Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

years past. I digress into Soho, to explore a book-stall. Methinks I have been thirty years a collector. There is nothing strange nor new in it. I find myself before a fine picture in a morning.

Was it ever otherwise ? What is become of Fishstreet Hill? Where is Fenchurch-street ? Stones of old Mincing-lane which I have worn with my daily pilgrimage for six-and-thirty years, to the footsteps of what toil-worn clerk are your everlasting flints now vocal? I indent the gayer flags of Pall Mall. It is 'change time, and I am strangely among the Elgin marbles. It was no hyperbole when I ventured to compare the change in my condition to a passing into another world. Time stands still in a manner to me. I have lost all distinction of season. I do not know the day of the week, or of the month. Each day used to be individually felt by me in its reference to the foreign post-days; in its distance from, or propinquity to the next Sunday. I had my Wednesday feelings, my Saturday night's sensations. The genius of each day was upon me distinctly during the whole of it, affecting my appetite, spirits, &c. The phantom of the next day, with the dreary five to follow, sat as a load upon my poor Sabbath recreations. What charm has washed that Ethiop white ? What is gone of black Monday? All days are the same. Sunday itself—that unfortunate failure of a holyday as it too often proved, what with my sense of its fugitiveness and overcare to get the greatest quantity of pleasure out of it—is melted down into a week-day. I can spare to go to church now, without grudging the huge cantle which it used to seem to cut out of the holyday. I have time for everything. I can visit a sick friend. I can interrupt the man of much occupation when he is busiest. I can insult over him with an invitation to take a day's pleasure with me to Windsor this fine May morning. It is Lucretian pleasure to behold the poor drudges whom I have left behind in the world, carking and caring; like horses in a mill, drudging on in the same eternal roundand what is it all for? A man can never have too much time to himself, nor too little to do. Had I a little son, I would christen him NoTHING-TO-DO ; he should do nothing. Man, I verily believe, is out of his element as long as he is operative. I am altogether for the life contemplative. Will no kindly earthquake come and swallow up those accursed cotton-mills ? Take me that lumber of a desk there, and bowl 15 down

“ As low as to the fiends.'

I am I am no longer ******, clerk to the firm of, &c. Retired Leisure I am to be met with in trim gardens. I am already come to be known by my vacant face and careless gesture, perambulating at no fixed pace, nor with any sertled purpose. I walk about ; not to and from. They tell me a certain cum dignitate air, that has been buried so long with my other good parts, has begun to shoot forth in my person. I grow into gentility perceptibly. When I take up a newspaper, it is to read the state of the opera. Opus operatum est.

I have done all that I came into this world to do. I have worked task-work, and have the rest of the day to myself.

THE GENTEEL STYLE IN WRITING.

It is an ordinary criticism, that my Lord Shaftesbury and Sir William Temple are models of the genteel style in writing. We should prefer saying—of the lordly and the gentlemanly. Nothing can be more unlike than the inflated fini. cle rhapsodies of Shaftesbury and the plain natural chitchat of Temple. The man of rank is discernible in both writers; but in the one it is only insinuated gracefully, in the other it stands out offensively. The peer seems to have written with his coronet on, and his earl's mantle before him; the commoner in his elbow-chair and undress. What can be more pleasant than the way in which the retired statesman peeps out in the essays, penned by the latter in his delightful retreat at Shene? They scent of Nimeguen and the Hague. Scarce an authority is quoted under an ambassador. Don Francisco de Melo, a “ Portugal Envoy in England," tells him it was frequent in his country for men, spent with age or other de. cays, so as they could not hope for above a year or two of life, to ship themselves away in a Brazil fleet, and after their arrival there to go on a great length, sometimes of twenty or thirty years, or more, by the force of that vigour they recovered with that remove. " Whether such an effect (Teinple beautifully adds) might grow from the air, or the fruits of that climate, or by approaching nearer the sun, which is the fountain of light and heat, when their natural heat was so far decayed; or whether the piecing out of an old man's life were worth the pains; I cannot tell: perhaps the play is not worth the candle." Monsieur Pompone, “ French Ambassador in his (Sir William's) time at the Hague,” certifies him, that in his life he had never heard of any man in France that arrived at a hundred years of age ; a limitation of life which

[ocr errors]

the old gentleman imputes to the excellence of their climate, giving them such a liveliness of temper and humour, as disposes them to more pleasures of all kinds than in other countries ; and moralizes upon the matter very sensibly. The “ late Robert Earl of Leicester” furnishes him with a story of a Countess of Desmond, married out of England in Edward the Fourth's time, and who lived far in King James's reign. The “same noble person" gives him an account, how such a year, in the same reign, there went about the country a set of morrice-dancers, composed of ten men who danced, a Maid Marian, and a tabor and pipe ; and how these twelve, one with another, made up twelve hundred years. 6. It was nos so much (says Temple) that so many in one small county (Herefordshire) should live to that age, as that they should be in vigour and in humour to travel and to dance." Monsieur Zulichem, one of his “colleagues at the Hague," informs him of a cure for the gout; which is confirmed by another

envoy,” Monsieur Serinchamps, in that town, who had tried it. Old Prince Maurice of Nassau recommends to him the use of hammocks in that complaint ; having been allured to sleep, while suffering under it himself, by the “constant moin or swinging of those airy beds.” Count Egmont, and

Rhinegrave who " was killed last summer before Maestht," impart to him their experiences.

But the rank of the writer is never more innocently disclosed than where he takes for granted the compliments paid by foreigners to his fruit-trees. For the iaste and perfection of what we esteem the best, he can truly say, that the French, who have eaten his peaches and grapes at Shene in no very ill year, have generally concluded that the last are as good as any they have eaten in France on this side Fontainbleau ; and the first as good as any they have eaten in Gascony. Italians have agreed his white figs to be as good as any of that sort in Italy, which is the earlier kind of white fig there; for in the later kind and the blue, we cannot come near the warm climates, no more than in the Frontignac or Muscat grape. His orange-trees, too, are as large as any he saw when he was young in France, except those of Fontainbleau, or what he has seen since in the Low Countries ; except some very old ones of the Prince of Orange's.

Of_grapes he had the honour of bringing over four sorts into England, which he enumerates, and supposes that they are all by this time pretty common among some gardeners in his neighbourhood, as well as several persons of quality ; for he ever thought all things of this kind “ the commoner they are made the better." The orden pedantry with which he asserts that 'tis to little pure

scenes.

pose to plant any of the best fruits, as peaches or grapes, hardly, he doubts, beyond Northamptonshire at the farthest northwards; and praises the Bishop of Munster at Cosevelt" for attempting nothing beyond cherries in that cold climate, is equally pleasant and in character. "I may, perhaps," (he thus ends his sweet Garden Essay with a passage worthy of Cowley) “be allowed to know something of this trade, since I have so long allowed myself to be good for nothing else, which few men will do, or enjoy their gardens, without often looking abroad to see how other matters play, what motions in the state, and what invitations they may hope for into other

For my own part, as the country life, and this part of it more particularly, were the inclination of my youth itself, so they are the pleasure of my age ; and I can truly say that, among many great employments that have fallen to my share, I have never asked or sought for any of them, but have often endeavoured to escape from them, into the ease and freedom of a private scene, where a man may go

his way and his own pace, in the common paths and circles of life. The measure of choosing well is whether a man likes what he has chosen, which, I thank God, has befallen me ; and though among the follies of my life building and planting have not been the least, and have cost me more than I have the confidence to own, yet they have been fully recompensed by the sweetness and satisfaction of this retreat, where, since my resolution taken of never entering again into any public employments, I have passed five years without ever once going to town, though I am almost in sight of it, and have a house there always ready to receive me. Nor has this been any sort of affectation, as some have thought it, but a niere want of desire or humour to make so small a remove; for when I am in this corner, I can truly say with Horace, Me quoties reficit, fc.

own

“Me, when the cold Digentian stream revives,

What does my friend believe I think or ask ?
Let me yet less possess, so I may live,
Whate'er of life remains, unto myself.
May I have books enough; and one year's store,
Not to depend upon each doubtful hour:
This is enough of mighty Jove to pray,
Who, as he pleases, gives and takes away.'”

The writings of Temple are, in general, after this easy copy. On one occasion, indeed, his wit, which was mostly subordi. nate to nature and tenderness, has seduced him into a string of felicitous antitheses; which, it is obvious to remark, havo been a model to Addison and succeeding essayists.

6. Who

would not be covetous, and with reason,” he says, “if health could be purchased with gold ? who not ambitious, if it were at the command of power, or restored by honour? but, alas ! a white staff will not help gouty feet to walk better than a common cane; nor a blue riband bind up a wound so well as a fillet. The glitter of gold, or of diamonds, will but hurt sore eyes instead of curing them; and an aching head will be no more eased by wearing a crown than a common nightcap.” In a far better style, and more accordant with his own humour of plainness, are the concluding sentences of his “ Discourse upon Poetry.” Temple took a part in the controversy about the ancient and the modern learning; and, with that partiality so natural and so graceful in an old man, whose state engagements had left him little leisure to look into modern productions, while his retirement gave him occasion to look back upon the classic studies of his youth—decided in favour of the latter. “ Certain it is,” he says, “ that, whether the fierceness of the Gothic humours or noise of their perpetual wars frighted it away, or that the unequal mixture of the modern languages would not bear it—the great heights and excellency both of poetry and music fell with the Roman learning and empire, and have never since recovered the admiration and applauses that before attended them. Yet, such as they are among us, they must be confessed to be the softest and sweetest, the most general and most innocent amusements of common time and life. They still find room in the courts of princes and the cottages of shepherds. They serve to revive and animate the dead calm of poor and idle lives, and to allay or divert the violent passions and perturbations of the greatest and the busiest men. And both these effects are of equal use to human life; for the mind of man is like the sea, which is neither agreeable to the beholder nor the voyager, in a calm or in a storm, but is so to both when a little agitated by gentle gales; and so the mind, when moved by soft and easy passions or affections.

I know very well that many who pretend to be wise by the forms of being grave are apt to despise both poetry and music, as toys and trifles too light for the use or entertaininent of serious men. But whoever find themselves wholly insensible to their charms would, I think, do well to keep their own counsel, for fear of reproaching their own temper, and bringing the goodness of their natures, if not of their understandings, into question. While this world lasts, I doubt not but the pleasure and request of these two entertainments will do so too; and happy those that content themselves with these, or any other so easy and 80 innocent, and do not trouble the world or other men, because

« НазадПродовжити »