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gard to the laws of hospitality, considered the casements as so many traps, and used every bird as a prisoner at discretion. Never did tyrant exercise more various cruelties. Some of the poor creatures he chased to death about the room; others he drove into the jaws of a blood-thirsty cat; and even in his greatest acts of mercy, either clipped the wings, or singed the tails, of his innocent captives. You will laugh, when I tell you I sympathized with every
bird in its misfortunes; but I believe you will think me in the right for bewailing the child's unlucky humour. On the other hand, I am extremely pleased to see his younger brother carry an universal benevolence towards every thing that has life. When he was between four and five years old, I caught him'weeping over a beautiful butterfly, which he chanced to kill as he was playing with it; and I am informed, that this morning he has given his brother three halfpence, which was his whole estate, to spare the life of a Tom-tit. These are at present the matters of greatest moment within my observation, and I know are too trifling to be communicated to any but so wise a man as yourself, and from one who has the happiness to be
• Your most faithful, and most obedient servant.'
The best critic that ever wrote, speaking of some passages in Homer which appear extravagant or frivolous, says, indeed, that they are dreams, but the dreams of Jupiter. My friend's letter appears to me 1697; and died afterwards, at an advanced age, vicar of Embleton, in Northumberland, a living in the gift of that college. About 28 or 29 years ago it was still in the remembrance of several gentlemen in Bamffshire, that Steele spent some time with him on his way to or from Edinburgh. It was credibly reported that this amiable gentleman was held in high estimation for his learning, his politeness, and regular exemplary conduct in an hospitable neighbourhood, distinguished, as it has long been, for plenty, and convivial hilarity. The writer of this note does not certainly know, whether Mr. Richard Parker was a father, or married, at the date of this
in the same light. One sees him in an idle hour but at the same time in the idle hour of a wise man. A great mind has something in it too severe and forbidding, that is not capable of giving itself such little relaxations, and of condescending to these agreeable ways of trifling. Tully, when he celebrates the friendship of Scipio and Lælius, who were the greatest as well as the politest men of their age, represents it as a beautiful passage in their retirement, that they used to gather up shells on the sea-shore, and amuse themselves with the variety of shape and colour which they met with in those little unregarded works of nature. The great Agesilaus could be a companion to his own children, and was surprized by the ambassadors of Sparta', as he was riding among
upon an hobby-horse. Augustus, indeed, had no playfellows of his own begetting ; but is said to have passed many of his hours with little Moorish boys at . a game of marbles, not unlike our modern taw. There is, methinks, a pleasure in seeing great men thus fall into the rank of mankind, and entertain themselves with diversions and amusements that are agreeable to the very weakest of the species. I must frankly confess, that it is to me a beauty in Cato's character, that he would drink a cheerful bottle with a friend; and I cannot but own, that I have seen with great delight one of the most celebrated authors of the last age feeding the ducks' in St. James's Park. By
d Persia. A.
f The ducks had not then been long in possession. Dr. King, in his “ Art of Cookery,' ver. 80, exclaims :
What cavalier would know St. James's Park ? For wild ducks quack where grasshoppers did sing.' In the time of Henry VIII. the Park was a wild wet field; but that prince, on building St. James's Palace, inelosed it, laid it out in walks, and collecting the waters together, gave to the new inclosed ground and new raised building the name of St. James. It was much enlarged by Charles II.
instances of this nature, the heroes, the statesmen, the philosophers, become as it were familiar with us, and grow the more amiable the less they endeavour to appear awful. A man who always acts in the severity of wisdom, or the haughtiness of quality, seems to move in a personated part. It looks too constrained and theatrical, for a man to be always in that character which distinguishes him from others; besides that the slackening and unbending our minds on some occasions makes them exert themselves with greater vigour and alacrity, when they return to their proper and natural state.
As this innocent way of passing a leisure hour is not only consistent with a great character, but very graceful in it; so there are two sorts of people to whom I would most earnestly recommend it. The first are those who are uneasy out of want of thought; the second are those who are so out of a turbulence of spirit. The first are the impertinent, and the second the dangerous part of mankind.
who added to it several fields, planted it with rows of lime trees, laid out the Mall, the Bird-Cage Walk (where he most probably had an aviary) secured the canal with a decoy, and other ponds for water-fowl. The lime-trees, or tilia whose blossoms were incomparably fragrant, were perhaps planted in consequence of a suggestion of Mr. Evelyn, in his • Fumifugium, 1661.' The improvements of the present age seem in some measure to have brough the Park into the state it was in before the Restoration; at least, the wild-ducks have in their turn again given way to the grasshoppers. See King's Works, 1776,' vol. iii. p. 73. N.
I have heard, that when Berenger was writing his · History of Horsemanship,' he made the proper enquiries every where, and particularly at. the King's Mews. There he found a regular charge made every year for hemp-seed. It was allowed that none was used, but the charge had been regularly made ever since the reign of Charles II. and it was recollected that this good-natured monarch was as fond of his ducks as of his dogs, and took a pleasure in feeding these fowls in the canal. It was, therefore, concluded, that this new article of expense began in his time, and continued to be charged regularly long after any such seed was used, or provided. A.
8 Cito rumpes arcum, semper si tensum habueris;
At si laxaris, quum voles erit utilis.
It grieves me to the very heart, when I see several young gentlemen, descended of honest parents, run up and down, hurrying from one end of the town to the other, calling in at every place of resort, without being able to fix a quarter of an hour in any, and in a particular haste without knowing for what. It would, methinks, be some consolation, if I could persuade these precipitate young gentlemen to compose this restlessness of mind, and apply themselves to any amusement, how trivial soever, that might give them employment, and keep them out of harm's way. They cannot imagine how great a relief it would be to them, if they could grow sedate enough to play for two or three hours at a game of push-pin. But these busy, idle animals are only their own tormentors. The turbulent and dangerous are for embroiling councils, stirring up seditions, and subverting constitutions, out of a mere restlessness of temper, and an insensibility of all the pleasures of life that are calm and innocent. It is impossible for a man to be so much employed in any scene of action, as to have great and good affairs enough to fill
his whole time; there will still be chasms and empty spaces, in which a working mind will employ itself to its own prejudice, or that of others, unless it can be at ease in the exercise of such actions as are in themselves indifferent. How often have I wished, for the good of the nation, that several famous politicians could take any pleasure in feeding ducks ! I look upon an able statesman out of business, like a huge whale, that will endeavour to overturn the ship, unless he has an empty cask to play with.
But to return to my good friend and correspondent: I am afraid we shall both be laughed at, when I con
fess, that we have often gone out into the field to look upon a
bird's nest; and have more than once taken an evening's walk together on purpose to see the sun set. I shall conclude with my answer to his foregoing letter: DEAR SIR,
• I THANK you for your obliging letter, and your
kindness to the distressed, who will, doubtless, express their gratitude to you themselves the next spring. As for Dick the tyrant, I must desire you will put a stop to his proceedings; and at the same time take care that his little brother be no loser by his mercy to the Tom-tit. For my own part, I am excluded all conversation with animals that delight only in a country life, and am, therefore, forced to entertain myself as well as I can with my little dog and cat. They both of them sit by my fire every night, expecting my coming home with impatience; and, at my entrance, never fail of running up to me, and bidding me welcome, each of them in his proper language. As they have been bred up together from their infancy, and seen no other company, they have learned each other's manners, so that the dog often gives himself the airs of a cat, and the cat, in several of her motions and gestures, affects the behaviour of the little dog. When they are at play, I often make one with them: and sometimes please myself with considering how much reason and instinct are capable of delighting each other. Thus, you see, I have communicated to you the material occurrences in my family, with the same freedom that you use to me; as I am, with the same sincerity and affection, * Your most faithful humble servant,
· Isaac BICKERSTAFF.'