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accustomed to the exercise of thoughtful humour and the manly play of wit! What a courage he had! What a dauntless and constant cheerfulness of intellect, that burned bright and steady through all the storms of his life, and never deserted its last wreck! It is wonderful to think of the pains and misery which the man suffered; the pressure of want, illness, remorse which he endured; and that the writer was neither malignant nor melancholy, his view of truth never warped, and his generous human kindness never surrendered.
1 In Gentleman's Magazine for 1786, an anecdote is related of Harry Fielding, “in whom,” says the correspondent, "good-nature and philanthropy in their extreme degree were known to be the prominent features.” It seems that “some parochial taxes” for his house in Beaufort Buildings had long been demanded by the collector. “At last, Harry went off to Johnson, and obtained by a process of literary mortgage the needful sum. He was returning with it, when he met an old college chum whom he had not seen for many years. He asked the chum to dinner with him at a neighbouring tavern; and learning that he was in difficulties, emptied the contents of his pocket into his. On returning home he was informed that the collector had been twice for the money. 'Friendship has called for the money and had it,' said Fielding ; ‘let the collector call again.'”
It is elsewhere told of him, that being in company with the Earl of Denbigh, his kinsman, and the conversation turning upon their relationship, the Earl asked him how it was that he spelled his name “ Fielding,” and not “Feilding,” like the head of the house? “I cannot tell, my lord,” said he, “except it be that my branch of the family were the first that knew how to spell.”
In 1748, he was made Justice of the Peace for Westminster and Middlesex, an office then paid by fees, and very laborious, without being particularly reputable. In may be seen from his own words, in the Introduction to the “ Voyage,” what kind of work devolved upon him, and in what a state he was, during these last years; and still more clearly, how he comported himself through all.
“Whilst I was preparing for my journey, and when I was almost fatigued to death with several long examinations, relating to five different murders, all committed within the space of a week, by different gangs of street-robbers, I received a message from his Grace the Duke of Newcastle, by Mr. Carrington, the King's messenger, to attend his Grace the next morning in Lincoln's Inn Fields, upon some business of importance: but I excused myself from complying with the message, as,
In the quarrel mentioned before, which happened on Fielding's last voyage to Lisbon, and when the stout besides being lame, I was very ill with the great fatigues I had lately undergone, added to my distemper.
“His Grace, however, sent Mr. Carrington the very next morning, with another summons; with which, though in the utmost distress, I immediately complied; but the Duke happening, unfortunately for me, to be then particularly engaged, after I had waited some time, sent a gentleman to discourse with me on the best plan which could be invented for these murders and robberies, which were every day committed in the streets; upon which I promised to transmit my opinion in writing to his Grace, who, as the gentleman informed me, intended to lay it before the Privy Council.
Though this visit cost me a severe cold, I, notwithstanding, set myself down to work, and in about four days sent the Duke as regular a plan as I could form, with all the reasons and arguments I could bring to support it, drawn out on several sheets of paper; and soon received sage from the Duke, by Mr. Carrington, acquainting me that my plan was highly approved of, and that all the terms of it would be complied with.
“The principal and most material of these terms was the immediately depositing 6ool. in my hands; at which small charge I undertook to demolish the then reigning gangs, and to put the civil policy into such order, that no such gangs should ever be able for the future to form themselves into bodies, or at least to remain any time formidable to the public.
“I had delayed my Bath journey for some time, contrary to the repeated advice of my physical acquaintances and the ardent desire of my warmest friends, though my distemper was now turned to a deep jaundice; in which case the Bath waters are generally reputed to be almost infallible. But I had the most eager desire to demolish this gang of villains and cut-throats. .
After some weeks the money was paid at the Treasury, and within a few days after 2001. of it had come into my hands, the whole gang of cut-throats was entirely dispersed. ...
Further on, he says
“I will confess that my private affairs at the beginning of the winter had but a gloomy aspect; for I had not plundered the public or the poor of those sums which men, who are always ready to plunder both as much as they can, have been pleased to suspect me of taking; on the contrary, by composing, instead of inflaming, the quarrels of porters and beggars (which I blush when I say hath not been universally practised), and by refusing to take a shilling from a man who most undoubtedly would not have had another left, I had reduced an income of about sool. a year of the dirtiest money upon earth, to little more than 300l., a considerable portion of which remained with my clerk.”
captain of the ship fell down on his knees and asked the sick man's pardon — "I did not suffer," Fielding says, in his hearty, manly way, his eyes lighting up as it were with their old fire “I did not suffer a brave man and an old man to remain a moment in that posture, but immediately forgave him." Indeed, I think, with his noble spirit and unconquerable generosity, Fielding reminds one of those brave men of whom one reads in stories of English shipwrecks and disasters - of the officer on the African shore, when disease has destroyed the crew, and he himself is seized by fever, who throws the lead with a death-stricken hand, takes the soundings, carries the ship out of the river or off the dangerous coast, and dies in the manly endeavour — of the wounded captain, when the vessel founders, who never loses his heart, who eyes the danger steadily, and has a cheery word for all, until the inevitable fate overwhelms him, and the gallant ship goes down. Such a brave and gentle heart, such an intrepid and courageous spirit, I love to recognise in the manly, the English Harry Fielding.
STERNE AND GOLDSMITH
OGER STERNE, Sterne's father, was the second son of a numerous race, descendants of
Richard Sterne, Archbishop of York, in the reign of James II.; and children of Simon Sterne and Mary Jaques, his wife, heiress of Elvington, near York. Roger was a lieutenant in Handyside's regiment, and engaged in Flanders in Queen Anne's wars.
He married the daughter of a noted sutler —"N. B., he was in debt to him,” his son writes, pursuing the paternal biography – and marched through the world with this companion; she following the regiment and bringing many children to poor Roger Sterne. The captain was an irascible but kind and simple little man, Sterne says, and informs us that his sire was run through the body at Gibraltar, by a brother officer, in a duel which arose out of a dispute about a goose. Roger never entirely recovered from the effects of this recontre, but died presently at Jamaica, whither he had followed the drum.
Laurence, his second child, was born at Clonmel, in Ireland, in 1713, and travelled, for the first ten years of his life, on his father's march, from barrack to transport, from Ireland to England.2
1 He came of a Suffolk family - one of whom settled in Nottinghamshire. The famous “starling” was actually the family crest.
2 “It was in this parish (of Animo, in Wicklow), during our stay, that I had that wonderful escape in falling through a mill-race, whilst the mill was going, and of being taken up unhurt; the story is incredible, but known for truth in all that part of Ireland, where hundreds of the common people flocked to see me.”. STERNE.