« AnteriorContinua »
yet I have seen some men pretend to understanding that have very little." _“And no doubt," returned her antago
have known ladies set up for wit that had none.”. I quickly began to find that my wife was likely to gain but little at this business ; so I resolved to treat him in a style of more severity myself. “ Both wit and understanding,” cried I, “ are trifles, without integrity; it is that which gives value to every character. The ignorant peasant without fault, is greater than the philosopher with many ; for what is genius or courage without a heart ?
“ An honest man 's the noblest work of God.” “ I always held that hackneyed maxim of Pope,” returned Mr Burchell, “ as very unworthy a man of genius, and a base desertion of his own superiority. As the reputation of books is raised, not by their freedom from defect, but the greatness of their beauties ; so should that of men be prized, not for their exception from fault, but the size of those virtues they are possessed of. The scholar may want prudence, the statesman may have pride, and the champion ferocity ; but shall we prefer to these the low mechanic, who laboriously plods on through life without censure orapplause? We might as well prefer the tame correct paintings of the Flemish school, to the erroneous but sublime animations of the Roman pencil.”
“ Sir," replied I, “ your present observation is just, when there are shining virtues and minute defects; but when it appears that great vices are opposed in the same mind to as extraordinary virtues, such a character deserves contempt.”
“ Perhaps,” cried he,“ there may be some such monsters as you describe, of great vices joined to great virtues ; yet, in my progress through life, I never yet found one instance of their existence : on the contrary, I have ever perceived, that where the mind was capacious, the affections were good. And indeed Providence seems kindly our friend in this particular, thus to debilitate the understanding where the heart is corrupt, and diminish the power where there is the will to do mischief. This rule seems to extend even to other animals : the little vermin race are ever treacherous, cruel, and cowardly, whilst those endowed with strength and power, are generous, brave, and gentle.”
“ These observations sound well,” returned I, “ and yet it would be easy this moment to point out a man," and I
.“ And do you
fixed my eye steadfastly upon him, “ whose head and heart form a most detestable contrast. Ay, sir," continued I, raising my voice, " and I am glad to have this opportunity of detecting him in the midst of his fancied security. Do you know this, sir, this pocket-book ?”—“ Yes, sir,” returned he, with a face of impenetrable assurance, “that pocket-book is mine, and I am glad you have found it.”. know,” cried I,
“ this letter ? Nay, never falter, man ; but look me full in the face : I say, do you know this letter?”« That letter ?” returned he ; " yes, it was I that wrote that letter.” '_“ And how could you,” said I, “ so basely, so ungratefully presume to write this letter ? »
.“ And how came you," replied he, with looks of unparalleled effrontery, “SO basely to presume to break open this letter ? Don't you know, now, I could hang you all for this ? All that I have to do is to swear at the next Justice's, that you have been guilty of breaking open the lock of my pocket-book, and so hang you all up at this door.” This piece of unexpected insolence raised me to such a pitch, that I could scarcely govern my passion. Ungrateful wretch! begone, and no longer pollute my dwelling with thy baseness ! begone, and never let me see thee again! Go from my door, and the only punishment I wish thee is an alarmed conscience, which will be a sufficient tormentor!” So saying, I threw him his pocket-book, which he took up with a smile, and shutting the clasps with the utmost composure, left us, quite astonished at the serenity of his assurance. My wife was particularly enraged that nothing could make him angry, or make him seem ashamed of his villanies. My dear,” cried I, willing to calm those passions that had been raised too high among us, we are not to be surprised that bad men want shame: they only blush at being detected in doing good, but glory in their vices.
“ Guilt and Shame, says the allegory, were at first companions, and in the beginning of their journey, inseparably kept together. But their union was soon found to be disagreeable and inconvenient to both. Guilt gave Shame frequent uneasiness, and Shame often betrayed the secret conspiracies of Guilt. After long disagreement, therefore, they at length consented to part for ever. Guilt boldly walked forward alone, to overtake Fate, that went before in the shape of an executioner ; but Shame, being naturally
timorous, returned back to keep company with Virtue, which in the beginning of their journey they had left behind. Thus, my children, after men have travelled through a few stages in vice, Shame forsakes them, and returns back to wait
upon the few virtues they have still remaining."
THE FAMILY USE ART, WHICH IS OPPOSED BY STILL GREATER.
WHATEVER might have been Sophia's sensations, the rest of the family was easily consoled for Mr Burchell's absence by the company of our landlord, whose visits now became more frequent, and longer. Though he had been disappointed in procuring my daughters the amusements of the town, as he designed, he took every opportunity of supplying them with those little recreations which our retirement would admit of. He usually came in the morning ; and, while my son and I followed our occupations abroad, he sat with the family at home, and amused them by describing the town, with every part of which he was particularly acquainted. He could repeat all the observations that were retailed in the atmosphere of the playhouses, and had all the good things of the high wits by rote, long before they made their way into the jest books. The intervals between conversation were employed in teaching my daughters piquet, or sometimes in setting my two little ones to box, to make them sharp, as he called it: but the hopes of having him for a son-in-law, in some measure blinded us to all his imperfections. It must be owned, that my wife laid a thousand schemes to entrap him ; or, to speak more tenderly, used every art to magnify the merit of her daughter. If the cakes at tea eat short and crisp, they were made by Olivia ; if the gooseberry wine was well knit, the gooseberries were of her gathering : it was her fingers which gave the pickles their peculiar green ; and, in the composition of a pudding, it was her judgment that mixed the ingredients. Then the poor woman would sometimes tell the Squire, that she thought him and Olivia extremely of a size, and would bid both stand up to see which was tallest. These instances of cunning, which she thought impenetrable, yet which every body saw through, were very pleasing to our benefactor, who gave every day some new proofs of his passion, which, though they had not arisen to proposals of marriage, yet we thought fell but little short of it ; and his slowness was attributed sometimes to native bashfulness, and sometimes to his fear of offending his uncle. An occurrence, however, which happened soon after, put it beyond a doubt that he designed to become one of our family ; my wife even regarded it as an absolute promise.
My wife and daughters happening to return a visit at neighbour Flamborough's, found that family had lately got their pictures drawn by a limner, who travelled the country, and took likenesses for fifteen shillings a-head. As this family and ours had long a sort of rivalry in point of taste, our spirit took the alarm at this stolen march upon us ; and, notwithstanding all I could say, and I said much, it was resolved that we should have our pictures done too. Having, therefore, engaged the limner, for what could I do ? - - our next deliberation was, to shew the superiority of our taste in the attitudes. As for our neighbour's family, there were seven of them, and they were drawn with seven oranges, - a thing quite out of taste, no variety in life, no composition in the world. We desired to have something in a brighter style ; and, after many debates, at length came to a unanimous resolution of being drawn together, in one large historical family piece. This would be cheaper, since one frame would serve for all, and it would be infinitely more genteel ; for all families of any taste were now drawn in the same manner. As we did not immediately recollect a historical subject to hit us, we were contented each with being drawn as independent historical figures. My wife desired to be represented as Venus, and the painter was requested not to be too frugal of his diamonds in her stomacher and hair. Her two little ones were to be as Cupids by her side ; while I, in my gown and band, was to present her with my books on the Whistonian controversy. Olivia would be drawn as an Amazon, sitting upon a bank of flowers, dressed in a green joseph, richly laced with gold, and a whip in her hand. Sophia was to be a shepherdess, with as many sheep as the painter could put in for nothing ; and Moses was to be dressed out with a hat and white feather. Our taste so much pleased the Squire, that he insisted on being put in as one of the family, in the character of Alexander the Great, at Olivia's feet. This was considered by us all as an indication of his desire to be introduced into the family, nor could we refuse his request. The painter was therefore set to work, and, as he wrought with assiduity and expedition, in less than four days the whole was completed. The piece was large, and, it must be owned, he did not spare his colours ; for which my wife gave him great encomiums. We were all perfectly satisfied with his performance ; but an unfortunate circumstance which had not occurred till the picture was finished, now struck us with dismay. It was so very large, that we had no place in the house where to fix it. How we all came to disregard so material a point is inconceivable ; but certain it is, we had been all greatly remiss. The picture, therefore, instead of gratifying our vanity, as we hoped, leaned, in a most mortifying manner, against the kitchen wall, where the canvass was stretched and painted, much too large to be got through any of the doors, and the jest of all our neighbours. One compared it to Robinson Crusoe's long-boat, too large to be removed ; another thought it more resembled a reel in a bottle : some wondered how it could be got out, but still more were amazed how it ever got in.
But though it excited the ridicule of some, it effectually raised more malicious suggestions in many. The Squire's portrait being founa united with ours, was an honour too great to escape envy. Scandalous whispers began to circulate at our expense, and our tranquillity was continually disturbed by persons, who came as friends, to tell us what was said of us by enemies. These reports we always resented, with becoming spirit ; but scandal ever improves by opposition.
We once again, therefore, entered into a consultation upon obviating the malice of our enemies, and at last came to a resolution which had too much cunning to give me entire satisfaction. It was this : as our principal object was to discover the honour of Mr Thornhill's addresses, my wife undertook to sound him, by pretending to ask his advice in the choice of a husband for her eldest daughter. If this was not found sufficient to induce him to a declaration, it was then resolved to terrify him with a rival. To this last step, however, I would by no means give my consent, till Olivia gave me the most solemn assurances that