« AnteriorContinua »
maxim, than Mr. The. Cibber, just now gone out of the world.(1) Such a variety of turns of fortune, yet such a persevering uniformity of conduct, appears in all that happened in his short span, that the whole may be looked upon as one regular confusion: every action of his life was matter of wonder and surprise, and his death was an astonishment.
This gentleman was born of creditable parents, who gave him a very good education, and a great deal of good learning, so that he could read and write before he was sixteen. However, he early discovered an inclination to follow lewd courses; he refused to take the advice of his parents, and pursued the bent of his inclination; he played at cards on Sundays; called himself a gentleman; fell out with his mother and laundress; and even in these early days his father was frequently heard to observe, that young The.-would be hanged.
As he advanced in years, he grew more fond of pleasure; he would eat an ortolan for dinner, though he begged the guinea that bought it; and was once known to give three pounds for a plate of green peas, which he had collected over-night as charity for a friend in distress: he ran into debt with every body that would trust him, and none could build a sconce better than he; so that at last his creditors swore with one accord that The.—would be hanged.
But as getting into debt, by a man who had no visible means but impudence for his subsistence, is a thing that every reader is not acquainted with, I must explain that point a little, and that to his satisfaction.
There are three ways of getting into debt; first, by
(1) [Theophilus Cibber, son of Colley Cibber, and husband to the celebrated tragic actress. He lost his life, in 1757, on the coast of Scotland; where the vessel was shipwrecked in which he was going to Ireland. He was an actor, the writer of several dramatic pieces, and put his name to the "Lives of the Poets," in five volumes, 12mo. 1753; but in this work his own share is supposed to have been very inconsiderable.]
pushing a face; as thus: "You, Mr. Lutestring, send me home six yards of that paduasoy, dammee ;-but, harkee, don't think I ever intend to pay you for it, dammee." At this the mercer laughs heartily, cuts off the paduasoy, and sends it home; nor is he, till too late, surprised to find the gentleman had said nothing but truth, and kept his word. The second method of running into debt is called fineering; which is getting goods made in such a fashion as to be unfit for every other purchaser; and if the tradesman refuses to give them credit, then threaten to leave them upon his hands. But the third and best method is called, "Being the good customer." The gentleman first buys some trifle, and pays for it in ready-money; he comes a few days after with nothing about him but bank bills, and buys, we will suppose, a sixpenny tweezer-case; the bills are too great to be changed, so he promises to return punctually the day after and pay for what he has bought. In this promise he is punctual, and this is repeated for eight or ten times, till his face is well known, and he has got at last the character of a good customer; by this means he gets credit for something considerable, and then never pays for it.
In all this the young man, who is the unhappy subject of our present reflections, was very expert; and could face, fineer, and bring custom to a shop with any man in England: none of his companions could exceed him in this; and his very companions at last said that The.-would be hanged.
As he grew old he grew never the better; he loved ortolans and green peas as before; he drank gravy soup when he could get it, and always thought his oysters tasted best when he got them for nothing, or which was just the same, when he bought them upon tick: thus the old man kept up the vices of the youth, and what he wanted in power, he made up by inclination; so that all the world thought that old The.-would be hanged.
And now, reader, I have brought him to his last scene; a scene where, perhaps, my duty should have obliged me to assist. You expect, perhaps, his dying words, and the tender farewell he took of his wife and children; you expect an account of his coffin and white gloves, his pious ejaculations, and the papers he left behind him. In this I cannot indulge your curiosity; for, oh! the mysteries of Fate, The-was drowned.
"Reader," as Hervey saith, "pause and ponder; and ponder and pause; who knows what thy own end may be!"
ON THE TENANTS OF THE LEASOWES.
HISTORY OF A
Of all men who form gay illusions of distant happiness, perhaps a poet is the most sanguine. Such is the ardour of his hopes, that they often are equal to actual enjoyment; and he feels more in expectance than actual fruition. I have often regarded a character of this kind with some degree of envy. A man possessed of such warm imagination commands all nature, and arrogates possessions of which the owner has a blunter relish. While life continues, the alluring prospect lies before him; he travels in the pursuit with confidence, and resigns it only with his last breath.
It is this happy confidence which gives life its true relish, and keeps up our spirits amidst every distress and disappointment. How much less would be done, if a man knew how little he can do! How wretched a creature would he
(1) [This and the two following papers appeared first in the Westminster Magazine for 1773. They were next introduced into the volume of Essays published in 1797 by Mr. Isaac Reed, and subsequently, by Bishop Percy, into the edition of the Poet's works.]
be, if he saw the end as well as the beginning of his projects! He would have nothing left but to sit down in torpid despair, and exchange employment for actual calamity.
I was led into this train of thinking upon lately visiting the beautiful Gardens of the late Mr. Shenstone; who was himself a poet, and possessed of that warm imagination, which made him ever foremost in the pursuit of flying happiness. Could he but have foreseen the end of all his schemes, for whom he was improving, and what changes his designs were to undergo, he would have scarcely amused his innocent life with what, for several years, employed him in a most harmless manner, and abridged his scanty fortune.(1) As the progress of this improvement is a true picture of sublunary vicissitude, I could not help calling up my imagination, which, while I walked pensively along, suggested the following reverie.
As I was turning my back upon a beautiful piece of water enlivened with cascades and rock-work, and entering a dark walk by which ran a prattling brook, the genius of the place appeared before me, but more resembling the God of Time, than him more peculiarly appointed to the care of gardens. Instead of shears he bore a scythe; and he appeared rather with the implements of husbandry, than those of a modern gardener. Having remembered this place in its pristine beauty, I could not help condoling with him on its present ruinous situation. I spoke to him of the many alterations which had been made, and all for the worse; of the many shades which had been taken away, of the bowers that were destroyed by neglect, and the hedge-rows that were spoiled by clipping. The
(1) ["The pleasure of Shenstone was all in his eye: he valued what he valued merely for its looks; nothing raised his indignation more than to ask, if there were any fishes in the water. He spent his estate in adorning it, and his death (in 1763) was probably hastened by his anxieties. He was a lamp that spent his oil in blazing."-JOHNSON.]
Genius with a sigh received my condolement, and assured me, that he was equally a martyr to ignorance and taste, to refinement and rusticity. Seeing me desirous of knowing farther, he went on :
"You see, in the place before you, the paternal inheritance of a poet; and to a man content with a little, fully sufficient for his subsistence: but a strong imagination and a long acquaintance with the rich are dangerous foes to contentment. Our poet, instead of sitting down to enjoy life, resolved to prepare for its future enjoyment; and set about converting a place of profit into a scene of pleasure. This he at first supposed could be accomplished at a small expense; and he was willing for a while to stint his income, to have an opportunity of displaying his taste. The improvement in this manner went forward; one beauty attained, led him to wish for some other; but he still hoped that every emendation would be the last. It was now, therefore, found that the improvement exceeded the subsidy, that the place was grown too large and too fine for the inhabitant. But that pride which was once exhibited could not retire; the garden was made for the owner, and though it was become unfit for him, he could not willingly resign it to another. Thus the first idea of its beauties contributing to the happiness of his life was found unfaithful; so that, instead of looking within for satisfaction, he began to think of having recourse to the praises of those who came to visit his improvement.
"In consequence of this hope, which now took possession of his mind, the gardens were opened to the visits of every stranger; and the country flocked round to walk, to criticise, to admire, and to do mischief. He soon found, that the admirers of his taste left by no means such strong marks of their applause, as the envious did of their malignity. All the windows of his temples, and the walls of his retreats,