« AnteriorContinua »
is so secure, that thunder rocks him to sleep, which breaks other *men's slumbers; nobility lightens in his eyes, and in his face and ges"ture is painted the God of hospitality. His great houses bear in
their front more durance than state, unless this add the greater • state to them, that they promise to out-last much of our new fan"tastical building. His heart grows old no more than his memory, whether at his book, or on horseback; he passes his time in such noble exercise ; a man cannot say any time is lost by him, nor hath he only years to approve he hath lived till he be old, but virtues. His thoughts have a high aim, though their dwelling be in the vale of an humble heart, whence, as by an engine, (that raises water to fall, that it may rise higher) he is heightened in his humility. The Adamant serves not for all seas, but his doth, 'for he hath, as it were, put a gird about the whole world, and i sounded all her quicksands. He hath his hand over fortune, that her injuries, how violent or sudden soever, do not daunt him ; for whether his time, call him to live or die, he can do both nobly; if to fall, his descent is breast to breast with virtue, and even then like the sun, near his set he shows unto the world his clearest coun"tenance.'
Sir Thomas Overbury seems to have had a high regard for the profession of an actor, and, if we mistake not, there are marks in the following portrait of his having taken it from personal observation.-Probably, like many other accomplished men, from the time of Cicero, he sought the society of a set of men whose occupation, to excel in it, requires the cultivation of the most attractive graces, both of mind and body, and is of a nature to cast a romantic and elevated tinge over the character.
. An excellent Actor. •Whatsoever is commendable in the grave orator, is most exquisitely perfect in bim; for by a full and significant action of body, he charms our attention ; sit in a full theatre, and you will think you see so many lines drawn from the circumference of so many ears, while the actor is the center. He doth not strive to make nature monstrous, she is often seen in the same scene with him, but neither on stilts nor crutches; and for his voice, 'tis not • lower than the prompter, nor louder than the foil and target. By “his action he fortifies moral precepts with example, for what we see him personate, we think truly done before us; a man of a deep thought might apprehend the ghosts of our ancient heroes walked again, and take him (at several times) for many of them. He is much affected to painting, and 'tis a question, whether that makes
him an excellent player, or his playing an exquisite painter. He 'adds grace to the poet's labours; for what in the poet is but ditty, in him is both ditty and music. He entertains us in the best leisure of our life, that is between meals, the most unfit time for study or bodily exercise. The flight of hawks and chace of wild "beasts, either of them are delights noble : but some think this
sport of men the worthier, despight all calumny. All men have been of his occupation; and, indeed, what he doth feignedly, that
do others essentially. This day one plays a monarch, the next la private person. Here one acts a tyrant, on the morrow an ex‘ile; a parasite this man to-night, to-morrow a precisian, and so of divers others. I observe, of all men living, a worthy actor in one kind is the strongest motive of affection that can be : for when he dies, we cannot be persuaded any man can do his parts like him.
But to conclude, I value a worthy actor by the corruption of some ? few of the quality, as I would do gold in the ore; I should not mind the dross, but the purity of the metal.'
Coupling this admirable character of the “Franklin," with that of the “ Milkmaid,” we may conclude that Sir Thomas Overbury had a keen taste for the pleasures of a rural life—but whether he had an opportunity of indulging it, we are unable to judge, from the scanty particulars which are left of his short life.
A Franklin. • His outside is an ancient yeoman of England, though his in* side may give arm's (with the best gentleman) and never see the
herald. There is no truer servant in the house than himself. • Though he be master, he says not to his servants, go to field, .but let us go; and with his own eye, doth both fatten his flock,
and set forward all manner of husbandry. He is taught by nature * to be contented with a little ; his own fold yields him both food 6 and raiment; he is pleased with any nourishment God sends, (whilst curious gluttony ransacks, as it were, Noah's ark for food,
only to feed the riot of one meal. He is never known to go to law; * understanding, to be law-bound among men, is like to be hide* bound among his beasts; they thrive not under it, and that such • men sleep as unquietly as if their pillows were stuft with lawyers' . pen-knives. When he builds, no poor tenant's cottage binders * his prospect; they are, indeed, his alms-houses, though there be
painted on them no such superscription. He never sits up late, .but when he hunts the badger, the vowed foe of his lambs; nor
uses he any cruelty, but when he hunts the hare ; nor subtilty, .but when he setteth snares for the snipe, or pitfals for the black
bird ; nor oppression, but when, in the month of July, he goes to *the next river and sheers his sheep. He allows of honest pastime, 6 and thinks not the bones of the dead any thing bruised, or the • worse for it, though the country lasses dance in the churchyard
after even song. Rock-monday, and the wake in summer, shro* vings, the wakeful ketches on Christmas-eve, the hoky, or seedcake, these he yearly keeps, yet holds them no relics of popery. • He is not so inquisitive after news derived from the privy closet, • when the finding an eiery of hawks in his own ground, or the * foaling of a colt come of a good strain, are tidings more pleasant • and more profitable. He is lord paramount within himself, though • he hold by never so mean a tenure, and dies the more contentedly, • (though he leave his heir young,) in regard, he leaves him not • liable to a covetous guardian. Lastly, to end him; he cares not • when his end comes; he needs not fear his audit, for his Quietus is in heaven.'
At the end of this numerous gallery of portraits, the author gives you " a Character of a Character,” which, says he,
• To square out a character by our English level, is a picture : (real or personal) quaintly drawn in various colours, all of them
heightened by one shadowing.
• It is a quick and soft touch of many strings, all shutting up in one musical close ; it is wits' descant on any plain song.'
It is needless to tell the reader, after the many specimens we have given, that this is a very accurate definition of the author's own “ Characters." They are, in truth, “a quick and soft touch of many strings," and do altogether discourse most excellent music. This description of writing is very old—as old as Theophrastus; and though many similar writers have given more true and verisimilar portraits of the characters they drew, we do not think one of this numerous race of authors has produced more amusing, ingenious, and, in some cases, more beautiful compositions of the kind, than some of those we have quoted. It unfortunately happens, that the vice of the times, the love of conceit, shows itself too conspicuously, and that the change of manners has rendered the language of too many parts totally unfit to meet a modern ear.
The book concludes with a few pages of lively matter, which the author terms “ News from any Whence, or old Truth under a Supposal of Novelty.” We give a specimen or two.
News from Court. It is thought here, that there are as great miseries beyond happiness, as on this side it, as being in love. That truth is every man's by assenting ; that time makes every thing aged, and yet • itself was never but a minute old. That, next sleep, the greatest • devourer of time is business; the greatest stretcher of it, passion; "the truest measure of it, contemplation. To be saved, always is
the best plot; and virtue always clears her way as she goes. • Vice is ever behind hand with itself. That wit and a woman ware two frail things, and both the trailer by concurring.'
From the Bed. That the bed is the best rendezvous of mankind, and the most necessary ornament of a chamber. That soldiers are good antiquaries in keeping the old fashion, for the first bed was the bare ground. That a man's pillow is his best counsellor. That Adam • lay in state when the heaven was his canopy. That the naked * truth is, Adam and Eve lay without sheets.
ART. VI. The Life and Adventures of LAZARILLO GONSALES,
surnamed DE TORMES. Written by himself. Translated from the original Spanish. In two parts: 12mo. 19th Edition ; London, 1777.
This is one of the amusing histories of Spanish roguery; and, in gratitude for the entertainment Lazarillo has afforded us, we intend to devote a few pages to him.-It may be thought that we are easily pleased, and if it be so, we are rather disposed to consider it as an advantage than otherwise.We would rather belong to that class which
“ Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing;" than be enrolled in the ranks of those critics, who can find a blot in every author's scutcheon, and whose chief pleasure is to be displeased. We would, by our own will, have the critic, were his knowledge as ample and comprehensive as the “casing air,” as pliant and impressible. We think it no proof of a man's wisdom, or of his knowledge, to be niggardly of praise, and, like a certain insect, to pass over that which is good to light upon that which is unsound and worthless. But so it is
« The bee and spider, by a diverse power,
Suck honey and poison from the self-same flow'r.” While some read for information, many read for amusement, but both objects have the same tendency—the increase of human happiness; and the power of enjoyment is the greatest proof of wisdom. This little work will perhaps be thought by sone of a low and trifling nature; but it is the first of a race of comic romances, which have added to the innocent delight of thousands. Indeed, for wit, spirit, and inexhaustible resources, in all emergencies, there is nothing like your Spanish rogue; he is the very pattern of a good knave, the perfection of trickery. Foul weather or fair, it is much the same to him; in winter or summer he is ever blithe and jocund. If his face be as plump and bright as the orange of his own Seville, he is not without its tartness; and if it be as lean and sunken as an apple kept over the spring-time, he can laugh with the season. In fact, he is never out of season; for, if we have a black cloud on
one side of the hill, there is sunshine on the other. He is the true Spanish blade, sharp and well tempered. And then for his plots and shifts, and pleasant adventures, there is no end to them; they are countless. Of all rogues, the Spanish rogue is, after all, the only agreeable companion. A French rogue is nothing to him; and your Jeremy Sharpes and Meriton "Latroons are mere dullards in the comparison. The first is but a mechanical sharper, and the others are indecent blackguards. They are bread without salt mere animal matter without soul. We would not, however, for the world, depreciate our old acquaintance, Gil Blas, a book which we cannot leave without regret, whenever we dip into it; but he is, in reality, nothing more nor less than a Spanish rogue. Spain gave him birth, and furnished his adventures. Nor would we say any thing against that pleasantly extravagant book, the “ Comic Romance” of Scarron, which has more of the English cast of humour, than any other work, of the same country, that we are acquainted with. As to those eininent individuals who first figure at Tyburn, and then in the “ Newgate Calendar,” there is too much of reality in their deeds; and besides, they present, with the dreadful inadequacy and inequality of their punishments, a too uniformly sanguinary and gloomy picture for us to introduce here. But the Spanish rogue is too light for the gallows" hemp was not sown for him.” And we escape with gladness from the reflections which were just awakening in our minds, to the more immediate object of this article.—What depth of knowledge and acuteness of observation do the Spanish “ Lives” and “ Adventures" display; and what a fund of wisdom is mingled with their rogueries, as in the Gusman de Alfarache, for instance, the most celebrated of all Lazarillo's successors, and which will form the subject of an article in one of our future numbers. Books of this description have, some how or other, obtained an uncommon degree of popularity; and, judging from the number of editions through which the book before us has passed, it has received its share. For ourselves, we can say, with truth, they have beguiled us of many an hour which would otherwise have been wearisome; and we can still turn from perusing, in the pages of the historian, the graver knaveries of “your rich thieves, such as ride on their foot-cloths of velvet, that hang their horses with hangings of tissue and costly arras, and cover the floors of their chambers with gold and silk, and curious Turkey carpets—who live bravely, upheld by their reputation, graced by their power, and savoured by Aattery;"*_and divert ourselves with the more ingenious and less fatal tricks of the vulgar hero, who commenced bis youthful career by leading a blind beggar. Lazarillo, however, is a low and wretched rogue he has neither the