Our Anglo-Saxon ancestors also had riddles, some of which are still preserved in a very ancient manuscript.
A riddle is a description of a thing without the name; but as it is meant to puzzle, it appears to belong to something else than what it really does, and often seems contradictory; but when you have guessed it, it appears quite clear. It is a bad riddle if you are at all in doubt when you have found it out whether you are right or no. A riddle is not verbal, as charades, conundrums, and rebuses are: it may be translated into any language, which the others cannot. Addison would put them all in the class of false wit: but 31 C4r 31 Swift, who was as great a genius, amused himself with making all sorts of puzzles; and therefore I think you need not be ashamed of reading them. It would be pretty entertainment for you to make a collection of the better ones,—for many are so dull that they are not worth spending time about. I will conclude by sending you a few which will be new to you.
I often murmur, yet I never weep;
I always lie in bed, yet never sleep;
My mouth is wide, and larger than my head,
And much disgorges though it ne’er is fed;
I have no legs or feet, yet swiftly run,
And the more falls I get, move faster on.
Ye youths and ye virgins, come list to my tale,
With youth and with beauty my voice will prevail.
My smile is enchanting, and golden my hair,
And on earth I am fairest of all that is fair;
But my name it perhaps may assist you to tell,
That I’m banish’d alike both from heaven and hell.
There’s a charm in my voice, ’tis than music more sweet,
And my tale oft repeated, untired I repeat.32 C4v 32
I flatter, I soothe, I speak kindly to all,
And wherever you go, I am still within call.
Tho’ I thousands have blest, ’tis a strange thing to say,
That not one of the thousands e’er wishes my stay,
But when most I enchant him, impatient the more,
The minutes seem hours till my visit is o’er.
In the chase of my love I am ever employ’d,
Still, still he’s pursued, and yet never enjoy’d;
O’er hills and o’er valleys unwearied I fly,
But should I o’ertake him, that instant I die;
Yet I spring up again, and again I pursue,
The object still distant, the passion still new.
Now guess,—and to raise your astonishment most,
While you seek me you have me, when found I am lost.
I never talk but in my sleep;
I never cry, but sometimes weep;
My doors are open day and night;
Old age I help to better sight;
I, like camelion, feed on air,
And dust to me is dainty fare.
We are spirits all in white,
On a field as black as night;
There we dance and sport and play,
Changing every changing day:33 C5r 33
Yet with us is wisdom found,
As we move in mystic round.
Mortal, wouldst thou know the grains
That Ceres heaps on Libya’s plains,
Or leaves that yellow Autumn strews,
Or the stars that Herschel views,
Or find how many drops would drain
The wide-scoop’d bosom of the main,
Or measure central depths below,—
Ask of us, and thou shalt know.
With fairy feet we compass round
The pyramid’s capacious bound,
Or step by step ambitious climb
The cloud-capt mountain’s height sublime.
Riches though we do not use,
’Tis ours to gain, and ours to lose.
From Araby the Blest we came,
In every land our tongue’s the same;
And if our number you require,
Go count the bright Aonian quire.
Wouldst thou cast a spell to find
The track of light, the speed of wind,
Or when the snail with creeping pace
Shall the swelling globe embrace;
Mortal, ours the powerful spell;
Ask of us, for we can tell.
An unfortunate maid,
I by love was betray’d,
And wasted and pined by my grief;
To deep solitudes then,
Of rock, mountain and glen,
From the world I retired for relief.
Yet there by the sound
Of my voice I am found,
Though no footstep betrays where I tread;
The poet and lover,
My haunts to discover,
Still leave at the dawn their soft bed.
If the poet sublime
Address me in rime,
In rime I support conversation;
To the lover’s fond moan
I return groan for groan,
And by sympathy give consolation.
Though I’m apt, ’tis averr’d,
To love the last word,
Nor can I pretend ’tis a fiction;
I shall ne’er be so rude
On your talk to intrude
With anything like contradiction.
The fair damsels of old
By their mothers were told,
That maids should be seen and not heard;
The reverse is my case,
For you’ll ne’er see my face,
To my voice all my charms are transferr’d.
The King in His Castle.
My Dear Lucy,
Have you made out who the four Sisters are? See this piece in Evenings at Home. If you have, I will tell you another story. It is about a monarch who lives in a sumptuous castle, raised high above the ground and built with exquisite art. He takes a great deal of state upon him, and, like Eastern monarchs, transacts every thing by means of his ministers; for he never appears himself, and indeed lives in so retired a manner, that though it has often excited the curiosity of his subjects, his residence is hidden from them with as much jealous care as that of Pygmalion was from the Tyrians; and it has never been discovered with any certainty which of the chambers of the castle he actually 37 C7r 37 inhabits, though by means of his numerous spies he is acquainted with what passes in every one of them.
But I must proceed to give you some account of his chief ministers; and I will begin with two who are mutes. Their office is to bring him quick and faithful intelligence of all that is going forward; this they perform in a very ingenious manner. You have heard of the Mexicans, who, not having the art of writing, supplied the deficiency by painting every thing they have a mind to communicate; so that when the Spaniards came amongst them, they sent regular accounts to the king of their landing and all their proceedings, in very intelligible language, without writing a single word. Now this is just the method of these two mutes; they are continually employed in making pictures of every thing that passes, which they do with wonderful quickness and accuracy, all in miniature, but in exact proportion, and coloured after life. These pictures they bring every moment38 C7v 38 ment to a great gate of the palace, where the king receives them.
The next I shall mention are two drummers. These have each a great drum, on which they beat soft or loud, quick or slow, according to the occasion. They often entertain the king with music; besides which they are arrived at such wonderful perfection upon their instrument, and make the strokes with such precision, that by the different beats accompanied by proper pauses and intervals, they can express any thing they wish to tell;—and the king relies upon them as much as upon his mutes. There is a sort of covered way made in the form of a labyrinth from the station of the drummers to the inner rooms of the palace.
There is a pair of officers,—for you must know, the offices go mightily by pairs,— whose department it is to keep all nuisances from the palace. They are lodged for that purpose under a shed or penthouse built with that view before the front of the palace:39 C8r 39 lace: they likewise gather and present to the monarch sweet odours, essences and perfumes, with which he regales himself: they likewise inspect the dishes that are served up at his table; and if any of them are not fit to be eaten, they give notice for their removal; and sometimes, if any thing offensive is about to enter the palace, they order the agents to shut two little doors which are in their keeping, and by that means prevent its entrance.
The agents are two very active officers of long reach and quick execution. The executive part of government is chiefly intrusted to them; they obey the king’s commands with a readiness and vigour truly admirable; they defend the castle from all assaults, and are vigilant in keeping at a distance every annoyance. Their office is branched out into ten subordinate ones, but in cases which require great exertion they act together.
I must not omit the beef-eaters. These stand in rows at the great front gate of the 40 C8v 40 palace, much as they do at St. James’s, only that they are dressed in white. Their office is to prepare the viands for the king, who is so very lazy and so much accustomed to have every thing done for him, that, like the king of Bantam and some other Eastern monarchs, he requires his meat to be chewed before it is presented to him.
Close by the beef-eaters lives the king’s orator, a fat portly gentleman, of something a Dutch make, but remarkably voluble and nimble in his motions notwithstanding. He delivers the king’s orders and explains his will. This gentleman is a good deal of an epicure, which I suppose is the reason he has his station so near the beef-eaters. He is a perfect connoisseur in good eating, and assumes a right of tasting all the dishes; and the king pays the greatest regard to his opinion. Justice obliges me to confess that this orator is one of the most flippant and ungovernable of the king’s subjects.41 C9r 41
Among the inferior officers are the porters, two stout lusty fellows who carry the king about from place to place (for I am sure you are by this time too well acquainted with his disposition to suppose he performs that office for himself); but as most great men’s officers have their deputies, so these lazy porters are very apt to get their business done by deputy, and to have people to carry them about.
I should never have done if I were to mention all the particulars of the domestic establishment and internal œconomy of the castle, which is all arranged with wonderful art and order; how the outgoings are proportioned to the income, and what a fellow-feeling there is between all the members of the family from the greatest to the meanest. The king, from his high birth, on which he values himself much,—being of a race and lineage quite different from any of his subjects,—and from his superior capacity, claims the most absolute obedience; though, as is frequently the case with 42 C9v 42 kings, he is in fact most commonly governed by his ministers, who lead him where they please without his being sensible of it.—As you, my dear Lucy, have had more conversation with this king than most of your age have been honoured with, I dare say you will be at no loss in pointing him out. I therefore add no more but that I am
On Female Studies.
My Dear Young Friend,
If I had not been afraid you would feel some little reluctance in addressing me first, I should have asked you to begin the correspondence between us; for I am at present ignorant of your particular pursuits: I cannot guess whether you are climbing the hill of science, or wandering among the flowers of fancy; whether you are stretching your powers to embrace the planetary system, or examining with a curious eye the delicate veinings of a green leaf, and the minute ramifications of a sea-weed; or whether you are toiling through the intricate and thorny mazes of grammar. Whichever of these is at present your employment, 44 C10v 44 your general aim no doubt is the improvement of your mind; and we will therefore spend some time in considering what kind and degree of literary attainments sit gracefully upon the female character.
Every woman should consider herself as sustaining the general character of a rational being, as well as the more confined one belonging to the female sex; and therefore the motives for acquiring general knowledge and cultivating the taste are nearly the same to both sexes. The line of separation between the studies of a young man and a young woman appears to me to be chiefly fixed by this,—that a woman is excused from all professional knowledge. Professional knowledge means all that is necessary to fit a man for a peculiar profession or business. Thus men study in order to qualify themselves for the law, for physic, for various departments in political life, for instructing others from the pulpit or the professor’s chair. These all require a great deal of severe study and technical 45 C11r 45 knowledge; much of which is nowise valuable in itself, but as a means to that particular profession. Now as a woman can never be called to any of these professions, it is evident you have nothing to do with such studies. A woman is not expected to understand the mysteries of politics, because she is not called to govern; she is not required to know anatomy, because she is not to perform surgical operations; she need not embarrass herself with theological disputes, because she will neither be called upon to make nor to explain creeds.
Men have various departments in active life; women have but one, and all women have the same, differently modified indeed by their rank in life and other incidental circumstances. It is, to be a wife, a mother, a mistress of a family. The knowledge belonging to these duties is your professional knowledge, the want of which nothing will excuse. Literary knowledge therefore, in men, is often an 46 C11v 46 indispensable duty; in women it can be only a desirable accomplishment. In women it is more immediately applied to the purposes of adorning and improving the mind, of refining the sentiments, and supplying proper stores for conversation. For general knowledge women have in some respects more advantages than men. Their avocations often allow them more leisure; their sedentary way of life disposes them to the domestic quiet amusement of reading; the share they take in the education of their children throws them in the way of books. The uniform tenor and confined circle of their lives makes them eager to diversify the scene by descriptions which open to them a new world; and they are eager to gain an idea of scenes on the busy stage of life from which they are shut out by their sex. It is likewise particularly desirable for women to be able to give spirit and variety to conversation by topics drawn from the stores of literature, as the broader mirth and more boisterous 47 C12r 47 gaiety of the other sex are to them prohibited. As their parties must be innocent, care should be taken that they do not stagnate into insipidity. I will venture to add, that the purity and simplicity of heart which a woman ought never, in her freest commerce with the world, to wear off; her very seclusion from the jarring interests and coarser amusements of society,—fit her in a peculiar manner for the worlds of fancy and sentiment, and dispose her to the quickest relish of what is pathetic, sublime, or tender. To you, therefore, the beauties of poetry, of moral painting, and all in general that is comprised under the term of polite literature, lie particularly open, and you cannot neglect them without neglecting a very copious source of enjoyment.
Languages are on some accounts particularly adapted to female study, as they may be learnt at home without experiments or apparatus, and without interfering with the habits of domestic life; as they form the style, and as they are the immediate inlet 48 C12v 48 to works of taste. But the learned languages, the Greek especially, require a great deal more time than a young woman can conveniently spare. To the Latin there is not an equal objection; and if a young person has leisure, has an opportunity of learning it at home by being connected with literary people, and is placed in a circle of society sufficiently liberal to allow her such an accomplishment, I do not see, if she has a strong inclination, why she should not make herself mistress of so rich a store of original entertainment:—it will not in the present state of things excite either a smile or a stare in fashionable company. To those who do not intend to learn the language, I would strongly recommend the learning so much of the grammar of it as will explain the name and nature of cases, genders, inflexion of verbs, &c.; of which, having only the imperfect rudiments in our own language, a mere English scholar can with difficulty form a clear idea. This is the 49 D1r 49 more necessary, as all our grammars, being written by men whose early studies had given them a partiality for the learned languages, are formed more upon those than upon the real genius of our own tongue.
I was going now to mention French, but perceive I have written a letter long enough to frighten a young correspondent, and for the present I bid you adieu.
French you are not only permitted to learn, but you are laid under the same necessity of acquiring it as your brother is of acquiring Latin. Custom has made the one as much expected from an accomplished woman, as the other from a man who has had a liberal education. The learning French, or indeed any language completely, includes reading, writing, and speaking it. But here I must take the liberty to offer my ideas, which differ somethingD 50 D1v 50 thing from those generally entertained, and you will give them what weight you think they deserve. It seems to me that the efforts of young ladies in learning French are generally directed to what is unattainable; and if attained, not very useful,— the speaking it. It is utterly impossible, without such advantages as few enjoy, to speak a foreign language with fluency and a proper accent; and if even by being in a French family some degree of both is attained, it is soon lost by mixing with the world at large. As to the French which girls are obliged to speak at boarding- schools, it does very well to speak in England, but at Paris it would probably be less understood than English itself.
I do not mean by this to say that the speaking of French is not a very elegant accomplishment; and to those who mean to spend some time in France, or who being in very high life often see foreigners of distinction, it may be necessary; but in common life it is very little so: and for 51 D2r 51 English people to meet together to talk a foreign language is truly absurd. There is a sarcasm against this practice as old as Chaucer’s time— ……Frenche she spake ful fayre and fetisely,After the schole of Stratford atte Bowe,For Frenche of Paris was to her unknowe. But with regard to reading French, the many charming publications in that language, particularly in polite literature, of which you can have no adequate idea by translation, render it a very desirable acquisition. Writing it is not more useful in itself than speaking, except a person has foreign letters to write; but it is necessary for understanding the language grammatically and fixing the rules in the mind. A young person who reads French with ease and is so well grounded as to write it grammatically, and has what I should call a good English pronunciation of it, will by a short residence in France gain fluency and the accent; whereas one not grounded would soon forget all she had D2 52 D2v 52 learned, though she had acquired some fluency in speaking. For speaking, therefore, love and cultivate your own: know all its elegancies, its force, its happy turns of expression, and possess yourself of all its riches. In foreign languages you have only to learn; but with regard to your own, you have probably to unlearn, and to avoid vulgarisms and provincial barbarisms.
If after you have learned French you should wish to add Italian, the acquisition will not be difficult. It is valuable on account of its poetry, in which it far excels the French,—and its music. The other modern languages you will hardly attempt, except led to them by some peculiar bent.
History affords a wide field of entertaining and useful reading. The chief thing to be attended to in studying it, is to gain a clear well-arranged idea of facts in chronological order, and illustrated by a knowledge of the places where such facts happened. Never read without tables and maps: make abstracts of what you read. 53 D3r 53 Before you embarrass yourself in the detail of this, endeavour to fix well in your mind the arrangement of some leading facts, which may serve as landmarks to which to refer the rest. Connect the history of different countries together. In the study of history the different genius of a woman I imagine will show itself. The detail of battles, the art of sieges, will not interest her so much as manners and sentiment; this is the food she assimilates to herself.
The great laws of the universe, the nature and properties of those objects which surround us, it is unpardonable not to know: it is more unpardonable to know, and not to feel the mind struck with lively gratitude. Under this head are comprehended natural history, astronomy, botany, experimental philosophy, chemistry, physics. In these you will rather take what belongs to sentiment and to utility than abstract calculations or difficult problems. You must often be content to know a thing 54 D3v 54 is so, without understanding the proof. It belongs to a Newton to prove his sublime problems, but we may all be made acquainted with the result. You cannot investigate; you may remember. This will teach you not to despise common things, will give you an interest in every thing you see. If you are feeding your poultry, or tending your bees, or extracting the juice of herbs, with an intelligent mind you are gaining real knowledge; it will open to you an inexhaustible fund of wonder and delight, and effectually prevent you from depending for your entertainment on the poor novelties of fashion and expense.
But of all reading, what most ought to engage your attention are works of sentiment and morals. Morals is that study in which alone both sexes have an equal interest; and in sentiment yours has even the advantage. The works of this kind often appear under the seducing form of novel and romance: here great care, and the advice of your older friends is requisite 55 D4r 55 in the selection. Whatever is true, however uncouth in the manner or dry in the subject, has a value from being true: but fiction in order to recommend itself must give us la belle Nature. You will find fewer plays fit for your perusal than novels, and fewer comedies than tragedies.
What particular share any one of the studies I have mentioned may engage of your attention will be determined by your peculiar turn and bent of mind. But I shall conclude with observing, that a woman ought to have that general tincture of them all which marks the cultivated mind. She ought to have enough of them to engage gracefully in general conversation. In no subject is she required to be deep,—of none ought she to be ignorant. If she knows not enough to speak well, she should know enough to keep her from speaking at all; enough to feel her ground and prevent her from exposing her ignorance; enough to hear with intelligence, to ask questions with propriety, and to receive 56 D4v 56 information where she is not qualified to give it. A woman who to a cultivated mind joins that quickness of intelligence and delicacy of taste which such a woman often possesses in a superior degree, with that nice sense of propriety which resutls from the whole, will have a kind of tact by which she will be able on all occasions to discern between pretenders to science and men of real merit. On subjects upon which she cannot talk herself, she will know whether a man talks with knowledge of his subject. She will not judge of systems, but by their systems she will be able to judge of men. She will distinguish the modest, the dogmatical, the affected, the over-refined, and give her esteem and confidence accordingly. She will know with whom to confide the education of her children, and how to judge of their progress and the methods used to improve them. From books, from conversation, from learned instructors, she will gather the flower of every science; and her mind, 57 D5r 57 in assimilating every thing to itself, will adorn it with new graces. She will give the tone to the conversation even when she chooses to bear but an inconsiderable part in it. The modesty which prevents her from an unnecessary display of what she knows, will cause it to be supposed that her knowledge is deeper than in reality it is:—as when the landscape is seen through the veil of a mist, the bounds of the horizon are hid. As she will never obtrude her knowledge, none will ever be sensible of any deficiency in it, and her silence will seem to proceed from discretion rather than a want of information. She will seem to know every thing by leading every one to speak of what he knows; and when she is with those to whom she can give no real information, she will yet delight them by the original turns of thought and sprightly elegance which will attend her manner of speaking on any subject. Such is the character to whom profest scholars will delight to give information, D5 58 D5v 58 from whom others will equally delight to receive it:—the character I wish you to become, and to form which your application must be directed.
The Rich and the Poor:
Mamma! said Harriet Beechwood, I have just heard such a proud speech of a poor man! you would wonder if you heard it.
Not much, Harriet; for pride and poverty can very well agree together:—but what was it?
Why, mamma, you know the charity- school that Lady Mary has set up, and how neat the girls look in their brown stuff gowns and little straw bonnets.
Yes, I think it is a very good institution; the poor girls are taught to read and spell and sew, and what is better still, to be good.
Well, mamma, Lady Mary’s gardener, a poor man who lives in a cottage just by the great house, has a little girl; and so, because she was a pretty little girl, Lady Mary 60 D6v 60 offered to put her into this school;—and do you know he would not let her go!
Yes; he thanked her, and said, I have only one little girl, and I love her dearly; but though I am a poor man, I had rather work my fingers to the bone than she should wear a charity dress.
I do not doubt, my dear Harriet, that a great many people will have the same idea of this poor man’s behaviour which you have; but for my own part, I am inclined to think it indicates something of a noble and generous spirit.
Was it not proud to say she should not wear a charity dress?
Why should she?—would you wear a charity dress?
O, mamma, but this is a poor man!
He is able to pay for her learning, I suppose; otherwise he would certainly do wrong to refuse his child the advantage of instruction because his feelings were hurt by it.61 D7r 61
Yes, he is going to put her to Dame Primmer’s across the Green; she will have half a mile to walk.
That will do her no hurt.
But he is throwing his money away; for he might have his little girl taught for nothing; and as he is a poor man he ought to be thankful for it.
Pray what do you mean by a poor man?
O, a man—those men that live in poor houses, and work all day, and are hired for it.
I cannot tell exactly how you define a poor house: but as to working, your papa is in a public office, and works all day long, and more hours certainly than the labourer does; and he is hired to it, for he would not do the work but for the salary they give him.
But you do not live like those poor people, and you do not wear a check apron like the gardener’s wife.
Neither am I covered with lace and 62 D7v 62 jewels like a duchess; there is as much difference between our manner of living and that of many people above us in fortune, as between ours and this gardener’s whom you call poor.
What is being poor then? is there no such thing?
Indeed I hardly know how to answer your question: rich and poor are comparative terms; and provided a man is in no want of the necessaries of life and is not in debt, he can only be said to be poor comparatively with others, of whom the same might be affirmed by those who are still richer. But to whatever degree of indigence you apply the term, you must take care not to confound a poor man with a pauper.
What is a pauper? I thought they had been the same thing?
A pauper is one who cannot maintain himself, and who is maintained by the charity of the community. Your gardener was not a pauper; he worked for what he 63 D8r 63 had, and he paid for what he had; and therefore he had a right to expect that his child should not be confounded with the children of the idle, the profligate, and the dissolute, who are maintained upon charity. I wish the lower classes had more of this honourable pride.
Is it a crime to be a pauper?
To be a pauper is often the consequence of vice; and where it is not, it justly degrades a man from his rank in society. If the gardener’s daughter were to wear a kind of charity badge, the little girls she plays with would consider her as having lost her rank in society. You would not like to lose your rank, and to be thrust down lower than your proper place in society. There are several things it would not at all hurt you to do, which you would not choose to do on this account. For instance, to carry a bandbox through the street;—yet it would not hurt you to carry a bandbox, you would carry a greater weight in your garden for pleasure.64 D8v 64
But I thought gardeners and such sort of people had no rank?
That is a very great mistake. Every one has his rank, his place in society; and so far as rank is a source of honourable pride, there is less difference in rank between you and the gardener, than between the gardener and a pauper. Between the greater part of those we call different classes, there is only the difference of less and more; the spending a hundred, or five hundred, or five thousand a year; the eating off earthenware, or china, or plate: but there is a real and essential difference between the man who provides for his family by his own exertions, and him who is supported by charity. The gardener has a right to stretch out his nervous arm and to say, This right hand, under Providence, provides for myself and my family; I earn what I eat, I am a burthen to no one, and therefore if I have any superfluity I have a right to spend it as I please, and to dress my little girl to my own fancy.65 D9r 65
But do you not think, mamma, that a brown stuff gown and a straw bonnet would be a much properer dress for the lower sort of people than any thing gaudy? If they are much dressed, you know, we always laugh at their vulgar finery.
They care very little for your laughing at them; they do not dress to please you.
Whom do they dress to please?
Whom do you dress to please?
You, my dear mamma, and papa.
Not entirely, I fancy;—you tell me the truth, but not the whole truth. Well, they dress to please their papas and mammas, their young companions, and their sweethearts.
I have often heard Lady Selina say, that if all the lower orders were to have a plain uniform dress, it would be much better; and that if a poor person is neat and clean, it is quite enough.
Better for whom?—enough for whom? for themselves, or for us? They have a natural love of ornament as well as we 66 D9v 66 have. It is true they can do our work as well in a plainer dress; but when the work is done and the time of enjoyment comes,—in the dance on the green, or the tea-party among their friends,—who shall hinder them from indulging their taste and fancy, and laying out the money they have so fairly earned in what best pleases them?
But they are not content without following our fashions; and they are so ridiculous in their imitations of them. I was quite diverted to see Molly the pastry- cook’s girl tossing her head about in a hat and ribbon which I dare say she thought very fashionable; but such a caricature of the mode—I was so diverted.
You may be diverted with a safer conscience when I assure you that the laugh goes round. London laughs at the country, the court laughs at the city, and I dare say your pastry-cook’s girl laughs at somebody who is distanced by herself in the race of fashion.
But every body says, and I have heard 67 D10r 67 you say, mamma, that the kind of people I mean, and servants particularly, are very extravagant in dress.
That unfortunately is true: they very often are so, and when they marry they suffer for it severely;—but do not you think many young ladies are equally so? Did you not see at your last dancing-school ball many a girl whose father cannot give her a thousand pounds, covered with lace and ornaments?
It is very true.
Are not duchesses driven by extravagance to pawn their plate and jewels?
I have heard so.
The only security against improper expense is dignity of mind, and moderation: these are not common in any rank; and I do not know why we should expect them to be more common among the lower and uneducated classes than among the higher. —To return to your gardener. He has certainly a right to dress his girl as he pleases without asking you or me: but I shall 68 D10v 68 think he does not make a wise use of that right if he lays out his money in finery, instead of providing the more substantial comforts and enjoyments of life. And I should think exactly the same of my neighbour in the great house in the park.
Have servants a rank?
Certainly; and you will find them very tenacious of it. A gentleman’s butler will not go behind a coach; a lady’s maid will not go on an errand.
Are they not very saucy to refuse doing it, if they are ordered?
No; if they refuse civilly. They are hired to do certain things, not to obey you in every thinkg. There are many ranks above, but there are also many ranks below them; and they have both the right and the inclination to support their place in society.
But their masters would respect them the more if they did not stand upon these punctilios.
But I have told you it is not our approbation69 D11r 69 bation they seek. When the lower orders mix with the higher, it is to maintain themselves and get money; and if they are honest, they will do their work faithfully: but it is amongst their equals that they seek for affection, applause, and admiration; and there they meet with it. It matters very little in what rank a man is, provided he is esteemed and reckoned a man of consequence there. The feelings of vanity are exactly the same in a countess’s daughter dancing at court, and a milkwoman figuring at a country hop.
But surely, mamma, the countess’s daughter will be more really elegant?
That will depend very much upon individual taste. However, the higher ranks have so many advantages for cultivating taste, so much money to lay out in decoration, and are so early taught the graces of air and manner to set off those decorations, that it would be absurd to deny 70 D11v 70 their superiority in this particular. But Taste has one great enemy to contend with.
What is that?
Fashion,—an arbitrary and capricious tyrant, who reigns with the most despotic sway over that department which Taste alone ought to regulate. It is Fashion that imprisons the slender nymph in the vast rotunda of the hoop, and loads her with heavy ornaments, when she is conscious, if she dared rebel, she should dance lighter and look better in a dress of one tenth part of the price. Fashion sometimes orders her to cut off her beautiful tresses, and present the appearance of a cropped school-boy; and though this is a sacrifice which a nun going to be profest looks upon as one of the severest she is to make, she obeys without a murmur. The winter arrives, and she is cold; but Fashion orders her to leave off half her clothes, and be abroad half the night. She complies, though at the risk of her life. A 71 D12r 71 great deal more might be said about this tyrant; but as we have had enough of grave conversation for the present, we will here drop the subject.
Description of a Curious Animal Lately Found in the Wilds of Derbyshire.
This little creature, which seems a very beautiful specimen of the species to which it belongs, is about the size of a common monkey, which it likewise much resembles in its agility and various tricks. The eye is very lively, wild, and roving; teeth white and sharp; body covered with a woolly integument, except the head and fore feet; hair rude and tangled, hangs about the shoulders and covers the forehead as low as the eyes, rest of the face naked; skin soft and white; cheeks full and of a glowing red; under lip swelled and 73 E1r 73 pouting; paws white with streaks of brown; claws long, toes of the hind feet joined together.
Habits.—This animal walks, indifferently, on two or on four feet, feeds itself with its fore feet, makes a chattering noise, climbs, leaps and runs, and has a spring in its muscles equal to an antelope; has a wonderful suppleness in its limbs, which it can twist into various attitudes, all surprisingly graceful; is always in motion, except when basking by the fire, of which it is very fond in winter. Will often shake its hair over the whole face, which gives it a look of peculiar wildness. Is very good-natured and playful, caressing to its keeper and every one who takes notice of it. Is however easily put in a passion, and when angry makes a threatening noise, but is soon put to flight by the least show of resistance. If seized, kicks with its hind legs: is however tolerably docile, considering how lately it has been E 74 E1v 74 caught. Feeds on fruits, roots, or flesh; will eat cakes or nuts out of the hand. To be seen at the Rev. Mr. B.’s menagerie, with many other young animals equally curious.
On the Classics.
The authors known by the name of the Greek and Roman Classics have laid the foundation of all that is excellent in modern literature; and are so frequently referred to both in books and conversation, that a person of a cultivated mind cannot easily be content without obtaining some knowledge of them, even though he should not be able to read them in their original tongues. A clear and short account of these authors in a chronological series, together with a sketch of the character of their several productions, for the use of those who have either none or a very superficial knowledge of the languages they are written in, is, as far as I know, a desideratum which it is much to be wished that some elegant scholar should supply: in the mean time a few general remarks upon them may be not unacceptable.E2 76 E2v 76
In the larger sense of the word, an author is called a Classic when his work has stood the test of time long enough to become a permanent part of the literature of his country. Of the number of writings which in their day have attained a portion of fame, very few in any age have survived to claim this honourable distinction. Every circumstance which gave temporary celebrity must be forgotten; party must have subsided; the voice of friends and of enemies must be silent; and the writer himself must have long mouldered in the dust, before the gates of immortality are opened to him. It is in vain that he attempts to flatter or to soothe his contemporaries, they are not called to the decision; his merits are to be determined by a race he has never seen; the judges are not yet born who are to pronounce on the claims of Darwin and of Cowper. The severe impartiality of Posterity stands aloof from every consideration but that of excellence, and from her verdict there is no appeal.77 E3r 77
It is true, indeed, that amidst the revolutions of ages, particularly before the invention of printing, accidental circumstances must often have had great influence in the preservation of particular writings: and we know and lament that many are lost which the learned world would give treasures of gold to recover. But it cannot easily happen that a work should be preserved without superior merit; and indeed we know from the testimony of antiquity, that the works which have come down to us, and which we read and admire, are in general the very works which by the Greeks and Romans themselves were esteemed most excellent.
It is impossible to contemplate without a sentiment of reverence and enthusiasm, these venerable writings which have survived the wreck of empires; and, what is more, of languages; which have received the awful stamp of immortality, and are crowned with the applause of so many successive ages. It is wonderful that words should live so 78 E3v 78 much longer than marble temples;—words, which at first are only uttered breath; and, when afterwards enshrined and fixed in a visible form by the admirable invention of writing, committed to such frail and perishable materials: yet the light paper bark floats down the stream of time, and lives through the storms which have sunk so many stronger built vessels. Homer is read, though The grass now grows where Troy town stood: and nations once despised as barbarous appretiate the merit of Cicero’s orations on the banks of the Thames, when the long honours of the Consulate are vanished, and the language of Rome is no longer spoken on the shores of the Tiber. Still green with bays each ancient altar stands,Above the reach of sacrilegious hands;Secure from flames, from envy’s fiercer rage,Destructive war and all-involving age.See from each clime the learn’d their incense bring,Hear in all tongues consenting Pæans ring!
It is owing to the preservation of a few 79 E4r 79 books of the kind we are speaking of, that at the revival of letters the world had not to go back to the very beginnings of science. When the storm of barbaric rage had past over and spent itself, they were drawn from the mould of ruins and dust of convents, and were of essential service in forming our taste and giving a direction to the recovered energies of the human mind. Oral instruction can benefit but one age and one set of hearers; but these silent teachers address all ages and all nations. They may sleep for a while and be neglected; but whenever the desire of information springs up in the human breast, there they are with their mild wisdom ready to instruct and please us. The Philosopher opens again his school; his maxims have lost nothing of their truth: the harmony of the Poet’s numbers, though locked up for a time, becomes again vocal; and we find that what was nature and passion two thousand years ago, is nature and passion still.80 E4v 80
Books are a kind of perpetual censors on men and manners; they judge without partiality, and reprove without fear or affection. There are times when the flame of virtue and liberty seems almost to be extinguished amongst the existing generation; but their animated pages are always at hand to rekindle it. The Despot trembles on his throne, and the bold bad man turns pale in his closet at the sentence pronounced against him ages before he was born.
In addition to their intrinsic value, there is much incidental entertainment in consulting authors who flourished at so remote a period. Every little circumstance becomes curious as we discover allusions to customs now obsolete, or draw indications of the temper of the times from the various slight hints and casual pieces of information which may be gathered up by the ingenious critic. Sometimes we have the pleasure of being admitted into the cabinet of a great man, and leaning as it were over his shoulder while he is pouring himself 81 E5r 81 out in the freedom of a confidential intercourse which was never meant to meet the eye even of his contemporaries. At another time we are delighted to witness the conscious triumph of a genius who, with a generous confidence in his powers, prophesies his own immortality, and to feel as we read that his proud boast has not been too presumptuous. Another advantage of reading the ancients is, that we trace the stream of ideas to their spring. It is always best to go to the fountain head. We can never have a just idea of the comparative merit of the moderns, without knowing how much they have derived from imitation. It is amusing to follow an idea from century to century, and observe the gradual accession of thought and sentiment; to see the jewels of the ancients new set, and the wit of Horace sparkling with additional lustre in the lines of Pope.
The real sources of History can only be known by some acquaintance with the original authors. This indeed will often be E5 82 E5v 82 found to betray the deficiency of our documents, and the difficulty of reconciling jarring accounts. It will sometimes unclothe and exhibit in its original bareness what the art of the moderns has drest up and rounded into form. It will show the unsightly chasms and breaks which the modern compiler passes over with a light foot; and perhaps make us sceptical with regard to many particulars of which we formerly thought we had authentic information. But it is always good to know the real measure of our knowledge. That knowledge would be greater, if the treasures of antiquity had come to us undiminished: but this is not the case. Besides the loss of many mentioned with honour by their contemporaries, few authors are come down to us entire; and of some exquisite productions only fragments are extant. The full stream of narration is sometimes suddenly checked at the most interesting period, and the sense of a brilliant passage is clouded by the obscurity of a single word. The literary83 E6r 83 rary productions are come to us in a similar state with the fine statues of antiquity: of which some have lost an arm, others a leg; some a little finger only: scarce any have escaped some degree of mutilation; and sometimes a trunk is dug up so shorn of its limbs, that the antiquaries are puzzled to make out to what god or hero it originally belonged. To the frequent loss of part of an author must be added the difficulty of deciphering what remains.
Ancient manuscripts are by no means easy to read. You are not to imagine, when you see a fair edition of Virgil, or Horace, divided into verses and accurately pointed, that you see it in any thing like its original state. The oldest manuscripts are written wholly in capitals, and without any separation of letters into words. Passing through many hands, they have suffered from the mistakes or carelessness of transcribers; by which so great an obscurity is thrown on many passages, that very often he who makes the happiest guess is 84 E6v 84 the best commentator. But this very obscurity has usefully exercised the powers of the human mind. It became a great object, at the revival of letters, to compare different readings; to elucidate a text by parallel passages; to supply by probable conjecture what was necessary to make an author speak sense; and by every possible assistance of learning and sound criticism, together with typographical advantages, to restore the beauty and splendour of the classic page. Verbal criticism was at that time of great and real use; and those who are apt to undervalue it, are little aware how much labour was requisite to reduce the confused or mutilated work of a thousand years back to form and order.
This task was well fitted for an age recently emerged out of barbarism. The enthusiastic admiration with which men were struck on viewing the master-pieces of human genius, and even the superstitious veneration with which they regarded every thing belonging to them, tended to form 85 E7r 85 their taste by a quicker process than if they had been left to make the most of their own abilities. By degrees the moderns felt their own powers; they learned to imitate, and perhaps to excell what before they idolized. But a considerable period had passed before any of the modern languages were thought worthy of being the vehicle of the discoveries of science or even of the effusions of fancy. Christianity did not as might have been expected, bring into discredit the pagan philosophy. Aristotle reigned in the schools, where he was regarded with a veneration fully equal to what was expressed for the sainted fathers of the church; and as to the mythology of the ancients, it is so beautiful that all our earlier poetry has been modeled upon it. Even yet, the predilection for the Latin language is apparent in our inscriptions, in the public exercises of our schools and universities, and the general bent of the studies of youth. In short, all our knowledge and all our taste has been built upon 86 E7v 86 the foundation of the ancients; and without knowing what they have done, we cannot estimate rightly the merit of our own authors.
It may naturally be asked why the Greek and Roman writers alone are called by the name of Classics. It is true the Hebrew might be esteemed so, if we did not receive them upon a higher ground of merit. As to the Persian and Arabic with other languages of countries once highly cultivated, their authors are not taken into the account, partly because they are understood by so few, and partly because their idioms and modes of expression, if not of feeling, are so remote from ours that we can scarcely enter into their merits. Their writings are comprehended under the name of Oriental literature. It has been more cultivated of late, particularly by Sir William Jones; and our East India possessions will continue to draw our attention that way: but curiosity is gratified rather than taste. We are pleased indeed 87 E8r 87 with occasional beauties, sometimes a pure maxim of morality and sometimes a glowing figure of speech; but they do not enter into the substance of the mind, which ever must be fed and nourished by the classic literature of Greece and Rome.
I shall subjoin a few specimens of the mythological stories of the ancients.
Atalanta was a beautiful young woman, exceedingly swift of foot. She had many lovers; but she resolved not to marry till she could meet with one who should conquer her in running. A great many young men proposed themselves, and lost their lives; for the conditions were, that if they were overcome in the race they should be put to death. At length she was challenged by Hippomenes, a brave and handsome youth. Do you know, said Atalanta, that nobody has yet been found who excells88 E8v 88 cells me in swiftness, and that you must be put to death if you do not win the race? I should be sorry to have any more young men put to death.—I am not afraid, said Hippomenes; I think I shall win the race and win you too.
So the ground was marked out and the day appointed, and a great number of spectators gathered together; and Atalanta stood with her garments tucked up, and Hippomenes by her, waiting impatiently for the signal. At length it was given; and immediately they both started at the same instant, and ran with their utmost speed across the plain. But Atalanta flew like the wind, and soon outstripped the young man. Then Hippomenes drew from his vest a golden apple, which had been given him by Venus from the gardens of the Hesperides, and threw it from him with all his force. The virgin saw it glittering as it rolled across the plain, and ran out of the course to pick it up. While she was doing so, Hippomenes passed her, and the spectators89 E9r 89 tators shouted for joy. However, Atalanta redoubled her speed, soon overtook Hippomenes, and again got before him. Upon this, Hippomenes produced another golden apple, and threw it as before. It rolled a great way out of the course, and the virgin was thrown very far behind by picking it up. She had great difficulty this time to recover her lost ground, and the spectators shouted Hippomenes will win! Hippomenes will win! but Atalanta was so light, so nimble, and exerted herself so much, that at length she passed him as before, and flew as if she had wings towards the goal. And now she had but a little way to run; and the people said, Poor Hippomenes! he will lose after all, and be put to death like the rest;—see, see how she gains ground of him! how near the goal she is! Atalanta will win the race. Then Hippomenes took another golden apple,—it was the last he had, and prayed to Venus to give him success, and threw it behind him. Atalanta saw it, and considered a moment 90 E9v 90 whether she should venture to delay herself again by picking it up. She knew she ran the risk of losing the race, but she could not withstand the beautiful glittering of the apple as it rolled along; and she said to herself, I shall easily overtake Hippomenes, as I did before. But she was mistaken; for they had now so little a way to run, that though she skimmed along the plain like a bird, and exerted all her strength, she was too late. Hippomenes reached the goal before her: she was obliged to own herself conquered, and to marry him according to the agreement.
Arion was a poet of Lesbos, who sung his own verses to his harp. He had been a good while at the court of Periander tyrant of Corinth, and had acquired great riches, with which he was desirous to return to his native country. He therefore 91 E10r 91 made an agreement with a captain of a ship to carry him to Mitylene in Lesbos, and they set sail. But the captain and crew, tempted by the wealth which he had on board, determined to seize his gold and throw him into the sea. When poor Arion heard their cruel intention, he submitted to his fate, for he knew he could not resist, and only begged they would allow him to give them one tune upon his harp before he died. This they complied with; and Arion, standing on the deck, drew from his harp such melodious strains, accompanied with such moving verses, that any body but these cruel sailors would have been touched with them. When he had finished they threw him into the sea, where they supposed he was swallowed up: but that was not the case; for a dolphin, which had been drawn towards the ship by the sweetness of Arion’s voice, swam to him, took him gently upon his back, conveyed him safely over the waves, and landed him at Tenæra, whence he returned to Periander92 E10v 92 der. Periander was very much surprised to see him come again in such a forlorn and destitute condition, and asked him the reason. Arion told his story. Periander bade him conceal himself till the sailors should return from their voyage, and he would do him justice. When the ship returned from its voyage, Periander ordered the sailors to be brought before him, and asked them what they had done with Arion. They said he had died during the voyage, and that they had buried him. Then Periander ordered Arion to appear before them in the clothes he wore when they cast him into the sea. At this plain proof of their guilt they were quite confounded, and Periander put them all to death. It is said further, that the dolphin was taken up into the heavens and turned into a constellation.—It is a small constellation, of moderate brightness, and has four stars in the form of a rhombus; you will find it south of the Swan, and a little west of the bright star Alcair.
Venus and Adonis.
The goddess Venus loved Adonis, a mortal. Beautiful Venus loved the beautiful Adonis. She often said to him, O Adonis! be content to lie crowned with flowers by the fresh fountains, and to feed upon honey and nectar, and to be lulled to sleep by the warbling of birds; and do not expose your life by hunting the tawny lion or the tusky boar, or any savage beast. Take care of that life, which is so dear to Venus! But Adonis would not listen to her. He loved to rise early in the morning while the dew was upon the grass, and to beat the thickets with his well-trained hounds, whose ears swept the ground. With his darts he pierced the nimble fawns and the kids with budding horns, and brought home the spoil upon his shoulders. But one day he wounded a fierce bristly boar; the arrow stuck in his side, and made the animal mad with pain: he rushed upon Adonis, and gored his thigh with his sharp tusks. Beautiful94 E11v 94 tiful Adonis fell to the ground like a lily that is rooted up by a sudden storm: his blood flowed in crimson streams down his fair side; and his eyelids closed, and the shades of death hovered over his pale brow.
In the mean time the evening came on, and Venus had prepared a garland of fresh leaves and flowers to bind around the glowing temples of Adonis when he should come hot and tired from the chase, and a couch of rose-leaves to rest his weary limbs: and she said, Why does not Adonis come! Return, Adonis! let me hear the sound of your feet! let me hear the voice of your dogs! let them lick my hands, and make me understand that their master is approaching!—But Adonis did not return; and the dark night came, and the rosy morning appeared again, and still he did not appear. Then Venus sought him in the plains and through the thickets, and amidst the rough brakes; and her veil was torn with the thorns, and her feet bruised and bleeding with the sharp pebbles; for 95 E12r 95 she ran hither and thither like a distracted person. And at length upon the mountain she found him whom she loved so dearly: but she found him cold and dead, with his faithful dogs beside him.
Then Venus rent her beautiful tresses, and beat her breast, and pierced the air with her loud lamentations; and the little Cupids that accompany her broke their ivory bows for grief, and scattered upon the ground the arrows of their golden quivers: and they said, We mourn Adonis; Venus mourns for beautiful Adonis; the Loves mourn along with her. Beautiful Adonis lies dead upon the ground, his side gored with the tooth of a boar,—his white thigh with a white tooth. Venus kisses the cold lips of Adonis; but Adonis does not know that he is kissed, and she cannot revive him with her warm breath.
Then Venus said, You shall not quite die, my Adonis! I will change you into a flower. And she shed nectar on the ground, which mixed with the blood, and 96 E12v 96 presently a crimson flower sprung up in the room of Adonis; and also the river was tinged with his blood and became red.
And every year, on the day that Adonis died, the nymphs mourned and lamented for him, and ran up and down shrieking, and crying Beautiful Adonis is dead!
Letter of a Young King.
Amidst the mutual compliments and kind wishes which are universally circulated at this season, I hope mine will not be the least acceptable; and I have thought proper to give you this early assurance of my kind intentions towards you, and the benefits I have in store for you: for though I am appointed your sovereign; though your fates and fortune, your life and death, are at my disposal; yet I am fully sensible that I was created for my subjects, not my subjects for me; and that the end of my very existence is to diffuse blessings on my people.
My predecessor departed this life last night precisely at twelve o’clock. He died of a universal decay; nature was exhausted in him, and there was not vital heat sufficient F 98 F1v 98 to carry on the functions of life; his hair was fallen, and discovered his smooth, white, bald head; his voice was hoarse and broken, and his blood froze in his veins: in short, his time was come. And to say truth he will not be much regretted; for of late he had been gloomy and vapourish, and the sudden gusts of passion he had long been subject to were worked up into such storms it was impossible to live under him with comfort.
With regard to myself, I am sensible the joy expressed at my accession is sincere, and that no young monarch has ever been welcomed with warmer demonstrations of affection. Some have ardently longed for my coming, and all view my approach with pleasure and cheerfulness; yet such is the uncertainty of popular favour, that I well know that those who are most eager and sanguine in expressing their joy will soonest be tired of my company. You yourself, madam, though I know that at present you regard me with kindness, as one from 99 F2r 99 whom you expect more happiness than you have yet enjoyed, will probably after a short time wish as much to part with me, and transfer the same fond hopes and wishes to my successor. But though your impatience may make me a very troublesome companion, it will not in the least hasten my departure; nor can all the powers of earth oblige me to resign a moment before my time. In order, therefore, that you may form proper expectations concerning me, I shall give you a little sketch of my temper and manners, and I will acknowledge that my aspect at present is somewhat stern and rough; but there is a latent warmth in my temper which you will perceive as we grow better acquainted, and I shall every day put on a milder and more smiling look: indeed I have so much fire, that I may chance sometimes to make the house too hot for you; but in recompense for this inequality of temper I am kind and bountiful as a giving God: I come full-handed, and my very business is to dispense blessings;—blessings of the basket F2 100 F2v 100 and the store; blessings of the field and of the vineyard; blessings for time and for eternity. There is not an inhabitant of the globe who will not experience my bounty; yet such is the ingratitude of mankind, that there is scarcely one whom I shall not leave in some degree discontented.
Whimsical and various are the petitions which are daily put up to me from all parts; and very few of the petitioners will be satisfied; because they reject and despise the gifts I offer them with open hand, and set their minds on others which certainly will not fall to their share. Celia has begged me on her knees to find her a lover: I shall do what I can; I shall bring her the most magnificent shawl that has appeared in Europe. For Dorinda, who has made the same petition, I have two gifts,—wisdom and grey hairs; the former I know she will reject, nor can I force her to wear it; but the grey hairs I shall leave on her toilette whether she will or no. The curate Sophron expects I shall bring him a living: I shall present him with 101 F3r 101 twins as round and rosy as an apple. Nor can I listen to the entreaty of Dorimant, whose good father being a little asthmatic, he has desired me to push him into his grave as we walk up May hill together: but I shall marry him to a handsome lively girl, who will make a very pretty stepmother to the young gentleman. It is in vain for poor Sylvia to weary me as she does with prayers to restore to her her faithless lover: but I shall give her the choice of two, to replace him. Codrus has asked me if he may bespeak a suit of black: but I can tell him his little wife will outlive me and him too: I have offered the old man a double portion of patience, which he has thrown away very pettishly. Strephon has entreated me to take him to Scotland with his mistress: I shall do it; and he will hate my very name all his life after.
The wishes of some are very moderate; —Fanny begs two inches of height, and Chloe that I would take away her awkward plumpness; Carus a new equipage, and Philida a new ball-dress. A mother 102 F3v 102 brought me her son the other day, made me many compliments, and desired me to teach him every thing; at the same time begging the youth to throw away his marbles, which he had often promised to part with as soon as he saw me:—but the boy held them fast, and I shall teach him nothing but to play at taw. Many ladies have come to me with their daughters in their hands, telling me they hope their girls, under me, will learn prudence: but the young ladies have as constantly desired me to teach prudence to their grandmothers, whom it would better become, and to bring them new dances and new fashions. In short, I have scarcely seen any one with whom I am likely entirely to agree, but a stout old farmer who rents a small cottage on the green. He was leaning on his spade when I approached him. As his neighbour told him I was coming, he welcomed me with a cheerful countenance; but at the same time bluntly told me he had not expected me so soon, being too busy to pay much attention to 103 F4r 103 my approach. I asked him if I could do any thing for him. He said he did not believe me better or worse than those who had preceded me, and therefore should not expect much from me; that he was happy before he saw me, and should be very well contented after I left him: he was glad to see me, however, and only begged I would not take his wife from him, a thin withered old woman who was eating a mess of milk at the door. And I shall be glad too, said he, if you will fill my cellar with potatoes. As he applied himself to his spade while he said these words, I shall certainly grant his request.
I shall now tell you, that great and extensive as my power is, I shall possess it but a short time. However the predictions of astrologers are now laughed at, nothing is more certain than what I am going to tell you. A scheme of my nativity has been cast by the most eminent astronomers, who have found, on consulting the stars and the aspect of the heavenly bodies, 104 F4v 104 that Capricornus will be fatal to me: I know that all the physicians in the world cannot protract my life beyond that fatal period. I do not tell you this to excite your sensibility,—for I would have you meet me without fondness and part with me without regret; but to quicken you to lay hold on those advantages I am able to procure you; for it will be your own fault if you are not both wiser and better for my company. I have likewise another request to make to you,—that you will write my epitaph: I may make you happy, but it depends on you to make me famous. If, after I am departed, you can say my reign was distinguished by good actions and wise conversations, and that I have left you happier than I found you, I shall not have lived in vain. My sincere wishes are, that you may long outlive me, but always remember me with pleasure. I am, if you use me well,
The New Year.
Verses Written in the Leaves of an Ivory Pocket-Book, Presented to Master T*****.
Accept, my dear, this toy; and let me say
The leaves an emblem of your mind display;—
Your youthful mind uncolour’d, fair and white,
Like crystal leaves transparent to the sight,
Fit each impression to receive, whate’er
The pencil of Instruction traces there.
O then transcribe into the shining page
Each virtue that adorns your tender age,
And grave upon the tablet of your heart
Each lofty science and each useful art.
But with the likeness mark the difference well,
Nor think complete the hasty parallel:—
The leaves by Folly scrawl’d, or foul with stains,
A drop of water clears with little pains;
But from a blotted mind the smallest trace
Not seas of bitter tears can e’er efface;
The spreading mark for ever shall remain,
And rolling years but deepen every stain.F5 106 F5v 106
Once more a difference let me still explain:—
The vacant leaves for ever will remain,
Till some officious hand the tablet fill
With sense or nonsense, prose or rime at will.
Not so your mind, without your forming care;
Nature forbids an idle vacuum there:
Folly will plant the tares without your toil,
And weeds spring up in the neglected soil.
But why to you this moralizing strain?
Vain is the precept, and the caution vain,
To you, whose opening virtues bloom so fair,
And will reward the prudent planter’s care;
As some young tree, by generous juices fed,
Above its fellows lifts its branching head,
Whose proud aspiring shoots incessant rise,
And every day grows nearer to the skies.
Yet, should kind Heaven your opening mind adorn,
And bless your noon of knowledge as your morn;
Yet, were your mind with every science blest,
And every virtue glowing in your breast,
With learning meekness, and with candour zeal,
Clear to discern, and generous to feel;
Yet, should the Graces o’er your breast diffuse
The softer influence of the polish’d muse,
’Tis no original the world can tell,
And all your praise is but to copy well.
Plants stand next to animals in the scale of existence: they are, like them, organized bodies; like them, increase by nutrition, which is conveyed through a system of tubes and fine vessels, and assimilated to their substance; like them, they propagate their race from a parent, and each seed produces its own plant; like them, they grow by insensible degrees from an infant state to full vigour, and after a certain term of maturity decay and die. In short, except the powers of speech and locomotion, they seem to possess every characteristic of sentient life.
A plant consists of a root, a stem, leaves, and a flower or blossom.
The root is bulbous, as the onion; long, like the parsnip or carrot; or branched out 108 F6v 108 into threads, as the greater number are, and particularly all the large ones;—a bulbous root could not support a large tree.
The stem is single or branched, clinging for support or upright, clothed with a skin or bark.
The flower contains the principle of reproduction, as the root does of individuality. This is the most precious part of the plant, to which every thing contributes. The root nourishes it, the stem supports, the leaves defend and shelter it: it comes forth but when Nature has prepared for it by showers and sun and gentle soothing warmth;—colour, beauty, scent adorn it; and when it is complete, the end of the plant’s existence is answered. It fades and dies; or, if capable by its perennial nature of repeating the process, it hides in its inmost folds the precious germ of new being, and itself almost retires from existence till a new year.
A tree is one of the most stately and beautiful objects in God’s visible creation. 109 F7r 109 It does not admit of an exact definition, but is distinguished from the humbler plant by its size, the strength of its stem, which becomes a trunk, and the comparative smallness of the blossom. In the fruit-trees, indeed, the number of blossoms compensates for their want of size; but in the forest-trees the flower is scarcely visible. Production seems not to be so important a process where the parent tree lives for centuries.
Every part of vegetables is useful. Of many the roots are edible, and the seeds are generally so; of many the leaves, as of the cabbage, spinach; the buds, as of the asparagus, cauliflower; the bark is often employed medicinally, as the quinquina and cinnamon.
The trunk of a tree determines the manner of its growth, and gives firmness: the foliage serves to form one mass of a number of trees; while the distinct lines are partly seen, partly hidden. The leaves throw over the branches a rich mantle, like 110 F7v 110 flowing tresses; they wave in the wind with an undulatory motion, catch the glow of the evening sun, or glitter with the rain; they shelter innumerable birds and animals, and afford variety in colours, from the bright green of spring to the varied tints of autumn. In winter, however, the form of each tree and its elegant ramifications are discerned, which were lost under the flowing robe of verdure.
Trees are beautiful in all combinations; the single tree is so; the clump, the grove, rising like an amphitheatre; the flowing line that marks the skirts of wood and the dark, deep, boundless shade of the forest; the green line of the hedge-row, the more artificial avenue, the Gothic arch of verdure, the tangled thicket.
Young trees are distinguished by beauty, in maturity their characteristic is strength. The ruin of a tree is venerable even when fallen: we are then more sensible of its towering height: we also observe the root, the deep fangs which held it against so 111 F8r 111 many storms, and the firmness of the wood; a sentiment of pity mixes too with our admiration. The trees in groves and woods shed a brown religious horror, which favoured the religion of the ancient world. Trees shelter from cutting winds and sea air; they preserve moisture: but if too many, in their thick and heavy mass lazy vapours stagnate; their profuse perspiration is unwholesome; they shut out the golden sun and ventilating breeze.
It should seem as if the number of trees must have been diminishing for ages, for in no cultivated country does the growth of trees equal the waste of them. A few gentlemen raise plantations, but many more cut down; and the farmer thinks not of so lofty a thing as the growth of ages. Trees are too lofty to want the hand of man. The florist may mingle his tulips and spread the paper ruff on his carnations; he may trim his mount of roses and his laurel hedge: but the lofty growth of trees soars far above him. 112 F8v 112 If he presumes to fashion them with his shears, and trim them into fanciful or mathematical shapes, offended taste will mock all his improvements. Even in planting he can do little. He may succeed in fancying a clump or laying out an avenue, and may perhaps gently incline the boughs to form the arch; but a forest was never planted.
On a Portrait of A Lady And Two Children.
As nursed by warmer suns and milder showers
In fair Italia’s vales the orange blows;
Heavy at once with fruit and gay with flowers,
The richness of the year she all together shows:
Thus, ere the blossom of her youth is o’er,
Two smiling infants grace Maria’s side;
More lovely fruit than all Pomona’s store,
Her ruddy orchards, or her golden pride.
Less fair, twin apples blushing on a bough,
On whose smooth cheek the ripening summer glows,
Or those which broke fleet Atalanta’s vow,
Or that, from whence celestial strife arose.
Long may the stock, and long the fruit remain,
May their young fondness with their years increase,
Nor ever words unkind, or bitter pain,
Wound the sweet bosom of domestic peace.
And when, late time, the mother’s bloom must fade,
And when the sire shall be by fate removed;
May these their name, their form, their virtues spread,
Like them be happy, and like them be loved.
All the different substances which we behold have by the earliest philosophers been resolved into four elements,—Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. These, combined with endless diversity, in their various dance, under the direction of the great First Mover, form this scene of things,—so complex, so beautiful, so infinitely varied!
Earth is the element which on many accounts claims our chief notice. It forms the bulk of that vast body of matter which composes our globe; and, like the bones to the human body, it gives firmness, shape, and solidity to the various productions of Nature. It is ponderous, dull, unanimated, ever seeking the lowest place; and, except moved by some external impulse, prone to rest in one sluggish mass. Yet when fermented115 F10r 115 mented into life by the quickening power of vegetation,—in how many forms of grace and beauty does it rise to the admiring eye! How gay, how vivid with colours! how fragrant with smells! how rich with tastes,— luscious, poignant, sapid, mild, pungent, or saccharine! Into what delicate textures is it spread out in the thin leaf of the rose, or the light film of the floating gossamer! How curious in the elegant ramifications of trees and shrubs, or the light dust which the microscope discovers to contain the seed of future plants!
Nor has Earth less of magnificence, in the various appearances with which upon a larger scale its broad surface is diversified;—whether we behold it stretched out into immense plains and vast savannahs, whose level green is only bounded by the horizon; or moulded into those gentle risings and easy declivities whose soft and undulating lines court the pencil of the landscape-painter; or whether, swelled into bulk enormous, it astonishes the eye with vast 116 F10v 116 masses of solid rock and long-continued bulwarks of stone. Such are the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Andes, which stand the everlasting boundaries of nations; and, while kingdoms rise and fall, and the lesser works of nature change their appearance all around them, immoveable on their broad basis, strike the mind with an idea of stability little short of eternal duration.
If from the mountains which possess the middle of Earth we bend our course to the green verge of her dominions, the utmost limits of her shores, where land and water, like two neighbouring potentates, wage eternal war,—with what steady majesty does she repel the encroachments of the ever-restless ocean, and dash the turbulence of waves from her strong-ribbed sides!
Nor do thy praises end here:—With a kind of filial veneration I hail thee, O universal mother of all the elements,—to man the most mild, the most beneficent, the most congenial! Man himself is formed from thee: on thy maternal breast he reposes117 F11r 117 poses when weary; thy teeming lap supplies him with never-failing plenty: and when for a few years he has moved about upon thy surface, he is gathered again to thy peaceful bosom, at once his nurse, his cradle, and his grave.
Who can reckon up the benefits supplied to us by this parent Earth,—ever serviceable, ever indulgent! with how many productions does she reward the labour of the cultivator! how many more does she pour out spontaneously! How faithfully does she keep, with what large interest does she restore, the seed committed to her by the husbandman! What an abundance does she yield, of food for the poor, of delicacies for the rich! Her wealth is inexhaustible; and all that is called riches amongst men consists in possessing a small portion of her surface.
How patiently does she support the various burdens laid upon her! We tear her with ploughs and harrows, we crush her with castles and palaces; nay we penetrate her very bowels, and bring to light the veined 118 F11v 118 marble, the pointed crystal, the ponderous ores and sparkling gems, deep hid in darkness the more to excite the industry of man. Yet, torn and harassed as she might seem to be, our mother Earth is still fresh and young, as if she but now came out of the hands of her Creator. Her harvests are as abundant, her horn of plenty as overflowing, her robe as green, her unshorn tresses (the waving foliage of brown forests) as luxuriant; and all her charms as blooming and full of vigour. Such she remains, and such we trust she will remain, till in some fated hour the more devouring element of fire, having broke the bonds of harmonious union, shall seize upon its destined prey, and all nature sink beneath the mighty ruin.
On the Uses of History.
My Dear Lydia,
I was told the other day that you have not forgotten a promise of mine to correspond with you upon some subject which might be worth discussing, and relative to your pursuits. I have often recollected it also; and as promises ought not only to be recollected but fulfilled, I will without further preface throw together some thoughts on History, a study that I know you value as it deserves; and I trust it will not be disagreeable to you, if you should find some observations which your own mind may have suggested, or which you may recollect to have heard from me in some of those hours which we spent together with mutual pleasure.
Much has been said of the uses of history.120 F12v 120 story. They are no doubt many, yet do not apply equally to all: but it is quite sufficient to make it a study worth our pains and time, that it satisfies the desire which naturally arises in every intelligent mind to know the transactions of the country, of the globe in which he lives. Facts, as facts, interest our curiosity and engage our attention.
Suppose a person placed in a part of the country where he was a total stranger; he would naturally ask, who are the chief people of the place, what family they are of, whether any of their ancestors have been famous, and for what. If he see a ruined abbey, he will inquire what the building was used for; and if he be told it is a place where people got up at midnight to sing psalms, and scourged themselves in the day,—he will ask how there came to be such people, or why there are none now. If he observe a dilapidated castle which appears to have been battered by violence, he will ask in what quarrel it suffered, and 121 G1r 121 why they built formerly structures so different from any we see now. If any part of the inhabitants should speak a different language from the rest, or have some singular customs among them, he would suppose they came originally from some remote part of the country, and would inform himself, if he could, of the cause of their peculiarities.
If he were of a curious temper, he would not rest till he had informed himself whom every estate in the parish belonged to, what hands they had gone through; how one man got this field by marrying an heiress, and the other lost that meadow by a ruinous lawsuit. As a man of spirit, he would feel delighted on hearing the relation of the opposition made by an honest yeoman to an overbearing rich man on the subject of an accustomed pathway or right of common. If he should find the town or village divided into parties, he would take some pains to trace the original cause of their dissension, and to find out, if possible, who had the right on his G 122 G1v 122 side. Circumstances would often occur to excite his attention. If he saw a bridge, he would ask when and by whom it was built. If in digging in his garden he should find utensils of a singular form and construction, or a pot of money with a stamp and legend quite different from the common coin, he would be led to inquire when they were in use, and to whom they had belonged. His curiosity would extend itself by degrees. If a brook ran through the meadows, he would be pleased to trace it till it swelled into a river, and the river till it lost itself in the sea. He would be asking whose seat he saw upon the edge of a distant forest, and what sort of country lay behind the range of hills that bounded his utmost view. If any strangers came to visit or reside in the place where he lived, he would be questioning them about the country they came from, their connexions and alliances, and the remarkable transactions that had taken place within their memory or that of their parents. The 123 G2r 123 answers to these questions would insensibly grow up into History, which, as you see, does not originate in abstruse speculation, but grows naturally out of our situation and relative connexions. It gratifies a curiosity which all feel in some degree, but which spreads and enlarges itself with the cultivation of our powers, till at length it embraces the whole globe which we inhabit. To know is as natural to the mind as to see is to the eye, and knowledge is itself an ultimate end. But though this may be esteemed an ultimate and sufficient end, the study of history is important to various purposes. Few pursuits tend more to enlarge the mind. It gives us, and it only can give us, an extended knowledge of human nature;—not human nature as it exists in one age or climate or particular spot of earth, but human nature under all the various circumstances by which it can be affected. It shows us what is radical and what is adventitious: it shows us that man is still man in Turkey and in Lapland, as G2 124 G2v 124 a vassal in Russia or a member of a wandering tribe in India, in ancient Athens or modern Rome; yet that his character is susceptible of violent changes, and becomes moulded into infinite diversities by the influence of government, climate, civilization, wealth, and poverty. By showing us how man has acted, it shows us to a certain degree how he will ever act in given circumstances; and general rules and maxims are drawn from it for the service of the lawgiver and the statesman.
Here I must observe however, with regard to events, that a knowledge of history does not seem to give us any great advantage in foreseeing and preparing for them. The deepest politician, with all his knowledge of the revolutions of past ages, could probably no more have predicted the course and termination of the late French revolution, than a common man. The state of our own national debt has baffled calculation, the course of ages has presented nothing like it. Who could 125 G3r 125 have pronounced that the struggle of the Americans would be successful—that of the Poles unsuccessful? Human characters indeed act always alike: but events depend upon circumstances as well as characters; and circumstances are infinitely various and changed by the slightest causes. A battle won or lost may decide the fate of an empire: but a battle may be won or lost by a shower of snow being blown to the east or the west; by a horse (the general’s) losing his shoe; by a bullet or an arrow taking a direction a tenth part of an inch one way or the other.—The whole course of the French affairs might have been changed if the king had not stopped to breakfast, or if the post-master of Varennes had not happened to know him. These are particulars which no man can foresee; and therefore no man can with precision foresee events.
The rising up of certain characters at particular periods ranks among those unforeseen circumstances that powerfully influence126 G3v 126 fluence events. Often does a single man, as Epaminondas, illustrate his country, and leave a long track of light after him to future ages. And who can tell how much even America owed to the accident of being served by such a man as Washington? There are always many probable events. All that history enables the politician to do, is to predict that one or other of them will take place. If so and so, it will be this; if so and so, it will be that: but which, he cannot tell. There are always combinations of circumstances which have never met before from the creation of the world, and which mock all power of calculation. But let the circumstances be known and the characters upon the stage, and history will tell him what to expect from them. It will tell him with certainty, for instance, that a treaty extorted by force from distress, will be broken when opportunity offers: that if the church and the monarch are united they will oppress, if at variance they will divide the people; that 127 G4r 127 a powerful nation will make its advantage of the divisions of a weaker which applies for its assistance.
It is another advantage of history, that it stores the mind with facts that apply to most subjects which occur in conversation among enlightened people. Whether morals, commerce, languages, polite literature be the object of discussion, it is history that must supply her large storehouse of proofs and illustrations. A man or a woman may decline without blame many subjects of literature, but to be ignorant of history is not permitted to any of a cultivated mind. It may be reckoned among its advantages, that this study naturally increases the love of every man to his country. We can only love what we know; it is by becoming acquainted with the long line of patriots, heroes, and distinguished men, that we learn to love the country which has produced them.
But I must conclude this letter, already perhaps too long, though I have not got to 128 G4v 128 the end of my subject: it will give me soon another opportunity of subscribing myself
I left off, my dear Lydia, with mentioning, among the advantages of an acquaintance with history, that it fosters the sentiments of patriotism.
What is a man’s country? To the unlettered peasant who has never left his native village, that village is his country, and consequently all of it he can love. The man who mixes in the world, and has a large acquaintance with the characters existing along with himself upon the stage of it, has a wider range. His idea of a country extends to its civil polity, its military triumphs, the eloquence of its courts, and the splendour of its capital. All the great and good characters he is acquainted with swell his idea of its importance, and endear to him the society 129 G5r 129 of which he is a member. But how wonderfully does this idea expand, and how majestic a form does it put on, when History conducts our retrospective view through past ages! How much more has the man to love, how much to interest him in his country, in whom her image is identified with the virtues of an Alfred, with the exploits of the Henries and Edwards, with the fame and fortunes of the Sidneys and Hampdens, the Lockes and Miltons, who have illustrated her annals! Like a man of noble birth who walks up and down in a long gallery of portraits, and is able to say, This my progenitor was admiral in such a fight; that my great-uncle was general in such an engagement; he on the right hand held the seals in such a reign; that lady in so singular a costume was a celebrated beauty two hundred years ago; this little man in the black cap and peaked beard was one of the luminaries of his age, and suffered for his religion;—he learns to value himself upon his ancestry, and to G5 130 G5v 130 feel interested for the honour and prosperity of the whole line of descendants. Could a Swiss, think you, be so good a patriot who had never heard of the name of William Tell? or the Hollander, who should be unacquainted with the glorious struggles which freed his nation from the tyranny of the Duke of Alva?
The Englishman conversant in history has been long acquainted with his country. He knew her in the infancy of her greatness; has seen her, perhaps, in the wattled huts and slender canoes in which Cæsar discovered her: he has watched her rising fortunes, has trembled at her dangers, rejoiced at her deliverances, and shared with honest pride triumphs that were celebrated ages before he was born. He has traced her gradual improvement through many a dark and turbulent period, many a storm of civil warfare, to the fair reign of her liberty and law, to the fulness of her prosperity and the amplitude of her fame.
Or should our patriot have his lot cast 131 G6r 131 in some age and country which has declined from this high station of pre-eminence; should he observe the gathering glooms of superstition and ignorance ready to close again over the bright horizon; should Liberty lie prostrate at the feet of a despot, and the golden stream of commerce, diverted into other channels, leave nothing but beggary and wretchedness around him;—even then, in these ebbing fortunes of his country, History like a faithful meter would tell him how high the tide had once risen; he would not tread unconsciously the ground where the Muses and the Arts had once resided, like the goat that stupidly browses upon the fane of Minerva. Even the name of his country will be dear and venerable to him. He will muse over her fallen greatness, sit down under the shade of her never-dying laurels, build his little cottage amidst the ruins of her towers and temples, and contemplate with tenderness and respect the decaying age of his once illustrious parent.132 G6v 132
But if an acquaintance with history thus increases a rational love of our country, it also tends to check those low, illiberal, vulgar prejudices which adhere to the uninformed of every nation. Travelling will also cure them: but to travel is not within the power of every one. There is no use, but a great deal of harm in fostering a contempt for other nations; in an arrogant assumption of superiority, and the clownish sneer of ignorance at every thing in laws, government or manners which is not fashioned after our partial ideas and familiar usages. A well-informed person will not be apt to exclaim at every event out of the common way, that nothing like it has ever happened since the creation of the world, that such atrocities are totally unheard-of in any age or nation;—sentiments we have all of us so often heard of late on the subject of the French revolution: when in fact we can scarcely open a page of their history without being struck with similar and equal enormities. Indeed party spirit is very 133 G7r 133 much cooled and checked by an acquaintance with the events of past times.
When we see the mixed and imperfect virtue of the most distinguished characters; the variety of motives, some pure and some impure, which influence political conduct; the partial success of the wisest schemes, and the frequent failure of the fairest hopes;—we shall find it more difficult to choose a side, and to keep up an interest towards it in our minds, than to restrain our feelings and language within the bounds of good sense and moderation. This, by the way, makes it particularly proper that ladies who interest themselves in the events of public life should have their minds cultivated by an acquaintance with history, without which, they are apt to let the whole warmth of their natures flow out, upon party matters, in an ardour more honest than wise, more zealous than candid.
With regard to the moral uses of history, what has just been mentioned may stand for one. It serves also by exercise 134 G7v 134 to strengthen the moral feelings. The traits of generosity, heroism, disinterestedness, magnanimity, are scattered over it like sparkling gems, and arrest the attention of the most common reader. It is wonderfully interesting to follow the revolutions of a great state, particularly when they lead to the successful termination of some glorious contest. Is it true?— a child asks, when you tell him a wonderful story that strikes his imagination. The writer of fiction has the unlimited command of events and of characters; yet that single circumstance of truth, that the events related really came to pass, that the heroes brought upon the stage really existed,—counterbalances, with respect to interest, all the privileges of the former, and in a mind a little accustomed to exertion will throw the advantage on the side of the historian.
The more History approaches to Biography the more interest it excites. Where the materials are meagre and scanty, the 135 G8r 135 antiquarian and the chronologer may dwell upon the page; but it will seldom excite the glow of admiration or draw the delicious tear of sensibility. I must acknowledge however, in order to be candid, that the emotions excited by the actions of our species are not always of so pleasing or so edifying a nature. The miseries and the vices of man form a large part of the picture of human society: the pure mind is disgusted by depravity, the existence of which it could not have imagined to itself; and the feeling heart is cruelly lacerated by the sad repetition of wrongs and oppression, chains and slaughter, sack and massacre, which assail it in every page:—till the mind has gained some strength, so frightful a picture should hardly be presented to it. Chosen periods of history may be selected for youth, as the society of chosen characters precedes in well-regulated education a more indiscriminate acquaintance with the world. In favour of a more extended view, I can only say that truth is truth,—man must be 136 G8v 136 shown as the being he really is, or no real knowledge is gained. If a young person were to read only the Beauties of History, or, according to Madame Genlis’s scheme, stories and characters in which all that was vicious should be left out, he might as well, for any real acquaintance with life he would gain, have been reading all the while Sir Charles Grandison or the Princess of Cleves.
One consoling idea will present itself with no small degree of probability on comparing the annals of past and present times,—that of a tendency to amelioration; at least it is evidently found in those countries with which we are most connected. But the only balm that can be poured with full effect into the feeling mind which bleeds for the folly and wickedness of man, is the belief that all events are directed and controlled by supreme wisdom and goodness. Without this persuasion, the world becomes a desert, and its devastators the wolves and tigers that prowl over it.
It is needless to insist on the uses of 137 G9r 137 history to those whose situation in life gives them room to expect that their actions may one day become the objects of it. Besides the immediate necessity to them of the knowledge it supplies, it affords the strongest motives for their conduct of hope and fear. The solemn award, the incorruptible tribunal and the severe soul-searching inquisition of Posterity is calculated to strike an awe into their souls. They cannot take refuge in oblivion: it is not permitted them to die:—they may be the objects of gratitude or detestation as long as the world stands. They may flatter themselves that they have silenced the voice of truth; they may forbid newspapers and pamphlets and conversation;—an unseen hand is all the while tracing out their history, and often their minutest actions, in indelible characters; and it will soon be held up for the judgement of the world at large.
Lastly, this permanency of human characters tends to cherish in the mind the hope and belief of an existence after death. 138 G9v 138 If we had no notices from the page of history of those races of men that have lived before us, they would seem to be completely swept away; and we should no more think of inquiring what human beings filled our place upon the earth a thousand harvests ago, than we should think about the generations of cattle which at that time grazed the marshes of the Tiber, or the venerable ancestors of the goats that are browsing upon Mount Hymettus;—no vestige would remain of one any more than of the other, and we might more pardonably fall into the opinion that they both had shared a similar fate. But when we see illustrious characters continuing to live on in the eye of posterity, their memories still fresh, and their noble actions shining with all the vivid colouring of truth and reality, ages after the very dust of their tombs is scattered, high conceptions kindle within us; and feeling one immortality, we are led to hope for another. We find it hard to persuade ourselves that the 139 G10r 139 man who, like Antoninus or Socrates, fills the world with the sweet perfume of his virtue, the martyr or the patriot to whom posterity is doing the justice which was denied him by his contemporaries, should all the while himself be blotted out of existence, that he should be benefiting mankind and doing good so long after he is capable of receiving any, that we should be so well acquainted with him, and that he should never know any thing of us. That one who is an active agent in the world, instructing, informing it, inspiring friendship, making disciples, should be nothing—this does not seem probable; the records of time suggest to us eternity.
My Dear Lydia,
We have considered the uses of History; I would now direct your attention to those 140 G10v 140 collateral branches of science which are necessary for the profitable understanding of it. It is impossible to understand one thing well without understanding to a certain degree many other things; there is a mutual dependence between all parts of knowledge. This is the reason that a child never fully comprehends what he is taught: he receives an idea, but not the full idea, perhaps not the principal of what you want to teach him. But as his mind opens, this idea enlarges and receives accessory ideas, till slowly and by degrees he is master of the whole. This is particularly the case in History. You may recollect probably that the mere adventure was all you entered into, in those portions of it which were presented to you at a very early age. You could understand nothing of the springs of action, nothing of the connexion of events with the intrigues of cabinets, with religion, with commerce; nothing of the state of the world at different periods of society and improvement: and 141 G11r 141 as little could you grasp the measured distances of time and space which are set between them. This you could not do, not because the history was not related with clearness, but because you were destitute of other knowledge.
The first studies which present themselves as accessories in this light are Geography and Chronology, which have been called the two eyes of History. When was it done? Where was it done? are the two first questions you would ask concerning any fact that was related to you. Without these two particulars there can be no precision or clearness.
Geography is best learned along with history; for if the first explains history, the latter gives interest to geography, which without it is but a dry list of names. For this reason if a young person begin with ancient history, I should think it adviseable, after a slight general acquaintance with the globe, to confine his geography to the period and country of which he is reading; and it would be a desirable thing to 142 G11v 142 have maps adapted to each remarkable period in the great empires of the world. These should not contain any towns or be divided into any provinces which were not known at that period. A map of Egypt for instance, calculated for its ancient monarchy, should have Memphis marked in it, but not Alexandria, because the two capitals did not exist together. A map of Judea for the time of Solomon, or any period of its monarchy, should not exhibit the name of Samaria, nor the villages of Bethany and Nazareth: but each country should have the towns and divisions, as far as they are known, calculated for the period the map was meant to illustrate. Thus geography, civil geography, would be seen to grow out of history; and the mere view of the map would suggest the political state of the world at any period.
It would be a pleasing speculation to see how the arbitrary divisions of kingdoms and provinces vary and become obsolete, and large towns flourish and fall again into ruins; 143 G12r 143 while the great natural features, the mountains, rivers, and seas remain unchanged, by whatever names we please to call them, whatever empire incloses them within its temporary boundaries. We have, it is true, ancient and modern maps; but the one set includes every period from the Flood to the provinciating the Roman empire under Trajan, and the other takes in all the rest. About half a dozen sets for the ancient states and empires, and as many for the modern, would be sufficient to exhibit the most important changes, and would be as many as we should be able to give with any clearness. The young student should make it an invariable rule never to read history without a map before him; to which should be added plans of towns, harbours, &c. These should be conveniently placed under the eye, separate if possible from the book he is reading, that by frequent glancing upon them the image of the country may be indelibly impressed on his imagination.144 G12v 144
Besides the necessity of maps for understanding history, the memory is wonderfully assisted by the local association which they supply. The battles of Issus and the Granicus will not be confounded by those who have taken the pains to trace the rivers on whose banks they were fought: the exploits of Hannibal are connected with a view of the Alps, and the idea of Leonidas is inseparable from the straits of Thermopylæ. The greater accuracy of maps, and still more the facility, from the arts of printing and engraving, of procuring them, is an advantage the moderns have over the ancients. They have been perfected by slow degrees. The Egyptians and Chaldeans studied the science of mensuration; and the first map—rude enough no doubt—is said to have been made by order of Sesostris when he became master of Egypt. Commerce and war have been the two parents of this science. Pharaoh Necho ordered the Phœnicians whom he sent round Africa, to make a survey of the 145 H1r 145 coast. This they finished in three years. Darius caused the Ethiopic Sea and the mouth of the Indus to be surveyed. That maps were known in Greece you no doubt recollect from the pretty story of Socrates and Alcibiades. Anaximander, a disciple of Thales, is said to have made the first sphere, and first delineated what was then known of the countries of the earth. He flourished 547 years before Christ. Herodotus mentions a map of brass or copper which was presented by Aristagoras tyrant of Miletus to Cleomenes king of Sparta, in which he had described the known world with its seas and rivers. Alexander the Great in his expedition into Asia took two geographers with him; and from their itineraries many things have been copied by succeeding writers.
From Greece the science of geography passed to Rome. The enlightened policy of the Romans cultivated it as a powerful means of extending and securing their dominion. One of the first things they did was to make H 146 H1v 146 roads, for which it was necessary to have the country measured. They had a custom when they had conquered a country to have a painted map of it always carried aloft in their triumphs. The great historian Polybius reconnoitred under a commission from Scipio Emilianus the coasts of Africa, Spain, and France, and measured the distances of Hannibal’s march over the Alps and Pyrenees. Julius Cæsar employed men of science to survey and measure the globe; and his own Commentaries show his attention to this part of knowledge. Strabo, a great geographer whose works are extant, flourished under Augustus; Pomponius Mela in the first century.
Many of the Roman itineraries which are still extant, show the systematic care which they bestowed on a science so necessary for the orderly distribution and government of their large dominions. But still it was late before Geography was settled upon its true basis,—astronomical observations. The greater part of the early maps were 147 H2r 147 laid down in a very loose inaccurate manner; and where particular parts were done with the greatest care, yet if the longitude and latitude were wanting, their relative situation to the rest of the earth could not be known. Some attempts had indeed been made by Hipparchus and Possidonius, Greek philosophers, to settle the parallels of latitude by the length of the days; but the foundation they had laid was neglected till the time of Ptolemy, who flourished at Alexandria about 150 years after Christ, under Adrian and Antoninus Pius. This is he from whom the Ptolemaic system took its name. He diligently compared and revised the ancient maps and charts, correcting their errors and supplying their defects by the reports of travellers and navigators, the measured or reputed distances of maps and itineraries, and astronomical calculations, all digested together; he reduced geography to a regular system, and laid down the situation of places according to minutes and degrees of longitudeH2 148 H2v 148 tude and latitude as we now have them. His maps were in general use till the last three or four centuries, in which time the progress of the moderns in the knowledge of the globe we inhabit has thrown at a great distance all the ancient geographers.
We are now, some few breaks and chasms excepted, pretty well acquainted with the outline of the globe, and with those parts of it with which we are connected by our commercial or political relations; but we are still profoundly ignorant of the interior of Africa, and imperfectly acquainted with that of South America, and the western part of North America. We know little of Thibet and the central parts of Asia, and have as yet only touched upon the great continent of New Holland.
The best ancient maps are those of D’Anville. It has required great learning and proportionate skill to bring together the scattered notices which are found in various authors, and to fix the position of places which have been long ago destroyed; very 149 H3r 149 often the geographer has no other guide than the relation of the historian that such a place is within six or eight days journey from another place. In some instances the maps of Ptolemy are lately come into repute again,—as in his delineation of the course of the Niger, which is thought to be favoured by modern discoveries. Major Rennell has done much to improve the geography of India.
There are many valuable maps scattered in voyages and travels, and many of the atlases contain a collection sufficient for all common purposes; but a complete collection of the best maps and charts, with plans of harbours, towns, &c., becomes an object of even princely expense. The French took the lead in this, as in some other branches of science. The late empress of Russia caused a geographical survey to be taken of her dominions, which has much improved our knowledge of the north-eastern regions of Europe and Asia. 150 H3v 150 We have now, however, both single maps and atlases which yield to none in accuracy or elegance.
Geography addresses itself to the eye, and is easily comprehended: to give a clear idea of Chronology is somewhat more difficult. It is easy to define it by saying it gives an answer to the question, when was it done? but the meaning of the when is not quite so obvious. A date is a very artificial thing, and the world had existed for a long course of centuries before men were aware of its use and necessity. When is a relative term; the most natural application of it is, how long ago, reckoning backwards from the present moment? Thus if you were to ask an Indian when such an 151 H4r 151 event happened, he would probably say— So many harvests ago, when I could but just reach the boughs of yonder tree;—in the time of my father, grandfather, greatgrandfather; still making the time then present to him the date from which he sets out. Even where a different method is well understood, we use in more familiar life this natural kind of chronology—The year before I was married,—when Henry, who is now five years old, was born,—the winter of the hard frost. These are the epochs which mark the annals of domestic life more readily and with greater clearness, so far as the real idea of time is concerned, than the year of our Lord, as long as these are all within the circle of our personal recollection. But when events are recorded, the relator may be forgotten, and the when again occurs: When did the historian live? I understand the relative chronology of his narration; I know how the events of it follow one another; but what is their relation to general chronology,152 H4v 152 logy, to time as it relates to me and to other events?
To know the transactions of a particular reign, that of Cyrus for instance, in the regular order in which they happened in that reign, but not to know where to place them with respect to the history of other times and nations, is as if we had a very accurate map of a small island existing somewhere in the boundless ocean, and could lay down all the bearings and distances of its several towns and villages, but for want of its longitude and latitude were ignorant of the relative position of the island itself. Chronology supplies this longitude and latitude, and fixes every event to its precise point in the chart of universal time. It supplies a common measure by which I may compare the relator of an event with myself, and his now or ten years ago with the present now or ten years, reckoning from the time in which I live.
In order to find such a common measure,153 H5r 153 sure, men have been led by degrees to fix upon some one known event, and to make that the center from which, by regular distances, the different periods of time are reckoned, instead of making the present time, which is always varying, and every man’s own existence, the center.
The first approach to such a mode of computing time is to date by the reigns of kings; which, being public objects of great notoriety, seem to offer themselves with great advantage for such a purpose. The scripture history, which is the earliest of histories, has no other than this kind of successive dates: Now it came to pass in the fifth year of the king Hezekiah. And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years: and Solomon slept with his fathers; and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead. From this method a regular chronology might certainly be deduced, if we had the whole unbroken series; but unfortunately there are many gaps and chasms in history; and H5 154 G5v 154 you easily see that if any links of the chain are wanting, the whole computation is rendered imperfect. Besides, it requires a tedious calculation to bring it into comparison with other histories and events. To say that an event happened in the tenth year of the reign of king Solomon, gives you only an idea of the time relative to the histories of that king, but leaves you quite in the dark as to its relation with the time you live in, or with the events of the Roman history.
We want therefore an universal date, like a lofty obelisk seen by all the country round, from and to which every distance should be measured. The most obvious that offers itself for this purpose is the creation of the world, an event equally interesting to all; to us the beginning of time, and from which therefore time would flow regularly down in an unbroken stream from the earliest to the latest generations of the human race. This would probably therefore have been made use of, if the 155 H6r 155 date of the creation itself could be ascertained with any exactness; but as chronologers differ by more than a thousand years as to the time of that event, it is necessary previously to mention what system is made use of; which renders this æra obscure and inconvenient. It has therefore been found more convenient, in fact, to take some known event within the limit of well-authenticated history, and to reckon from that fixed point backwards and forwards. As we cannot find the head of the river, and know not its termination, we must raise a pillar upon its banks, and measure our distances from that, both up and down the stream. This event ought to be important, conspicuous, and as interesting as possible, that it may be generally received; for it would spare a great deal of trouble in computation if all the world would make use of the same date. This however has never been the case, chance and national vanity having had their full share in settling them.156 H6v 156
The Greeks reckoned by olympiads, but not till more than sixty years after the death of Alexander the Great. The Olympic games were the most brilliant assembly in Greece, the Greeks were very fond of them, they began 776 years before Christ, and each olympiad includes four years. Some of the earlier Greek historians digested their histories by ages, or by the succession of the priestesses of Juno at Argos; others by the archons of Athens or the kings of Lacedæmon. Thucydides uses simply the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, the subject of his history; for, writing to his contemporaries, it seems not to have occurred to him that another date would ever be necessary. The Arundelian marbles, composed sixty years after the death of Alexander the Great, reckon backwards from the then present time.
The Roman æra was the building of their city, the eternal city as they loved to call it.
The Mahometans date from the Hegira157 H7r 157 gira, or flight of Mahomet from Mecca his birth-place, to Medina, A.D. 0622622; and they have this advantage, that they began almost immediately to use it.
The æra used all over the Christian world is the birth of Christ. This was adopted as a date about A.D. 0360360; and though there is an uncertainty of a few years, which are in dispute, the accuracy is sufficient for any present purpose.
The reign of Nabonassar the first king of Babylon, of Yesdigerd the last king of Persia,—who was conquered by the Saracens,—and of the Seleucidæ of Syria, have likewise furnished æras.
Julius Scaliger formed an æra which he called the Julian period, being a cycle of 7980 years, produced by multiplying several cycles into one another, so as to carry us back to a period 764 years before the creation of the world. This æra, standing out of all history, like the fulcrum which Archimedes wished for, and independent of variation or possibility 158 H7v 158 of mistake, was a very grand idea; and in measuring every thing by itself, measured it by the eternal truth of the laws of the heavenly bodies. But it is not greatly employed, the common æra serving all ordinary purposes. In modern histories the olympiads, Roman æras, and others, are reduced, in the margin, to the year of our Lord, or of the creation.
Such is the nature of æras, now in such common use that we can with difficulty conceive the confusion in which, for the want of them, all the early part of history is involved, and the strenuous labours of the most learned men which have been employed in arranging them and reducing history to the order in which we now have it.
The earliest history which we possess, as we have before observed, is that of the Jewish scriptures; these carry us from the creation to about the time of Herodotus: having no date, we are obliged to compute from generations, and to take the reigns 159 H8r 159 of kings where they are given. But a great schism occurs at the very outset. The Septuagint translation of the Mosaic history into Greek, which was made by order of Ptolemy Philadelphus, differs from the Hebrew text by 1400 years from the creation to the birth of Abraham.
The chronology of the Assyrian and Babylonish monarchies is involved in inextricable difficulties; nor are we successful in harmonizing the Greek with the oriental writers of history. The Persian historians make no mention of the defeat of Xerxes by the Greeks, or that of Darius by Alexander. All nations have had the vanity to make their origin mount as high as possible; and they have often invented series of kings, or have reckoned the contemporary individuals of different dynasties as following each other in regular succession, as if one should take the kings of the Heptarchy singly instead of together.
You will perhaps ask, if we have no æras, what have we to reckon by? We have 160 H8v 160 generations and successions of kings. Sir Isaac Newton, who joined wonderful sagacity to profound learning and astronomical skill, made very great reforms in the ancient chronology. He pointed out the difference between generations and successions of kings. A generation is not the life of man; it is the time that elapses before a man sees his successor; and this, reckoning to the birth of the eldest son, is estimated at about thirty years. The succession of kings would seem at first sight to be the same, and so it had been reckoned; but Newton corrected it, on the principle that kings are often cut off prematurely in turbulent times, or are succeeded either by their brothers, or by their uncles, or others older than themselves. The lines of kings of France, England, and other countries within the range of exact chronology, confirmed this principle. He therefore rectified all the ancient chronology according to it; and with the assistance of astronomical observations he found reason 161 H9r 161 to allow, as the average length of a reign, about eighteen or twenty years.
But after all, great part of the chronology of ancient history is founded upon conjecture and clouded with uncertainty.
Although I recommend to you a constant attention to chronology, I do not think it desirable to load your memory with a great number of specific dates, both because it would be too great a burthen on the retentive powers, and because it is, after all, not the best way of attaining clear ideas on the subjects of history. In order to do this, it is necessary to have in your mind the relative situation of other countries at the time of any event recorded in one of them. For instance, if you have got by heart the dates of the accession of the kings of Europe, and want to know whether John lived at the time of the crusades, and in what state the Greek empire was, you cannot tell without an arithmetical process, which perhaps you may not be quick enough to make. You cannot tell 162 H9v 162 whether Constantinople had been taken by the Turks when the Sicilian Vespers happened; for each fact is insulated in your mind; and indeed your dates give you only the dry catalogue of accessions. Nay, you may read separate histories, and yet not bring them together if the countries be remote. Each exists in your mind separately, and you have at no time the state of the world. But you ought to have an idea at once of the whole world, as far as history will give it. You do not see truly what the Greeks were, except you know that the British Isles were then barbarous.
A few dates therefore, perfectly learned, may suffice, and will serve as landmarks to prevent your going far astray in the rest: but it will be highly useful to connect the histories you read in such a manner in your own mind, that you may be able to refer from one to the other, and to form them all into a whole. For this purpose, it is very desirable to observe and retain in your memory certain coincidences, 163 H10r 163 which may link, as it were, two nations together. Thus you may remember that Haroun al Raschid sent to Charlemagne the first clock that was seen in Europe. If you are reading the history of Greece when it flourished most, and want to know what the Romans were doing at the same time, you may recollect that they sent to Greece for instruction when they wanted to draw up the laws of the Twelve Tables. Solon and Crœsus connect the history of Lesser Asia with that of Greece. Egbert was brought up in the court of Charlemagne; Philip Augustus of France and Richard I. of England fought in the same crusade against Saladin. Queen Elizabeth received the French ambassador in deep mourning after the massacre of St. Bartholomew.
It may be desirable to keep one kingdom as a meter for the rest. Take for this purpose first the Jews, then the Greeks, the Romans, and, because it is so, our own country: then harmonize and connect all the other dates with these.164 H10v 164
That the literary history of a nation may be connected with the political, study also biography, and endeavour to link men of science and literature and artists with political characters. Thus Hippocrates was sent for to the plague of Athens; Leonardo da Vinci died in the arms of Francis I. Often an anecdote, a smart saying, will indissolubly fix a date.
Sometimes you may take a long reign, as that of Elizabeth or Louis XIV., and making that the center, mark all the contemporary sovereigns, and also the men of letters. Another way is, to make a line of life, composed of distinguished characters who touch each other. It will be of great service to you in this view to study Dr. Priestley’s biographical chart; and of still greater, to make one for yourself, and fill it by degrees as your acquaintance with history extends. Marriages connect the history of different kingdoms; as those of Mary queen of Scots and Francis II., Philip II. and Mary of England.165 H11r 165
These are the kind of dates which make every thing lie in the mind in its proper order; they also take fast hold of it. If you forget the exact date by years, you have nothing left; but of circumstances you never lose all idea. As we come nearer to our own times, dates must be more exact: a few years more or less signify little in the destruction of Troy, if we knew it exactly; but the conclusion of the American war should be accurately known, or it will throw other events near it into confusion.
In so extensive a study no auxiliary is to be neglected: Poetry impresses both geography and history in a most agreeable manner upon those who are fond of it. Thus, ……fair Austria spreads her mournfull charms,The queen, the beauty, sets the world in arms. A short, lively character in verse is never forgotten: From Macedonia’s madman to the Swede. Historic plays deeply impress, but should 166 H11v 166 be read with caution. We take our ideas from Shakespeare more than history: he, indeed, copied pretty exactly from the chroniclers, but other dramatic writers have taken great liberties both with characters and events.
Painting is a good auxiliary; and though in this country history is generally read before we see pictures, they mutually illustrate one another: painting also shows the costume. In France, where pictures are more accessible, there is more knowledge generally diffused of common history. Many have learned scripture history from the rude figures on Dutch tiles.
I will conclude with the remark, that though the beginner in history may and ought to study dates and epochas for his guidance, chronology can never be fully possessed till after history has been long studied and carefully digested.
Young as you are, my dear Flora, you cannot but have noticed the eagerness with which questions, relative to civil liberty, have been discussed in every society. To break the shackles of oppression, and assert the native rights of man, is esteemed by many among the noblest efforts of heroic virtue; but vain is the possession of political liberty if there exists a tyrant of our own creation, who, without law or reason, or even external force, exercises over us the most despotic authority; whose jurisdiction is extended over every part of private and domestic life; controls our pleasures, fashions our garb, cramps our motions, fills our lives with vain cares and restless anxiety. The worst slavery is that which we voluntarily impose upon ourselves;168 H12v 168 selves; and no chains are so cumbrous and galling as those which we are pleased to wear by way of grace and ornament.— Musing upon this idea, gave rise to the following dream or vision:
Methought I was in a country of the strangest and most singular appearance I had ever beheld: the rivers were forced into jet d’eaus, and wasted in artificial water-works; the lakes were fashioned by the hand of art; the roads were sanded with spar and gold-dust; the trees all bore the marks of the shears, they were bent and twisted into the most whimsical forms, and connected together by festoons of ribon and silk fringe: the wild flowers were transplanted into vases of fine china, and painted with artificial white and red.
The disposition of the ground was full of fancy, but grotesque and unnatural in the highest degree; it was all highly cultivated, and bore the marks of wonderful industry; but among its various productions I could hardly discern one that was of any use.169 I1r 169
My attention, however, was soon called off from the scenes of inanimate life, by the view of the inhabitants, whose form and appearance were so very preposterous, and, indeed, so unlike any thing human, that I fancied myself transported to the country of The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads Do grow beneath their shoulders: for the heads of many of these people were swelled to an astonishing size, and seemed to be placed in the middle of their bodies. Of some, the ears were distended till they hung upon the shoulders; and of others, the shoulders were raised till they met the ears: there was not one free from some deformity, or monstrous swelling, in one part or other; either it was before, or behind, or about the hips, or the arms were puffed up to an unusual thickness, or the throat was increased to the same size with the poor objects once exhibited under the name of the monstrous Craws: some had no necks; others had necks that reached I 170 I1v 170 almost to their waists; the bodies of some were bloated up to such a size, that they could scarcely enter a pair of folding doors; and others had suddenly sprouted up to such a disproportionate height, that they could not sit upright in their loftiest carriages.
Many shocked me with the appearance of being nearly cut in two, like a wasp; and I was alarmed at the sight of a few, in whose faces, otherwise very fair and healthy, I discovered an eruption of black spots, which I feared was the fatal sign of some pestilential disorder.
The sight of these various and uncouth deformities inspired me with much pity; which however was soon changed into disgust, when I perceived, with great surprise, that every one of these unfortunate men and women was exceeding proud of his own peculiar deformity, and endeavoured to attract my notice to it as much as possible. A lady, in particular, who had a swelling under her throat, larger than any 171 I2r 171 goitre in the Valais, and which, I am sure, by its enormous projection, prevented her from seeing the path she walked in, brushed by me with an air of the greatest self- complacency, and asked me if she was not a charming creature?
But by this time I found myself surrounded by an immense crowd, who were all pressing along in one direction; and I perceived that I was drawn along with them by an irresistible impulse, which grew stronger every moment. I asked whither we were hurrying with such eager steps? and was told that we were going to the court of Queen Fashion, the great Diana whom all the world worshippeth. I would have retired, but felt myself impelled to go on, though without being sensible of any outward force.
When I came to the royal presence, I was astonished at the magnificence I saw around me. The queen was sitting on a throne, elegantly fashioned in the form of a shell, and inlaid with gems and mother- I2 172 I2v 172 of-pearl. It was supported by a cameleon, formed of a single emerald. She was dressed in a light robe of changeable silk, which fluttered about her in a profusion of fantastic folds, that imitated the form of clouds, and like them were continually changing their appearance. In one hand she held a rouge-box, and in the other one of those optical glasses which distort figures in length or in breadth according to the position in which they are held. At the foot of the throne was displayed a profusion of the richest productions of every quarter of the globe, tributes from land and sea, from every animal and plant; perfumes, sparkling stones, drops of pearl, chains of gold, webs of the finest linen; wreaths of flowers, the produce of art, which vied with the most delicate productions of nature; forests of feathers waving their brilliant colours in the air and canopying the throne; glossy silks, net-work of lace, silvery ermine, soft folds of vegetable wool, rustling paper, and shining spangles;—the173 I3r 173 gles;—the whole intermixed with pendants and streamers of the gayest tinctured ribbon.
All these together made so brilliant an appearance that my eyes were at first dazzled, and it was some time before I recovered myself enough to observe the ceremonial of the court. Near the throne, and its chief supports, stood the queen’s two prime ministers, Caprice on one side, and Vanity on the other. Two officers seemed chiefly busy among the attendants. One of them was a man with a pair of shears in his hand and a goose by his side,—a mysterious emblem, of which I could not fathom the meaning: he sat cross-legged, like the great lama of the Tartars. He was busily employed in cutting out coats and garments; not, however, like Dorcas, for the poor—nor, indeed, did they seem intended for any mortal whatever, so ill were they adapted to the shape of the human body. Some of the garments were extravagantly large, others as preposterously 174 I3v 174 small: of others, it was difficult to guess to what part of the person they were meant to be applied. Here were coverings, which did not cover; ornaments, which disfigured; and defences against the weather, more slight and delicate than what they were meant to defend; but all were eagerly caught up, without distinction, by the crowd of votaries who were waiting to receive them.
The other officer was dressed in a white succinct linen garment, like a priest of the lower order. He moved in a cloud of incense more highly scented than the breezes of Arabia; he carried a tuft of the whitest down of the swan in one hand, and in the other a small iron instrument, heated red- hot, which he brandished in the air. It was with infinite concern I beheld the Graces bound at the foot of the throne, and obliged to officiate, as handmaids, under the direction of these two officers.
I now began to inquire by what laws this queen governed her subjects, but soon 175 I4r 175 found her administration was that of the most arbitrary tyrant ever known. Her laws are exactly the reverse of those of the Medes and Persians; for they are changed every day, and every hour: and what makes the matter still more perplexing, they are in no written code, nor even made public by proclamation: they are only promulgated by whispers, an obscure sign, or turn of the eye, which those only who have the happiness to stand near the queen can catch with any degree of precision: yet the smallest transgression of the laws is severely punished; not indeed by fines or imprisonment, but by a sort of interdict similar to that which in superstitious times was laid by the Pope on disobedient princes, and which operated in such a manner that no one would eat, drink, or associate with the forlorn culprit, and he was almost deprived of the use of fire and water.
This difficulty of discovering the will of the goddess occasioned so much crowding 176 I4v 176 to be near the throne, such jostling and elbowing of one another, that I was glad to retire and observe what I could among the scattered crowd: and the first thing I took noticed of was various instruments of torture which every where met my eyes. Torture has, in most other governments of Europe, been abolished by the mild spirit of the times; but it reigns here in full force and terror. I saw officers of this cruel court employed in boring holes with red-hot wires, in the ears, nose, and various parts of the body, and then distending them with the weight of metal chains, or stones, cut into a variety of shapes: some had invented a contrivance for cramping the feet in such a manner that many are lamed by it for their whole lives. Others I saw, slender and delicate in their form and naturally nimble as the young antelope, who were obliged to carry constantly about with them a cumbrous unwieldy machine, of a pyramidal form, several ells in circumference.177 I5r 177
But the most uncommon and one of the worst instruments of torture, was a small machine armed with fish-bone and ribs of steel, wide at top but extremely small at bottom. In this detestable invention the queen orders the bodies of her female subjects to be inclosed: it is then, by means of silk cords, till the unhappy victim can scarcely breathe; and they have found the exact point that can be borne without fainting, which, however, not unfrequently happens. The flesh is often excoriated, and the very ribs bent, by this cruel process. Yet what astonished me more than all the rest, these sufferings are borne with a degree of fortitude, which in a better cause, would immortalize a hero or canonize a saint. The Spartan who suffered the fox to eat into his vitals, did not bear pain with greater resolution: and as the Spartan mothers brought their children to be scourged at the altar of Diana, so do the mothers I5 178 I5v 178 here bring their children,—and chiefly those whose tender sex one would suppose excused them from such exertions,—and early inure them to this cruel discipline. But neither Spartan, nor Dervise, nor Bonze, nor Carthusian monk, ever exercised more unrelenting severities over their bodies, than these young zealots: indeed the first lesson they are taught, is a surrender of their own inclinations and an implicit obedience to the commands of the Goddess.
But they have, besides a more solemn kind of dedication, something similar to the rite of confirmation. When a young woman approaches the marriageable age, she is led to the altar: her hair, which before fell loosely about her shoulders, is tied up in a tress, sweet oils drawn from roses and spices are poured upon it; she is involved in a cloud of scented dust, and invested with ornaments under which she can scarcely move. After this solemn ceremony,179 I6r 179 mony, which is generally concluded by a dance round the altar, the damsel is obliged to a still stricter conformity than before to the laws and customs of the court, and any deviation from them is severely punished.
The courtiers of Alexander, it is said, flattered him by carrying their heads on one side, because he had the misfortune to have a wry neck; but all adulation is poor, compared to what is practised in this court. Sometimes the queen will lisp and stammer,—and then none of her attendants can speak plain; sometimes she chooses to totter as she walks,—and then they are seized with sudden lameness: according as she appears half undressed, or veiled from head to foot, her subjects become a procession of nuns, or a troop of Bacchanalian nymphs. I could not help observing, however, that those who stood at the greatest distance from the throne were the most extravagant in their imitation.180 I6v 180
I was by this time thoroughly disgusted with the character of a sovereign at once so light and so cruel, so fickle and so arbitrary, when one who stood next me bade me attend to still greater contradictions in her character, and such as might serve to soften the indignation I had conceived. He took me to the back of the throne, and made me take notice of a number of industrious poor, to whom the queen was secretly distributing bread. I saw the Genius of Commerce doing her homage, and discovered the British cross woven into the insignia of her dignity.
While I was musing on these things, a murmur arose among the crowd, and I was told that a young votary was approaching. I turned my head, and saw a light figure, the folds of whose garment showed the elegant turn of the limbs they covered, tripping along with the step of a nymph. I soon knew it to be yourself:—I saw you led up to the altar,—I saw your beautiful 181 I7r 181 hair tied in artificial tresses, and its bright gloss stained with coloured dust,—I even fancied I beheld produced the dreadful instruments of torture;—my emotions increased:—I cried out, O spare her! spare my Flora! with so much vehemence that I awaked.
To Miss D****.
May never less of Mirth than now
Sit on thy smooth unclouded brow!
May never Care those furrows trace
Which might her softer lines efface!
His richest robe may Hymen wear,
His brightest torch and gayest air!
And O! where’er he builds thy bower,
May joy attend the chosen hour!
May Mirth and Youth and Pleasure meet
To scatter roses at thy feet!
Like this, may every opening year
With some new blessing fraught appear;
With sprightly hopes and wishes glow,
And promise much, and more bestow!—
But what shall we forsaken do,
When Mirth and Pleasure fly with you?
On the Birth of a Friend’s Eldest Son.
Welcome little helpless stranger;
Welcome to the light of day;
Smile upon thy happy mother,
Smile, and chase her pains away.
Lift thine eyes and look around thee;
Various Nature courts thy sight,
Spreads for thee her flowery carpet;
Earth was made for thy delight.
Welcome to a mother’s bosom;
Welcome to a father’s arms;
Heir to all thy father’s virtues,
Heir to all thy mother’s charms.
Joy thou bring’st, but mix’d with trouble,
Anxious joys and tender fears,
Pleasing hopes, and mingled sorrows,
Smiles of transport, dash’d with tears.
Who can say what lies before thee,
Calm or tempest, peace or strife;
With what turns of various fortune
Fate shall mark thy checquer’d life.
Who can tell what eager passions
In this little heart shall beat,
When amibition, love, or glory,
Shall invade this peaceful seat.
Who can tell how wide the branches
Of this tender plant may spread,
While beneath its ample shadow
Swains may rest, and flocks be fed.
Angels guard thee, lovely blossom,
And avert each hovering ill!
Crown thy parents’ largest wishes,
And their fondest hopes fulfill.
Epitaph on a Goldfinch.
aged three moons and four days,
the body of Richard Acanthis,
a young creature
of unblemished life and character.
He was taken in his callow infancy,
from under the wing
of a tender parent,
by the rough and pitiless hands
of a two-legged animal
Though born with the most aspiring dispositions,
and unbounded love of freedom,
he was closely confined in a grated prison,
and scarcely permitted to view those fields,
to the possession of which
he had a natural and undoubted
Deeply sensible of this infringement
of his native and inalienable rights,
he was often heard to petition for redress;
not with rude and violent clamours,186 I9v 186
in the most plaintive notes
of melodious sorrow.
wearied with fruitless efforts to escape,
his indignant spirit
burst the prison which his body could not,
and left behind
a lifeless heap of beauteous feathers.
if suffering innocence can hope for retribution,
deny not to the gentle shade
of this unfortunate captive
the natural though uncertain hope
of animating some happier form,
or trying his new-fledged pinions
in some humble Elysium;
beyond the reach of Man,
of this lower universe.
Description of Two Sisters.
Our conversation last night upon beauties, put me in mind of two charming sisters, with whom I think you must be acquainted as well as I, though they were not in your list of belles. Their charms are very different however; the youngest is generally thought the handsomest, and yet other beauties shine more in her company than in her sister’s; whether it be that her gay looks diffuse a lustre on all around, while her sister’s beauty has an air of majesty which strikes with awe, or that the younger sets every one she is with in the fairest light, and discovers perfections which were before concealed, whilst the elder seems 188 I10v 188 only solicitous to set off her own person and throw a shade upon every one else: yet, what you will think strange, it is she who is generally preferred for a confidant; for her sister, with all her amiable qualities, cannot keep a secret.
O! what an eye the younger has, as if she could look a person through; yet modest is her countenance, even and composed her pace, and she treads so softly—Smooth sliding without step, as Milton says. She seldom meets you without blushing,—her sister cannot blush,— she dresses very gaily, sometimes in clouded silks, which indeed she first brought into fashion, but blue is her most becoming colour, and she generally appears in it. Now and then, she wears a very rich scarf, or sash, braided with all manner of colours.
The elder, like the Spanish ladies, dresses in black in order to set off her jewels, of which she has a greater quantity than Lady ――, and, if I might judge, much finer. 189 I11r 189 I cannot pretend to give you a catalogue of them; they are of all sizes, and set in all figures: her enemies say she does well to adorn her dusky brow with brilliants, and that without them, she would be but little taken notice of; but certain it is, she has inspired more serious and enthusiastic passions than her sister, whose admirers are often fops more in love with themselves than with her. A learned clergyman some time ago fell deeply in love with her, and wrote a fine copy of verses on her; and what was worst, her sister could not go into company without hearing them.
One thing they quite agree in,—not to go out of their way or alter their pace for any body. Once or twice indeed I have heard that the younger……, but it was a great while ago, and she was not so old then, and so was more complaisant. She is generally waked with a fine concert of music, the other prefers a good solo....
But see, the younger beauty looks pale 190 I11v 190 and sick,—she faints,—she is certainly dying,—a slight blush still upon her cheek, —it fades, fast, fast.—She is gone, yet a sweet smile overspreads her countenance. Will she revive? Shall I ever see her again? Who can tell me?
Be this Philander’s praise,—a well-tuned mind,
Lofty as man, and more than woman kind;
A virgin soul which, spotless yet and bright,
Keeps all the lustre of its native white.
Virtue in him from no cold precept flow’d,
But with a vigorous, genuine ardour glow’d;
So pure his feelings and his sense so strong;
Seldom his head, his heart was never wrong;
Gentle to others, to himself severe,
And mild from pity only, not from fear.
Tender yet firm, and prudent without art,
The sweetest manners and the gentlest heart.
If in so fair a mind there reign’d a fault,
’Twas sensibility too finely wrought,
Too quickly roused, too exquisite for peace,
Too deeply thoughtful for unmingled ease.
His griefs were like his joys, too far refined
To reach the dull or touch the selfish mind;
Yet the pure sorrows that on virtue grow,
Taste of the sacred spring from which they flow.
Pray, mamma, what is the meaning of pic- nic? I have heard lately once or twice of a pic-nic supper, and I cannot think what it means; I looked for the word in Johnson’s Dictionary and could not find it.
I should wonder if you had, the word was not coined in Johnson’s time; and if it had, I believe he would have disdained to insert it among the legitimate words of the language. I cannot tell you the derivation of the phrase; I believe pic-nic is originally a cant word, and was first applied to a supper or other meal in which the entertainment is not provided by any one person, but each of the guests furnishes his dish. In a pic-nic supper one supplies the fowls, another the fish, another the wine and fruit, &c.; and they all sit down together and enjoy it.193 K1r 193
A very sociable way of making an entertainment.
Yes, and I would have you observe that the principle of it may be extended to many other things. No one has a right to be entertained gratis in society; he must expend if he wishes to enjoy.—Conversation, particularly, is a pic-nic feast, where every one is to contribute something, according to his genius and ability. Different talents and acquirements compose the different dishes of the entertainment, and the greater variety the better; but every one must bring something, for society will not tolerate any one long who lives wholly at the expense of his neighbours. Did not you observe how agreeably we were entertained at Lady Isabella’s party last night?
Yes: one of the young ladies sung, and another exhibited her drawings; and a gentleman told some very good stories.
True: another lady who is very much in the fashionable world gave us a great deal of anecdote; Dr. R., who is just returned K 194 K1v 194 from the continent, gave us an interesting account of the state of Germany; and in another part of the room a cluster was gathered round an Edinburgh student and a young Oxonian, who were holding a lively debate on the power of galvanism. But Lady Isabella herself was the charm of the party.
I think she talked very little; and I do not recollect any thing she said which was particularly striking.
That is true. But it was owing to her address and attention to her company that others talked and were heard by turns; that the modest were encouraged and drawn out, and those inclined to be noisy restrained and kept in order. She blended and harmonized the talents of each; brought those together who were likely to be agreeable to each other, and gave us no more of herself than was necessary to set off others. I noticed particularly her good offices to an accomplished but very bashful lady and a reserved man of science, who wished 195 K2r 195 much to be known to one another, but who would never have been so without her introduction. As soon as she had fairly engaged them in an interesting conversation she left them, regardless of her own entertainment, and seated herself by poor Mr.――, purely because he was sitting in a corner and no one attended to him. You know that in chemical preparations two substances often require a third, to enable them to mix and unite together. Lady Isabella possesses this amalgamating power:—this is what she brings to the pic-nic. I should add, that two or three times I observed she dexterously changed topics, and suppressed stories which were likely to bear hard on the profession or connexions of some of the company. In short, the party which was so agreeable under her harmonizing influence, would have had quite a different aspect without her. These merits, however, might easily escape a young observer. But I dare say you did not fail to notice Sir Henry B――’s K2 196 K2v 196 lady, who was declaiming with so much enthusiasm, in the midst of a circle of gentlemen which she had drawn round her, upon the beau ideal.
No: indeed, mamma; I never heard so much fire and feeling:—and what a flow of elegant language! I do not wonder her eloquence was so much admired.
She has a great deal of eloquence and taste; she has travelled, and is acquainted with the best works of art. I am not sure, however, whether the gentlemen were admiring most her declamation or the fine turn of her hands and arms. She has a different attitude for every sentiment. Some observations which she made upon the beauty of statues seemed to me to go to the verge of what a modest female will allow herself to say upon such subjects,— but she has travelled. She was sensible that she could not fail to gain by the conversation while beauty of form was the subject of it.
Pray what――, the great poet, bring 197 K3r 197 to the pic-nic, for I think he hardly opened his mouth?
He brought his fame. Many would be gratified with merely seeing him who had entertained them in their closets; and he who had so entertained them had a right to be himself entertained in that way which he had no talent for joining in.—Let every one, I repeat, bring to the entertainment something of the best he possesses, and the pic-nic table will seldom fail to afford a plentiful banquet.
Letter from Grimalkin to Selima.
My Dear Selima,
As you are now going to quit the fostering cares of a mother, to enter, young as you are, into the wide world, and conduct yourself by your own prudence, I cannot forbear giving you some parting advice in this important æra of your life.
Your extreme youth, and permit me to add, the giddiness incident to that period, make me particularly anxious for your welfare. In the first place then, let me beg you to remember that life is not to be spent in running after your own tail. Remember you were sent into the world to catch rats and mice. It is for this you are furnished with sharp claws, whiskers to improve your scent, and with such an elasticity and spring in your limbs. Never lose sight 199 K4r 199 of this great end of your existence. When you and your sister are jumping over my back, and kicking and scratching one another’s noses, you are indulging the propensities of your nature, and perfecting yourselves in agility and dexterity. But remember that these frolics are only preparatory to the grand scene of action. Life is long, but youth is short. The gaiety of the kitten will most assuredly go off. In a few months, nay even weeks, those spirits and that playfulness, which now exhilarate all who behold you, will subside; and I beg you to reflect how contemptible you will be, if you should have the gravity of an old cat without that usefulness which alone can ensure respect and protection for your maturer years.
In the first place, my dear child, obtain a command over your appetites, and take care that no tempting opportunity ever induces you to make free with the pantry or larder of your mistress. You may possibly slip in and out without observation; you 200 K4v 200 may lap a little cream, or run away with a chop without its being missed: but depend upon it, such practices sooner or later will be found out; and if in a single instance you are discovered, every thing which is missing will be charged upon you. If Mrs. Betty or Mrs. Susan chooses to regale herself with a cold breast of chicken which was set by for supper,—you will have clawed it; or a raspberry cream,—you will have lapped it. Nor is this all. If you have once thrown down a single cup in your eagerness to get out of the storeroom, every china plate and dish that is ever broken in the house, you will have broken it; and though your back promises to be pretty broad, it will not be broad enough for all the mischief that will be laid upon it. Honesty you will find is the best policy.
Remember that the true pleasures of life consist in the exertion of our own powers. If you were to feast every day upon roasted partridges from off Dresden china, and dip your whiskers in syllabubs and creams, it 201 K5r 201 could never give you such true enjoyment as the commonest food procured by the labour of your own paws. When you have once tasted the exquisite pleasure of catching and playing with a mouse, you will despise the gratification of artificial dainties.
I do not with some moralists call cleanliness a half virtue only. Remember it is one of the most essential to your sex and station; and if ever you should fail in it, I sincerely hope Mrs. Susan will bestow upon you a good whipping.
Pray do not spit at strangers who do you the honour to take notice of you. It is very uncivil behaviour, and I have often wondered that kittens of any breeding should be guilty of it.
Avoid thrusting your nose into every closet and cupboard,—unless indeed you smell mice; in which case it is very becoming.
Should you live, as I hope you will, to see the children of your patroness, you must prepare yourself to exercise that K5 202 K5v 202 branch of fortitude which consists in patient endurance: for you must expect to be lugged about, pinched and pulled by the tail, and played a thousand tricks with; all which you must bear without putting out a claw: for you may depend upon it, if you attempt the least retaliation you will for ever lose the favour of your mistress.
Should there be favourites in the house, such as tame birds, dormice, or a squirrel, great will be your temptations. In such a circumstance, if the cage hangs low and the door happens to be left open,—to govern your appetite I know will be a difficult task. But remember that nothing is impossible to the governing mind; and that there are instances upon record of cats who, in the exercise of self-government, have overcome the strongest propensities of their nature.
If you would make yourself agreeable to your mistress, you must observe times and seasons. You must not startle her by 203 K6r 203 jumping upon her in a rude manner: and above all, be sure to sheathe your claws when you lay your paw upon her lap.
You have like myself been brought up in the country, and I fear you may regret the amusements it affords; such as catching butterflies, climbing trees, and watching birds from the windows, which I have done with great delight for a whole morning together. But these pleasures are not essential. A town life has also its gratifications. You may make many pleasant acquaintances in the neighbouring courts and alleys. A concert upon the tiles in a fine moonlight summer’s evening may at once gratify your ear and your social feelings. Rats and mice are to be met with everywhere: and at any rate you have reason to be thankful that so creditable a situation has been found for you; without which you must have followed the fate of your poor brothers, and with a stone about your neck have been drowned in the next pond.
It is only when you have kittens yourself,204 K6v 204 self, that you will be able to appreciate the cares of a mother. How unruly have you been when I wanted to wash your face! how undutiful in galloping about the room instead of coming immediately when I called you! But nothing can subdue the affections of a parent. Being grave and thoughtful in my nature, and having the advantage of residing in a literary family, I have mused deeply on the subject of education; I have pored by moonlight over Locke, and Edgeworth, and Mrs. Hamilton, and the laws of association: but after much cogitation I am only convinced of this, that kittens will be kittens, and old cats old cats. May you, my dear child, be an honour to all your relations and to the whole feline race. May you see your descendants of the fiftieth generation. And when you depart this life, may the lamentations of your kindred exceed in pathos the melody of an Irish howl.
Petition of a Schoolboy to his Father.
Most honour’d Sir, I must confess
I never liked a letter less
Than yours, which brought this new receipt
To prove that poets must not eat.
Alas! poetic sparks require
The aid of culinary fire:
Your ancient bards, I always find,
Recited best when they had dined:
Old Homer, and your brave Greek boys,
With whom old stories make such noise,
The savoury chine loved full as well
As striking on an empty shell;
And mighty idle it was reckon’d
(See Pope’s translation, book the second)
To enter upon any matter
Of verse, or business, praise, or satire,
Till the dire rage of hunger ceased,
And empty stomachs were appeased.
Indeed, Sir, with your lean philosophy,
For want of moisture I should ossify;206 K7v 206
And therefore beg, with all submission,
To recommend a composition,
Which Phœbus’ self to me reveal’d
Last night, while sleep my eyelids seal’d
First, from the Naiad’s sacred spring
The cleansing wave with reverence bring;
Be rites of due lustration paid,—
Ill-omen’d else, you’ll ne’er succeed.
Now with pure hands receive the flour
Which Ceres from her horn will pour.
The fairest herds on Mosswold hill
Your pail with smoking streams shall fill,
Which, tortured in the whirling churn,
Shall soon to waxen butter turn,—
Butter, more sweet than morning dew,
Butter, which Homer never knew!
My friends, you have not done your task yet:
Next of fresh eggs provide a basket;
Let Betty break them in a bowl
Large as her own free-hearted soul;
Then, with a triple-tined fork
The viscous flood incessant work,
Till white with sparkling foam it rise
Like a vext sea beneath her eyes.
The monarch of the watery reign
Thus with his trident smites the main,
When roused from Ocean’s deepest bed
The billows lift their frothy head,207 K8r 207
And the wet sailor far from shore
With dashing spray is cover’d o’er.
With flying sails and falling oars
Now speed, my friends, to distant shores,—
For many a distant realm must join,
Ere we fulfil the vast design.
From islands of the Western main
Bring the sweet juices of the cane;
In bright Hesperia’s groves you’ll find
The lovely fruit with burnish’d rind;
Not fairer was that golden bough
Given to the pious Trojan’s vow,
When the prophetic Sibyl led
To the sad nations of the dead,
Which guided through the direful scene,
And soothed the stern relentless Queen.
Strip of their bark the spicy trees
Embosom’d deep in Indian seas.
To Venus next address your prayer,
That she with rosy hand would bear
The luscious fruit to crown your toils
From Paphos and Cythera’s isles.
From every clime the tribute pour’d
Now heap’d upon the spacious board,
Sure sister Sally will not linger
To mix them with her snowy finger.
Fair priestess of the mystic rite,
Kept close from man’s unhallow’d sight,208 K8v 208
Fear not my verse should here disclose
What words the sacred charm compose,
When with uncover’d arms you bend,
The heterogeneous mass to blend:—
Your cakes are good, with joy I take them,
Nor ask the secret how you make them.
Now, the rich labour to complete,
Spread o’er the whole an icy sheet,
Thinner than e’er the pointed thorn,
The glazing of a winter’s morn;
Too weak to bear the beams of day,
The trickling crystal melts away.
’Tis done,—consign it o’er to Bray, The Diss and Palgrave carrier.
And your petitioner tshall pray.
The River and the Brook:
There was once a River which was very large, and flowed through a great extent of country which it rendered fruitful and pleasant. It was some miles broad at its mouth; it was navigable for a long way up the stream, and ships of large burthen floated on its bosom. The River, elated with its own consequence, despised all the little brooks and streams which fell into it; and swelling above its banks with pride, said to them—Ye petty and inconsiderable streams, that hasten to lose your names and your being in my flood, how little does your feeble tribute increase my greatness! whether you withhold or bring it I feel no increase and shall preerceive no diminution.
Proud stream! replied a little Brook 210 K9v 210 which lifted up its head and murmured these words,—dost thou not know that all thy greatness is owing to us whom thou despisest?
The River, mindless of this reproof, in wanton pride overflowed its banks. But the next summer proving a very hot one, all the little streams were dried up, and the River was so far dried that men and cattle could wade over it; and a strong wind bringing a heap of dust across its stream, it was lost in the sands and never heard of afterwards.
Come here, all ye virgins, and pity my case,
By a lover neglected and left in disgrace;
By a lover whose charms and whose falsehoods are such
That I neither can praise nor lament him too much.
When first seen o’er the hills of the East he drew nigh,
How beauteous his footsteps, how cheering his eye!
The lark sprung to meet him, all nature was gay,
And his bright golden hair, how it stream’d on the day.
As nearer and nearer each day then he press’d,
How quickly he thaw’d all the ice of my breast;
And the hours of his absence were never then long,
And those hours too were soothed with the nightingale’s song.
O then if I sicken’d, I sicken’d of love,
For relief from his ardours I sought the cool grove;212 K10v 212
But where did the grove, rock, or desert appear,
Which his eye did not pierce, which his smile did not cheer;
O the joys that are past! by my lover caress’d,
When my lap teem’d with wealth, the rose bloom’d on my breast;
When the poet delighted my charms to rehearse,
And a wreath from my hair was the meed of his verse.
But those moments so precious are fled with swift pace,—
For a month at a time I now scarce see his face;
So languid his smile is, so distant his air,
My poor heart is quite sunk in the depths of despair.
My tresses are scatter’d, dishevell’d, and torn,
Through the chill night I sigh, and I weep every morn;
My charms were call’d forth by a beam from his eye,
In his absence they wither, they languish, and die.
Now my strength and my youth and my beauty are gone,
My times are accomplish’d, my fate hastens on;
His eye is averted, he sees not my death,—
Now my last hour approaches, I scarce draw my breath.213 K11r 213
To a new fav’rite then he’ll his passion transfer,
And his gifts and his courtship will all be for her;
Like me with his smiles she will kindle and glow,
And his kiss from her bosom will melt off the snow.
But like me deserted, she too will soon prove
How transient his fervours, how fickle his love;
And like mine, her short pageant must quickly be o’er,
For the circle she treads I have trodden before.
The Old Year.Half-past Eleven at Night, --12-31Dec. 31.
Allegory on Sleep.
My Dear Miss D****,
The affection I bear you, and the sincere regard I have for your welfare, will I hope excuse the liberty I am going to take in remonstrating against the indulgence of a too partial affection which I see with sorrow is growing upon you every day.
You start at the imputation: but hear me with patience; and if your own heart, your own reason, does not bear witness to what I say, then blame my suspicions and my freedom.
But need I say much to convince you of the power this favoured lover, whose name I will not mention, has over you, when at this very moment he absorbs all your faculties, and engrosses every power of your mind to such a degree as leaves it 215 K12r 215 doubtful whether this friendly admonition will reach your ear, lost as you are in the soft enchantment? Is it not evident that in his presence you are dead to every thing around you? The voice of your nearest friends, your most sprightly and once- loved amusements, cannot draw your attention; you breathe, you exist, only for him. And when at length he has left you, do not I behold you languid, pale, bearing in your eyes and your whole carriage the marks of his power over you? When we parted last night, did not I see you impatient to sink into his arms? Have you never been caught reclined on his bosom, on a soft carpet of flowers, on the banks of a purling stream, where the murmuring of the waters, the whispering of the trees, the silence and solitude of the place, and the luxurious softness of every thing around you, favoured his approach and disposed you to listen to his addresses? Nay, in that sacred temple which ought to be dedicated to higher affections, has he 216 K12v 216 never stolen insensibly on your mind, and sealed your ears against the voice of the preacher, though never so persuasive? Has not his influence over you greatly increased within these few weeks? Does he not every day demand, do you not every day sacrifice to him, a larger portion of your time?
Not content with your devoting to him those hours When business, noise, and day are fled, does he not encroach upon the morning watches, break in upon your studies, and detain your mind from the pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit of pleasure,— of all pleasure but the enervating indulgence of your passion?
Diana, who still wishes to number you in her train, invites you to join in her lively sports; for you Aurora bathes the new-born rose in dew, and streaks the clouds with gold and crimson; and Youth and Health offer a thousand innocent pleasures to your acceptance.217 L1r 217
And, let me ask you, what can you find in the company of him with whom you are thus enamoured, to make you amends for all that you give up for his sake? Does he entertain you with any thing but the most incoherent rhapsodies, the most romantic and visionary tales? To believe the strange, improbable and contradictory things he tells you, requires a credulity beyond that of an infant. If he has ever spoken truth, it is mixed with so much falsehood and obscurity, that it is esteemed the certain sign of a weak mind to be much affected with what he says.
As I wish to draw a true portrait, I will by no means disguise his good qualities; and shall therefore allow that he is a friend to the unhappy and the friendless, that his breast is the only pillow for misfortune to repose on, and that his approaches are so gentle and insinuating as in some moments to be almost irresistible. If he is at all disposed to partiality, it is in favour of the poor and mean, with whom he is generally thought L 218 L1v 218 to associate more readily than with the rich. Yet he dispenses favours to all: and those who are most disposed to rebel against his power and treat him with contempt, could never render themselves quite independent of him.
He is of a very ancient family, and came in long before the Conquest. He has a half-brother, somewhat younger than himself, who has made his name very famous in the world: he is a tall meagre figure, with a ghastly air and a most forbidding countenance; he delights in slaughter, and has destroyed more men than Cæsar or Alexander.
He who is the subject of my letter is fond of peace, sleek and corpulent, with a mild heavy eye and a physiognomy perfectly placid; yet with all this opposition of feature and character, there is such a resemblance between them (as often happens in family likenesses), that in some lights and attitudes you can scarce distinguish the one from the other.219 L2r 219
To finish the description of your lover,— he is generally crowned with flowers, but of the most languid kind, such as poppies and cowslips; and he is attended by a number of servants, thin and light-footed, to whom he does not give the same livery; for some are dressed in the gayest, others in the most gloomy habits imaginable, but all fantastic.
He is subject to many strange antipathies, and as strange likings. The warbling of the lark, to others so agreeable, is to him the harshest discord, and Peter could not start more at the crowing of a cock. The slightest accident, the cry of an infant, a mouse behind the wainscot, will oftentimes totally disconcert and put him to flight, and at other times he will not regard the loudest thunder. His favourite animal is the dormouse, and his music the dropping of water, the low tinkling of a distant bell, the humming of bees, and the hollow sound of the wind rustling through the trees.L2 220 L2v 220
But I have now said enough to let you into the true character of this powerful enchanter. You will answer, I know, to all this, that he begins by enslaving every faculty that might resist him, and that his power must be already broken before Reason can exert herself. You will perhaps likewise tell me (and I must acknowledge the justice of the retort), that I myself, though my situation affords a thousand reasons to resist him which do not take place with you, have been but too sensible of his attractions.
With blushes I confess the charge. At this moment, however, the charm is broken, and Reason has her full empire over me. Let me exhort you therefore...But why exhort you to what is already done? for if this letter has made its way to your ear, if your eye is now perusing its contents, the spell is dissolved, and you are no longer sunk in the embraces of Sleep.
Occasioned by his Poem on the Sun.
While, Florio, thy young venturous Muse
Pursues her shining way,
And like the generous eagle soars
To meet the blaze of day;
With the fair dawn of genius charm’d,
A nobler theme I find;
I hail the intellectual morn,
I sing the bloom of mind.
The sun which bids the ruby glow,
And wakes the purple rose,
A richer gem did ne’er refine,
A sweeter bud disclose.
That bud to golden fruit shall swell,
That gem be polish’d bright,
The kindling dawn of science spread
To clear meridian light.
When gems grow pale, and roses droop,
And sickening suns expire,—
The mind, a ray from heaven, shall live,
And mix with heavenly fire.
Lift up thyself, O mourning soul! lift up thyself, raise thine eyes that are wet with tears!
Why are thine eyes wet with tears? why are they bent continually upon the earth? and why dost thou go mourning as one forsaken of thy God?
O thou that toilest ever and restest not; thou that wishest ever and art not satisfied; thou that carest ever and art not ’stablished;
Why dost thou toil and wish? why is thine heart withered with care, and thine eye sunk with watching?
Rest quietly on thy couch, steep thine eyelids in sleep, wrap thyself in sleep as in a garment,—for he careth for thee:
He is with thee, he is about thee, he compasseth thee, he compasseth thee on every side.223 L4r 223
The voice of thy Shepherd among the rocks! he calleth thee, he beareth thee tenderly in his arms; he suffereth thee not to stray.
Thy soul is precious in his sight, O child of many hopes!
For he careth for thee in the things which perish, and he hath provided yet better things than those.
Raise thyself, O beloved soul! turn thine eyes from care, and sin, and pain; turn them to the brightness of the heavens, and contemplate thine inheritance; for thy birthright is in the skies, and thine inheritance amongst the stars of light.
The herds of the pasture sicken and die, they lie down among the clods of the valley, the foot passeth over them; they are no more. But it is not so with thee.
For the Almighty is the father of thy spirit, and he hath given thee a portion of his own immortality.
Look around thee and behold the earth, 224 L4v 224 for it is the gift of thy Father to thee and to thy sons, that they should possess it.
Out of the ground cometh forth food; the hills are covered with fresh shade; and the animals, thy subjects, sport among the trees.
Delight thyself in them, for they are good; and all that thou seest is thine.
But nothing that thou seest is like unto thyself; thou art not of them, nor shalt thou return to them.
Thou hast a mighty void which they cannot fill; thou hast an immortal hunger which they cannot satisfy: they cannot nourish, they cannot support, they are not worthy that they should occupy thee.
As the fire which while it resteth on the earth yet sendeth forth sparks continually towards heaven; so do thou from amidst the world send up fervent thoughts to God.
As the lark, though her nest is on the low ground, as soon as she becometh 225 L5r 225 fledged, poiseth her wings, and finding them strong to bear her through the light air, springeth up aloft, singing as she soars;
So let thy desires mount swiftly upwards, and thou shalt see the world beneath thy feet.
And be not overwhelmed with many thoughts. Heaven is thine, and God is thine: thou shalt be blessed with everlasting salvation and peace upon thy head for evermore.
Friendship is that warm, tender, lively, attachment which takes place between persons in whom a similarity of tastes and manners, joined to frequent intercourse, has produced an habitual fondness for each other. It is not among our duties, for it does not flow from any of the necessary relations of society; but it has its duties when voluntarily entered into. In its highest perfection it can only, I believe, subsist between two; for that unlimited confidence and perfect conformity of inclinations which it requires, cannot well be found in a larger number: besides, one such friendship fills the heart, and leaves no want or desire after another.
Friendship, where it is quite sincere and affectionate, free from affectation or interested views, is one of the greatest blessings 227 L6r 227 of life. It doubles our joys, and it lessens our sorrows when we are able to pour both into the bosom of one who takes the tenderest part in all our interests, who is to us as another self. We love to communicate all our feelings; and it is in the highest degree grateful where we can do it to one who will enter into them all; who takes an interest in every thing that befalls us; before whom we can freely indulge even our little weaknesses and foibles, and show our minds as it were undrest; who will take part in all our schemes, advise us in any emergency; who rejoices in our company, and who, we are sure, thinks of us in our absence.
With regard to the choice of friends, there is little to say; for a friend was never chosen. A secret sympathy, the attraction of a thousand nameless qualities; a charm in the expression of the countenance, even in the voice, or the manner, a similarity of circumstances,—these are the things that begin attachment, which is fostered by 228 L6v 228 being in a situation which gives occasion for frequent intercourse; and this depends upon chance. Reason and prudence have, however, much to do in restraining our choice of improper or dangerous friends. They are improper if our line of life and pursuits are so totally different as to make it improbable we shall long keep up an intimacy, at least without sacrificing to it connexions of duty; they are dangerous if they are in any respect vicious.
It has been made a question whether friendship can subsist amongst the vicious. If by vicious be meant those who are void of the social, generous, and affectionate feelings, it is most certain it cannot; because these make the very essence of it. But it is very possible for persons to possess fine feelings, without that steady principle which alone constitutes virtue; and it does not appear why such may not feel a real friendship. It will not indeed be so likely to be lasting, and is often succeeded by bitter enmities.229 L7r 229
The duties of friendship are, first, sincere and disinterested affection. This seems self-evident: and yet there are many who pretend to love their friends, when at the same time they only take delight in them, as we delight in a fine voice or a good picture. If you love your friend, you will love him when his powers of pleasing and entertaining you have given way to malady or depression of spirits; you will study his interest and satisfaction, you will be ready to resign his company, to promote his advantageous settlement at a distant residence, to favour his connexion with other friends;—these are the tests of true affection: without such a disposition, you may enjoy your friend, but you do not love him.
Next, friendship requires pure sincerity and the most unreserved confidence. Sincerity every man has a right to expect from us, but every man has not a right to our confidence: this is the sacred and peculiar privilege of friendship; and so essential is it to the very idea of this connexion, that 230 L7v 230 even to serve a friend without giving him our confidence, is but going half way;—it may command gratitude, but will not produce love. Above all things, the general tenour of our thoughts and feelings must be shown to our friends exactly as they are; without any of those glosses, colourings, and disguises which we do, and partly must, put on in our commerce with the world.
Another duty resulting from this confidence is inviolable secrecy in what has been entrusted to us. To every one indeed we owe secrecy in what we are formally entrusted with; but with regard to a friend, this extends to the concealing every thing which in the fullness of his heart and in the freedom of unguarded conversation he has let drop, if you have the least idea it may in any manner injure or offend him. In short, you are to consider youself as always, to him, under an implied promise of secrecy; and should even the friendship dissolve, it would be in the highest degree 231 L8r 231 ungenerous to consider this obligation as dissolved with it.
In the next place, a friend has a right to our best advice on every emergency; and this, even though we run the risk of offending him by our frankness. Friends should consider themselves as the sacred guardians of each other’s virtue; and the noblest testimony they can give of their affection is the correction of the faults of those they love. But this generous solicitude must be distinguished from a teazing, captious, or too officious notice of all the little defects and frailties which their close intercourse with each other brings continually into view: these must be overlooked or borne with; for as we are not perfect ourselves, we have no right to expect our friends should be so.
Friends are most easily acquired in youth, but they are likewise most easily lost: the petulance and impetuosity of that age, the eager competitions and rivalships of an active life, and more especially232 L8v 232 cially the various changes in rank and fortune, connexions, party, opinions, or local situation, burst asunder or silently untwist the far greater part of those friendships which, in the warmth of youthful attachment, we had fondly promised ourselves should be indissoluble.
Happy is he to whom, in the maturer season of life, there remains one tried and constant friend: their affection, mellowed by the hand of time, endeared by the recollection of enjoyments, toils and even sufferings shared together, becomes the balm, the consolation, and the treasure of life. Such a friendship is inestimable, and should be preserved with the utmost care; for it is utterly impossible for any art ever to transfer to another the effect of all those accumulated associations which endear to us the friend of our early years.
These considerations should likewise induce us to show a tender indulgence to our friends, even for those faults which most sensibly wound the feeling heart,—a growing233 L9r 233 ing coolness and indifference. These may be brought on by many circumstances, which do not imply a bad heart; and provided we do not by bitter complaints and an open rupture preclude the possibility of a return, in a more favourable conjuncture the friendships of our youth may knit again, and be cultivated with more genuine tenderness than ever.
I must here take occasion to observe, that there is nothing young people ought to guard against with more care than a parade of feeling, and a profusion of exaggerated protestations. These may sometimes proceed from the amiable warmth of a youthful heart; but they much oftener flow from the affectation of sentiment, which is both contemptible and morally wrong.
All that has been said of the duties or of the pleasures of friendship in its most exalted sense, is applicable in a proportionate degree to every connexion in which there exists any portion of this generous 234 L9v 234 affection: so far as it does exist in the various relations of life, so far it renders them interesting and valuable; and were the capacity for it taken away from the human heart, it would find a dreary void, and starve amidst all the means of enjoyment the world could pour out before it.
Confidence and Modesty.
When the Gods, knowing it to be for the benefit of mortals that the few should lead and that the many should follow, sent down into this lower world Ignorance and Wisdom, they decreed to each of them an attendant and guide, to conduct their steps and facilitate their introduction. To Wisdom they gave Confidence, and Ignorance they placed under the guidance of Modesty. Thus paired, the parties travelled about the world for some time with mutual satisfaction.
Wisdom, whose eye was clear and piercing, and commanded a long reach of country, followed her conductor with pleasure and alacrity. She saw the windings of the road at a great distance; her foot was firm, her ardour was unbroken, and she ascended 236 L10v 236 the hill or traversed the plain with speed and safety.
Ignorance, on the other hand, was shortsighted and timid. When she came to a spot where the road branched out in different directions, or was obliged to pick her way through the obscurity of the tangled thicket, she was frequently at a loss, and was accustomed to stop till some one appeared, to give her the necessary information, which the interesting countenance of her companion seldom failed to procure her.
Wisdom in the mean time, led by a natural instinct, advanced towards the temple of Science and Eternal Truth. For some time the way lay plain before her, and she followed her guide with unhesitating steps: but she had not proceeded far before the paths grew intricate and entangled; the meeting branches of the trees spread darkness over her head, and steep mountains barred her way, whose summits, lost in clouds, ascended beyond the 237 L11r 237 reach of mortal vision. At every new turn of the road her guide urged her to proceed; but after advancing a little way, she was often obliged to measure back her steps, and often found herself involved in the mazes of a labyrinth which after exercising her patience and her strength, ended but where it began.
In the mean time Ignorance, who was naturally impatient, could but ill bear the continual doubts and hesitation of her companion. She hated deliberation, and could not submit to delay. At length it so happened that she found herself on a spot where three ways met, and no indication was to be found which might direct her to the right road. Modesty advised her to wait; and she had waited till her patience was exhausted.—At that moment Confidence, who was in disgrace with Wisdom for some false steps he had led her into, and who had just been discarded from her presence, came up, and offered himself to be her guide. He was accepted. Under 238 L11v 238 his auspices Ignorance, naturally swift of foot, and who could at any time have outrun Wisdom, boldly pressed forward, pleased and satisfied with her new companion. He knocked at every door, visited castle and convent, and introduced his charge to many a society whence Wisdom found herself excluded.
Modesty, in the mean time, finding she could be of no further use to her charge, offered her services to Wisdom. They were mutually pleased with each other, and soon agreed never to separate. And ever since that time Ignorance has been led by Confidence, and Modesty has been found in the society of Wisdom.
The Death-Bed.A little Parlour with deal Floor; a Bed with a clean Quilt, in which lies the Grandmother.
I had more pain when I brought you into the world than now.
Shall I lay on more clothes?
Yes, on my feet.
Are they warmer?
No. When your father died was the greatest grief I ever knew. Well! we began life together, and lived hardly enough. I have often thought since, I could not do it again. But we loved one another. I am sure I could never have recovered his loss but for the care necessary to take for you: and one friend helped, and another friend, so I struggled through. Yet, my child, I would not live it again; the tired traveller would not measure back his steps.
If I were to live, I should grow worse 240 L12v 240 and worse, deafer, and blind. I have read of a country where they keep their ancestors’ mummies,—living mummies would be worse.
Your father’s Bible,—your ages are all down in it,—never sell it.
I have loved you all equally....And yet I am not sure....Poor Tommy was so long sick, and would come to nobody but me....
Jenny, you may marry the shoemaker. —And now, if I could but see my poor naughty Emma!.....
You will save nothing by me but watergruel and an egg or two,—care indeed, but that produces love.
You will not quarrel for my inheritance. The Squire,—it has gone to my heart when he has said, My old mother keeps me out of my estate.—Let my ring be buried with me.
A Dialogue of the Dead, Between Helen, and Madame Maintenon.
—Whence comes it, my dear Madame Maintenon, that beauty, which in the age I lived in produced such extraordinary effects, has now lost almost all its power?
—I should wish first to be convinced of the fact, before I offer to give you a reason for it.
—That will be very easy; for there is no occasion to go any further than our own histories and experience to prove what I advance. You were beautiful, accomplished, and fortunate; endowed with every talent and every grace to bend the heart of man and mould it to your wish; and your schemes were successful; for you M 242 M1v 242 raised yourself from obscurity and dependence to be the wife of a great monarch.— But what is this to the influence my beauty had over sovereigns and nations! I occasioned a long ten years war between the most celebrated heroes of antiquity; contending kingdoms disputed the honour of placing me on their respective thrones; my story is recorded by the father of verse; and my charms make a figure even in the annals of mankind. You were, it is true, the wife of Louis XIV. and respected in his court; but you occasioned no wars; you are not spoken of in the history of France, though you furnish materials for the memoirs of a court. Are the love and admiration that were paid you merely as an amiable woman to be compared with the enthusiasm I inspired, and the boundless empire I obtained over all that was celebrated, great, or powerful in the age I lived in?
—All this, my dear Helen, has a splendid appearance, and sounds well in a heroic poem; but you greatly deceive yourself243 M2r 243 self if you impute it all to your personal merit. Do you imagine that half the chiefs concerned in the war of Troy were at all influenced by your beauty, or troubled their heads what became of you, provided they came off with honour? Believe me, love had very little to do in the affair: Menelaus sought to revenge the affront he had received; Agamemnon was flattered with the supreme command; some came to share the glory, others the plunder; some because they had bad wives at home, some in hopes of getting Trojan mistresses abroad; and Homer thought the story extremely proper for the subject of the best poem in the world. Thus you became famous: your elopement was made a national quarrel; the animosities of both nations were kindled by frequent battles: and the object was not the restoring of Helen to Menelaus, but the destruction of Troy by the Greeks.—My triumphs, on the other hand, were all owing to myself, and to the influence of personal merit and charms M2 244 M2v 244 over the heart of man. My birth was obscure, my fortunes low; I had past the bloom of youth, and was advancing to that period at which the generality of our sex lose all importance with the other; I had to do with a man of gallantry and intrigue, a monarch who had been long familiarized with beauty, and accustomed to every refinement of pleasure which the most splendid court in Europe could afford: Love and Beauty seemed to have exhausted all their powers of pleasing for him in vain: yet this man I captivated, I fixed; and far from being content, as other beauties had been, with the honour of possessing his heart, I brought him to make me his wife, and gained an honourable title to his tenderest affection.—The infatuation of Paris reflected little honour upon you. A thoughtless youth, gay, tender, and impressible, struck with your beauty, in violation of all the most sacred laws of hospitality carries you off, and obstinately refuses to restore you to your husband. You seduced Paris from 245 M3r 245 his duty,—I recovered Louis from vice; you were the mistress of the Trojan prince, I was the companion of the French monarch.
—I grant you were the wife of Louis, but not the queen of France. Your great object was ambition, and in that you met with but a partial success:—my ruling star was love, and I gave up every thing for it. But tell me, did not I show my influence over Menelaus in his taking me again after the destruction of Troy?
—That circumstance alone is sufficient to show that he did not love you with any delicacy. He took you as a possession that was restored to him, as a booty that he had recovered; and he had not sentiment enough to care whether he had your heart or not. The heroes of your age were capable of admiring beauty, and often fought for the possession of it; but they had not refinement enough to be capable of any pure, sentimental attachment or delicate passion. Was that period the triumph of 246 M3v 246 love and gallantry, when a fine woman and a tripod were placed together for prizes at a wrestling-bout, and the tripod esteemed the more valuable of the two? No; it is our Clelia, our Cassandra, and Princess of Cleves that have polished mankind and taught them how to love.
—Rather say you have lost sight of nature and the passion, between bombast on one hand and conceit on the other. Shall one of the cold temperament of France teach a Grecian how to love? Greece, the parent of fair forms and soft desires, the nurse of poetry, whose soft climate and tempered skies disposed to every gentler feeling, and tuned the heart to harmony and love!—was Greece a land of barbarians? But recollect, if you can, an incident which showed the power of beauty in stronger colours than when the grave old counsellors of Priam on my appearance were struck with fond admiration, and could not bring themselves to blame the cause of a war that had almost ruined 247 M4r 247 their country:—you see I charmed the old as well as seduced the young.
—But I, after I was grown old, charmed the young; I was idolized in a capital where taste, luxury and magnificence were at the height; I was celebrated by the greatest wits of my time, and my letters have been carefully handed down to posterity.
—Tell me now sincerely, were you happy in your elevated fortune?
—Alas! Heaven knows I was far otherwise: a thousand times did I wish for my dear Scarron again. He was a very ugly fellow it is true, and had but little money; but the most easy, entertaining companion in the world; we danced, laughed and sung; I spoke without fear or anxiety, and was sure to please. With Louis all was gloom, constraint, and a painful solicitude to please—which seldom produces its effect: the king’s temper had been soured in the latter part of life by frequent disappointments; and I was forced continually 248 M4v 248 to endeavour to procure him that cheerfulness which I had not myself. Louis was accustomed to the most delicate flatteries; and though I had a good share of wit, my faculties were continually on the stretch to entertain him,—a state of mind little consistent with happiness or ease: I was afraid to advance my friends or punish my enemies. My pupils at St. Cyr were not more secluded from the world in a cloister than I was in the bosom of the court; a secret disgust and weariness consumed me. I had no relief but in my work and books of devotion; with these alone I had a gleam of happiness.
—Alas! one need not have married a great monarch for that.
—But deign to inform me, Helen, if you were really as beautiful as fame reports? for to say truth, I cannot in your shade see the beauty which for nine long years had set the world in arms.
—Honestly, no; I was rather low, and something sunburnt: but I had 249 M5r 249 the good fortune to please; that was all. I was greatly obliged to Homer.
—And did you live tolerably with Menelaus after all your adventures?
—As well as possible. Menelaus was a good-natured domestic man, and was glad to sit down and end his days in quiet. I persuaded him that Venus and the Fates were the cause of all my irregularities, which he complaisantly believed. Besides, I was not sorry to return home: for to tell you a secret, Paris had been unfaithful to me long before his death, and was fond of a little Trojan brunette whose office it was to hold up my train: but it was thought dishonourable to give me up. I began to think love a very foolish thing: I became a great housekeeper, worked the battles of Troy in tapestry, and spun with my maids by the side of Menelaus, who was so satisfied with my conduct, and behaved, good man, with so much fondness, that I verily think this was the happiest period of my life.
—Nothing more likely; but the most obscure wife in Greece could rival you there.—Adieu! you have convinced me how little fame and greatness conduce to happiness.
You seem to be in a reverie, Harriet; or are you tired with your long bustling walk through the streets of London?
Not at all, papa; but I was wondering at something.
A grown person even cannot walk through such a metropolis without meeting with many things to wonder at. But let us hear the particular subject of your admiration;—was it the height and circumference of St. Paul’s, or the automatons, or the magical effect of the Panorama that has most struck you?
No, papa; but I was wondering how you who have always so much money in your pockets can go through the streets of London, all full of fine shops, and not buy 252 M6v 252 things: I am sure if I had money I could not help spending it all.
As you never have a great deal of money, and it is given you only to please your fancy with, there is no harm in your spending it in any thing you have a mind to; but it is very well for you and me too that the money does not burn in my pocket as it does in yours.
No, to be sure you would not spend all your money in those shops, because you must buy bread and meat, but you might spend a good deal. But you walk past just as if you did not see them: you never stop to give one look. Now tell me really, papa, can you help wishing for all those pretty things that stand in the shop-windows?
For all! Would you have me wish for all of them? But I will answer you seriously. I do walk by these tempting shops without wishing for any thing, and indeed in general without seeing them.
Well, that is because you are a man, 253 M7r 253 and you do not care for what I admire so very much.
No, there you are mistaken; for though I may not admire them so very much as you say you do, there a vast number of things sold in London which it would give me great pleasure to have in my possession. I should greatly like one of Dollond’s best reflecting telescopes. I could lay out a great deal of money, if I had it to spare, in books of botany and natural history. Nay, I assure you I should by no means be indifferent to the fine fruit exposed at the fruit-shops; the plums with the blue upon them as if they were just taken from the tree, the luscious hothouse grapes, and the melons and pineapples. Believe me, I could eat these things with as good a relish as you could.
Then how can you help buying them, when you have money; and especially, papa, how can you help thinking about them and wishing for them?
London is the best place in the world to 254 M7v 254 cure a person of extravagance, and even of extravagant wishes. I see so many costly things here which I know I could not buy, even if I were to lay out all the money I have in the world, that I never think of buying any thing which I do not really want. Our furniture, you know, is old and plain. Perhaps if there were only a little better furniture to be had, I might be tempted to change it; but when I see houses where a whole fortune is laid out in decorating a set of apartments, I am content with chairs whose only use is to sit down upon, and tables that were in fashion half a century ago. In short, I have formed the habit of self-government, one of the most useful powers a man can be possessed of. Self-government belongs only to civilized man,—a savage has no idea of it. A North-American Indian is temperate when he has no liquor; but as soon as liquor is within his reach, he invariably drinks till he is first furious and then insensible. He possesses no power over himself, and he 255 M8r 255 literally can no more help it, than iron can help being drawn by the loadstone.
But he seldom gets liquor, so he has not a habit of drinking.
You are right; he has not the habit of drinking, but he wants the habit of self- control; this can only be gained by being often in the midst of temptations, and resisting them. This is the wholesome discipline of the mind. The first time a man denies himself any thing he likes and which it is in his power to procure, there is a great struggle within him, and uneasy wishes will disturb for some time the tranquillity of his mind. He has gained the victory, but the enemy dies hard. The next time he does not wish so much, but he still thinks about it. After a while he does not think of it; he does not even see it. A person of moderate fortune, like myself, who lives in a gay and splendid metropolis, is accustomed to see every day a hundred things which it would be madness to think of buying.256 M8v 256
Yes; but if you were very rich, papa—if you were a lord?
No man is so rich as to buy every thing his unrestrained fancy might prompt him to desire. Hounds and horses, pictures and statues and buildings, will exhaust any fortune. There is hardly any one taste so simple or innocent, but what a man might spend his whole estate in it, if he were resolved to gratify it to the utmost. A nobleman may just as easily ruin himself by extravagance as a private man, and indeed many do so.
But if you were a king?
If I were a king, the mischief would be much greater; for I should ruin not only myself, but my subjects.
A king could not hurt his subjects, however, with buying toys or things to eat.
Indeed but he might. What is a diamond but a mere toy? but a large diamond is an object of princely expense. That called the Pitt diamond was valued at 1,000,000l. It was offered to George the 257 M9r 257 Second, but he wisely thought it too dear. The dress of the late queen of France was thought by the prudent Necker a serious object of expense in the revenues of that large kingdom; and her extravagance and that of the king’s brothers had a great share in bringing on the calamities of the kingdom. As to eating, you could gratify yourself with laying out a shilling or two at the pastry-cook’s: but Prince Potemkin, who had the revenues of the mighty empire of Russia at command, could not please his appetite without his dish of sterlet soup, which cost every time it was made above thirty pounds; and he would send one of his aids-de-camp an errand from Yassy to Petersburg, a distance of nearly 700 miles, to fetch him a tureen of it. He once bought all the cherries of a tree in a green-house at about half-a- crown a piece. The Roman empire was far richer than the Russian, and in the time of the Emperors was all under the power of one man. Yet when they had such 258 M9v 258 gluttons as Vitellius and Heliogabalus, the revenue of whole provinces was hardly sufficient to give them a dinner: they had tongues of nightingales, and such kind of dishes, the value of which was merely in the expense.
I think the throat of the poor little nightingales might have given them much more pleasure than the tongue.
True: but the proverb says, The belly has no ears. In modern Rome, Pope Adrian, a frugal Dutchman, complained of the expense his predecessor Leo X. was at in peacock sausages. The expenses of Louis XIV. were of a more elegant kind;—he was fond of fine tapestry, mirrors, gardens, statues, magnificent palaces. These tastes were becoming in a great king, and would have been serviceable to his kingdom if kept within proper limits: but he could not deny himself any thing, however extravagant, that it came into his mind to wish for; and indeed would have imagined it beneath him to 259 M10r 259 think at all about the expense: and therefore while he was throwing up water fifty feet high at his palaces of Versailles and Marli, and spouting it out of the mouths of dolphins and tritons, thousands of his people in the distant provinces were wanting bread.
I am sure I would not have done so to please my fancy.
Nor he neither perhaps, if he had seen them; but these poor men and their families were a great way off, and all the people about him looked pleased and happy, and said he was the most generous prince the world had ever seen.
Well, but if I had Aladdin’s lamp I might have every thing I wished for.
I am glad at least I have driven you to fairyland. You might no doubt with the lamp of Aladdin, or Fortunatus’s purse, have every thing you wished for; but do you know what the consequences would be?
Very pleasant, I should think.
On the contrary; you would become 260 M10v 260 whimsical and capricious, and would soon grow tired of every thing. We do not receive pleasure long from any thing that is not bought with our own labour: this is one of those permanent laws of nature which man cannot change; and therefore pleasure and exertion will never be separated even in imagination in a well-regulated mind. I could tell you of a couple who received more true enjoyment of their fortune than Aladdin himself.
The couple I am thinking of lived about a century ago in one of our rich trading towns, which was just then beginning to rise by manufacturing tapes and inkle. They had married because they loved one another; they had very little to begin with, but they were not afraid, because they were industrious. When the husband had come to be the richest merchant in the place, he took great pleasure in talking over his small beginnings; but he used always to add, that poor as he was when he 261 M11r 261 married, he would not have taken a thousand pounds for the table his dame and he ate their dinner from.
What had he so costly a table before he was grown rich?
On the contrary, he had no table at all; and his wife and he used to sit close together, and place their dish of pottage upon their knees;—their knees were the table. They soon got forward in the world, as industrious people generally do, and were enabled to purchase one thing after another: first perhaps a deal table; after a while a mahogany one; then a sumptuous sideboard. At first they sat on wooden benches; then they had two or three rush- bottomed chairs; and when they were rich enough to have an arm-chair for the husband, and another for a friend, to smoke their pipes in, how magnificent they would think themselves! At first they would treat a neighbour with a slice of bread and cheese and a draught of beer; by degrees with a good joint and a pudding; and at 262 M11v 262 length with all the delicacies of a fashionable entertainment: and all along they would be able to say, The blessing of God upon our own industry has procured us these things. By this means they would relish every gradation and increase of their enjoyments: whereas the man born to a fortune swallows his pleasures whole, he does not taste them. Another inconvenience that attends the man who is born rich is, that he has not early learned to deny himself. If I were a nobleman, though I could not buy every thing I might fancy for myself, yet playthings for you would not easily ruin me, and you would probably have a great deal of pocket- money; and you would grow up with a confirmed habit of expense and no ingenuity, for you would never try to make any thing, or to find out some substitute if you could not get just the thing you wanted. That is a very fine cabinet of shells which the young heiress showed you the other day: it is perfectly arranged 263 M12r 263 and mounted with the utmost elegance, and yet I am sure she has not half the pleasure in it, which you have had with those little drawers of shells of your own collecting, aided by the occasional contributions of friends, which you have arranged for yourself and display with such triumph. And now, to show you that I do sometimes think of the pleasures of my dear girl, here is a plaything for you which I bought while you were chatting at the door of a shop with one of your young friends.
A magic-lantern!—how delightful! O, thank you, papa! Edward, come and look at my charming magic-lantern.