« AnteriorContinua »
taste to relish their varieties, and they will consequently be deemed, in the opinion of the majority, an insipid substitute for those palpable and pungent repasts furnished by contrasted modes of life. The difficulty, however, of producing this contrast is every day increasing: that quick and constant intercouse by which London, in the space of a few hours, is brought into contact with the remotest provinces, has made us all, in a great degree, metropolitans; as that diffusion of education, by which all but the lowest ranks are supplied with equal knowledge, has given as the characteristic of schoolfellows. When it is considered that peculiarities in the qualities of mind are generally occasioned by the want of knowledge, and eccentricities in the modes of life by the want of general intercourse, and that these two form the grand sources of dramatic character, we may easily conceive how materially the supplies must be dried up and dimished by the progress of civilization. In fact, we have only to look round the circle of our acquaintance to discover how much one is like another, and how rare it is to stumble upon any whim or oddity that could be brought upon the stage with effect. All are beings of attainment, competent to the common purposes of society ; differing little in their modes of life, and only distinguishable from each other by the greater or less degree in which they possess certain common qualities.
This homogeneity of life and principle is rendered more emphatic by the consimilarity of dress. It may,
, indeed, be questioned whether the uniformity of our habits have not partially originated in the identity of our costume. Whatever difference of opinion may existas to the preference due to our modern standard dress over the ancient, in point of taste and convenience, it is evident, from the causes we have mentioned, as well as others which will easily sug
gest themselves to the reeder, that the change has been highly detrimental to the drama.
AUTO-BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN HUGGINS.,
“ Poeta nascitur, non fit."
The fate of Chatterton has not operated as a warning upon the patrons of literature, although it must be confessed, that if in some instances
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
yet cases have occurred in our times, in which genius has been brought forward from the humblest stations, and exalted to the very pinnacle of renown. To say nothing of the Bristol Milkmaid, we have Bloomfield, the farmer's boy ; Clare, the Northamptonshire peasant; Hogg, the Ettrick shepherd, and others : to which list, (as I was always partial to Ox
I fordshire, where I was born,) I am happy to make the addition of my own name, as
Huggins, the Oxfordshire toll boy.” Methinks I hear you exclaim, as was said of cardinal Wolsey—“How high his honour holds his haughty head!” but I flatter myself that when you have heard my history, and read some of my productions, you will instantly admit my claim to this distinction. My father, sir, besides being receiver of one of the river tolls near Henley upon Thames, kept two teams of horses for towing barges up and down the river, and I occasionally acted as his substitute in both capacities; sometimes remaining at the lock to receive the sixpences, sometimes riding the front horse of the team towards Marlow or Reading. My recreations were swimming and angling in summer, shooting and skaiting in winter; and my hours of childhood were passing rapidly away without the least cultivation
of the “mens divinior," when squire Woodgate, of Effingham court, accosted me one day as I was fishing just above our lock. " What! my lad," said the squire, who is a perfect wag, as well as a bit of an angler, "are you fishing for pickled salmon ?”
”_ “No, sir," said I, without a moment's hesitation, “ for red herrings, a retort which, in so young a lad, obviously excited his surprise : and he pursued the conversation, for the purpose of drawing out my talents, until it began to rain, when l' invited him into the toll-house. As my sister Mary, who is a good many years older than myself, is reckoned very like me, I ought not perhaps to say that she is uncommonly handsome; but the squire was so much occupied with my new and shrewd replies, that he hardly seemed to notice her. For the purpose of enjoying my conversation, he now became a a constant visitant, particularly when my father was absent with the horses ; and at length, determining that such promising talents should not be lost for want of cultivation, he offered to send me, at his own expense, to the grammar school of Marlow, which was of course thankfully accepted. As Mary found herself very dull without me, he kindly continued his visits to keep up her spirits, and finally gave her the management of a small farm, about two miles from the mansion ; which must have been a capital place for her, as she shortly after came to see me in a rich velvet pelisse, with a gold chain round her neck. One boy of real talent will often make the fortunes of a whole family.
“ The child's the father of the man,” says Wordsworth; and at school I soon began to exhibit indications of those talents, which have since ripened into such exuberant profusion ;--particularly in my bias for poetry. Pope attributed his rhyming propensity to an odd volume of Spenser's Fairy Queen; and I am inclined to derive mine from two odd volumes of Hayley's poems, which had been
given to one of my school-feilows by his god. mocher, a very worthy old woman. We have all heard of Dr. Johnson's epitaph on the duck, and of Cowley's precocious writings, yet I question whether the candid and impartial reader will find any thing in their boyish productions, much more smart and piquant than the following, which I wrote on Ton Sullivan, one of our school-fellows, who broke his arm by a fall from a restive horse which I had dissuaded him from mounting.
Ah, Tom ! had my advice been taken,
As prudently as it was spoken ;
And not have had your right arm broken!
The sting is every thing in these cases, and the point here was much admired at the time, yet I could not have been twelve years old when it was written! I have no wish, however to disparage Dr. Johnson's or Cowley's youthful attempts, which certainly have merit in their way.
Such was my capacity and application, that in an unusually short time I had learnt every thing that old Vincent Harbord, the master, could teach me; when the squire having very kindly married Mary to his gamekeeper, sent word that he could no longer pay for my education, and I was consequently taken home. I told my father candidly, that talents such as mine would be sacrificed altogether unless I had an opportunity of displaying them in one of the liberal professions, though I certainly gave the preference to the bar, with an ultimate eye to the House of Commons; but he was blind to my attainments, deaf to my entreaties, and actually bound me apprentice to a saddler at Marlow. "O day and night, but this is wondrous strange," said I to myself; this is indeed to yoke
the antelopè, and cage the eagle : I, who never thought of saddling any horse except Pegasus, to be polishing spurs, plaiting whips, and stitching girths! The thing was too ridiculous, and in my own defence I must say, that I never bestowed the smallest attention on business, and invariably held myself above all the duties of my station. Ireland's Confessions fell at this period into my hands, and I set about imitating his. Imitations with such ardour, that my master discovered me one day writing poetry, and in great horror and consternation of mind instantly cancelled my indentures. Once more the 66 world was all before me”-and disdaining to return to my father, to associate with brainless clowns and uneducated mechanics, I determined on supporting myself comfortably and respectably by my own literary abilities, as Rowe, Otway, Chatterton, Savage, Dermody, and other men of genius had done before me.
For this purpose I took lodgings in a garret in this town, and, as I began to consider on what subject I should first exercise my talent, it occurred to me that it was absolutely necessary to fall in love. This point was soon settled. Sally Potts, whose father kept the White Hart, had always struck my fancy, from her strong resemblance to an engraving of Sappho in old Vincent Harbord's parlour; and in order to get into her good graces I got pretty deep into the inkeeper's books, or rather slates, of which he had a formidable row hanging up in the bar. Sally evidently enjoyed my sprightly ebullitions ; she smiled, tittered-did every thing but blush: in the mean time, although the White Hart
open to all that have wherewith to pay, (Goldsmith,) I found it could be very expeditiously shut against visitants of a different description. After one or two civil hints of my having been slated for above a month, I was plainly ordered not to enter the house any more, unless I could show-up