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GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND—II
Funk & Wagnalls Company New York and London Copyright, 1909, by Funk & Wagnalls Company
The Best of the World's Classics
GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND—II
VOL. IV—GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND—II
SIR RICHARD STEELE—(Born in 1672, died in 1729.)
I Of Companions and Flatterers
II The Story-Teller and His Art. (From The Guardian)
III Sir Roger and the Widow. (From The Spectator)
IV The Coverley Family Portraits. (From The Spectator)
V On Certain Symptoms of Greatness. (From The Tatler)
VI How to Be Happy tho Married. (From The Tatler)
LORD BOLINGBROKE—(Born in 1678, died in 1751.)
I Of the Shortness of Human Life
II Rules for the Study of History. (One of the "Letters on the Study of History")
ALEXANDER POPE—(Born in 1688, died in 1744.)
I An Ancient English Country Seat. (A Letter to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu)
II His Compliments to Lady Mary. (A Letter to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu)
III How to Make an Epic Poem. (From The Guardian)
LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU—(Born in 1689, died in 1762.)
I On Happiness in the Matrimonial State. (A Letter to Edward Wortley Montagu before she married him)
II Inoculation for the Smallpox. (A Letter to Sarah Criswell, written from Adrianople, Turkey)
LORD CHESTERFIELD—(Born in 1694, died in 1773.)
I Of Good Manners, Dress and the World. (From the "Letters to His Son")
II Of Attentions to Ladies. (From the "Letters to His Son")
HENRY FIELDING—(Born in 1707, died in 1754.)
I Tom the Hero Enters the Stage. (From "Tom Jones")
II Partridge Sees Garrick at the Play. (From "Tom Jones")
III Mr. Adams in a Political Light. (From "Joseph Andrews")
SAMUEL JOHNSON—(Born in 1709, died in 1784.)
I On Publishing His "Dictionary." (From the Preface to the "Dictionary")
II Pope and Dryden Compared. (From the "Lives of the Poets")
III Letter to Chesterfield on the Completion of the "Dictionary." (From Boswell's "Life")
IV On the Advantages of Living in a Garret. (From The Rambler)
DAVID HUME—(Born in 1711, died in 1776.)
I The Character of Queen Elizabeth. (From the "History of England")
II The Defeat of the Armada. (From the "History of England")
III The First Principles of Government
LAURENCE STERNE—(Born in 1713, died in 1768.)
I The Starling in Captivity. (From "The Sentimental Journey")
II To Moulines with Maria. (From "The Sentimental Journey")
III The Death of LeFevre. (From "Tristram Shandy")
IV Passages from the Romance of My Uncle Toby and the Widow. (From "Tristram Shandy")
THOMAS GRAY—(Born in 1716, died in 1771.)
I Warwick Castle. (A Letter to Thomas Wharton)
II To His Friend Mason on the Death of Mason's Mother
III On His Own Writings. (A Letter to Horace Walpole)
IV His Friendship for Bonstetten. (From a Letter to Bonstetten)
HORACE WALPOLE—(Born in 1717, died in 1797.)
I Hogarth. (From the "Anecdotes of Painting in England")
II The War in America. (From a Letter written at Strawberry Hill)
III The Death of George II. (A Letter to Sir Horace Mann)
GILBERT WHITE—(Born in 1720, died in 1793.)
The Chimney Swallow. (From "The Natural History of Selborne")
ADAM SMITH—(Born in 1723, died in 1790.)
I Of Ambition Misdirected. (From the "Theory of Moral Sentiments")
II The Advantages of a Division of Labor. (From "The Wealth of Nations")
SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE—(Born in 1723, died in 1780.)
Professional Soldiers in Free Countries. (From the "Commentaries")
OLIVER GOLDSMITH—(Born in 1728, died in 1774.)
I The Ambitions of the Vicar's Family. (From "The Vicar of Wakefield")
II Sagacity in Insects. (From "The Bee")
III A Chinaman's View of London. (From the "Citizen of the World")
EDMUND BURKE—(Born in 1729, died in 1797.)
I The Principles of Good Taste. (From "The Sublime and Beautiful")
II A Letter to a Noble Lord
III On the Death of His Son
IV Marie Antoinette. (From the "Reflections on the Revolution in France")
WILLIAM COWPER—(Born in 1731, died in 1800.)
I Of Keeping One's Self Employed. (A Letter to John Newton)
II Of Johnson's Treatment of Milton. (Letter to the Rev. William Unwin)
III On the Publication of His Books. (Letter to the Rev. William Unwin)
EDWARD GIBBON—(Born in 1737, died in 1794.)
I The Romance of His Youth. (From the "Memoirs")
II The Inception and Completion of the "Decline and Fall." (From the "Memoirs")
III The Fall of Zenobia. (From "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire")
IV Alaric's Entry into Rome. (From "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire")
V The Death of Hosein. (From "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire")
VI The Causes of the Destruction of the City of Rome. (From "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire")
GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND—II
SIR RICHARD STEELE
Born in Ireland in 1672; died in Wales in 1729; companion of Addison at Oxford; served in the army in 1694, becoming a captain; elected to Parliament, but expelled for using seditious language; knighted under George I; quarreled with Addison in 1719; founded the Tatler, and next to Addison, was the chief writer for the Spectator.
OF COMPANIONS AND FLATTERERS
An old acquaintance who met me this morning seemed overjoyed to see me, and told me I looked as well as he had known me do these forty years; but, continued he, not quite the man you were when we visited together at Lady Brightly's. Oh! Isaac, those days are over. Do you think there are any such fine creatures now living as we then conversed with? He went on with a thousand incoherent circumstances, which, in his imagination, must needs please me; but they had the quite contrary effect. The flattery with which he began, in telling me how well I wore, was not disagreeable; but his indiscreet mention of a set of acquaintance we had outlived, recalled ten thousand things to my memory, which made me reflect upon my present condition with regret. Had he indeed been so kind as, after a long absence, to felicitate me upon an indolent and easy old age, and mentioned how much he and I had to thank for, who at our time of day could walk firmly, eat heartily and converse cheerfully, he had kept up my pleasure in myself. But of all mankind, there are none so shocking as these injudicious civil people. They ordinarily begin upon something that they know must be a satisfaction; but then, for fear of the imputation of flattery, they follow it with the last thing in the world of which you would be reminded. It is this that perplexes civil persons. The reason that there is such a general outcry among us against flatterers is that there are so very few good ones. It is the nicest art in this life, and is a part of eloquence which does not want the preparation that is necessary to all other parts of it, that your audience should be your well-wishers; for praise from an enemy is the most pleasing of all commendations.
It is generally to be observed, that the person most agreeable to a man for a constancy, is he that has no shining qualities, but is a certain degree above great imperfections, whom he can live with as his inferior, and who will either overlook or not observe his little defects. Such an easy companion as this, either now and then throws out a little flattery, or lets a man silently flatter himself in his superiority to him. If you take notice, there is hardly a rich man in the world who has not such a led friend of small consideration, who is a darling for his insignificancy. It is a great ease to have one in our own shape a species below us, and who, without being listed in our service, is by nature of our retinue. These dependents are of excellent use on a rainy day, or when a man has not a mind to dress; or to exclude solitude, when one has neither a mind to that nor to company. There are of this good-natured order who are so kind to divide themselves, and do these good offices to many. Five or six of them visit a whole quarter of the town, and exclude the spleen, without fees, from the families they frequent. If they do not prescribe physic, they can be company when you take it.
Very great benefactors to the rich, or those whom they call people at their ease, are your persons of no consequence. I have known some of them, by the help of a little cunning, make delicious flatterers. They know the course of the town, and the general characters of persons; by this means they will sometimes tell the most agreeable falsehoods imaginable. They will acquaint you that such one of a quite contrary party said, that tho you were engaged in different interests, yet he had the greatest respect for your good sense and address. When one of these has a little cunning, he passes his time in the utmost satisfaction to himself and his friends; for his position is never to report or speak a displeasing thing to his friend. As for letting him go on in an error, he knows advice against them is the office of persons of greater talents and less discretion.
The Latin word for a flatterer (assentator) implies no more than a person that barely consents; and indeed such a one, if a man were able to purchase or maintain him, can not be bought too dear. Such a one never contradicts you, but gains upon you, not by a fulsome way of commending you in broad terms, but liking whatever you propose or utter; at the same time is ready to beg your pardon, and gainsay you if you chance to speak ill of yourself. An old lady is very seldom without such a companion as this, who can recite the names of all her lovers, and the matches refused by her in the days when she minded such vanities—as she is pleased to call them, tho she so much approves the mention of them. It is to be noted, that a woman's flatterer is generally elder than herself, her years serving to recommend her patroness's age, and to add weight to her complaisance in all other particulars.
We gentlemen of small fortunes are extremely necessitous in this particular. I have indeed one who smokes with me often; but his parts are so low, that all the incense he does me is to fill his pipe with me, and to be out at just as many whiffs as I take. This is all the praise or assent that he is capable of, yet there are more hours when I would rather be in his company than that of the brightest man I know. It would be a hard matter to give an account of this inclination to be flattered; but if we go to the bottom of it, we shall find that the pleasure in it is something like that of receiving money which lay out. Every man thinks he has an estate of reputation, and is glad to see one that will bring any of it home to him; it is no matter how dirty a bag it is conveyed to him in, or by how clownish a messenger, so the money is good. All that we want to be pleased with flattery, is to believe that the man is sincere who gives it us. It is by this one accident that absurd creatures often outrun the most skilful in this art. Their want of ability is here an advantage, and their bluntness, as it is the seeming effect of sincerity, is the best cover to artifice.
It is indeed, the greatest of injuries to flatter any but the unhappy, or such as are displeased with themselves for some infirmity. In this latter case we have a member of our club, that, when Sir Jeffrey falls asleep, wakens him with snoring. This makes Sir Jeffrey hold up for some moments the longer, to see there are men younger than himself among us, who are more lethargic than he is.
THE STORY-TELLER AND HIS ART
I have often thought that a story-teller is born, as well as a poet. It is, I think, certain, that some men have such a peculiar cast of mind, that they see things in another light than men of grave dispositions. Men of a lively imagination and a mirthful temper will represent things to their hearers in the same manner as they themselves were affected with them; and whereas serious spirits might perhaps have been disgusted at the sight of some odd occurences in life, yet the very same occurrences shall please them in a well-told story, where the disagreeable parts of the images are concealed, and those only which are pleasing exhibited to the fancy. Story-telling is therefore not an art, but what we call a "knack"; it doth not so much subsist upon wit as upon humor; and I will add, that it is not perfect without proper gesticulations of the body, which naturally attend such merry emotions of the mind. I know very well that a certain gravity of countenance sets some stories off to advantage, where the hearer is to be surprized in the end. But this is by no means a general rule; for it is frequently convenient to aid and assist by cheerful looks and whimsical agitations.
I will go yet further, and affirm that the success of a story very often depends upon the make of the body, and the formation of the features, of him who relates it. I have been of this opinion ever since I criticized upon the chin of Dick Dewlap. I very often had the weakness to repine at the prosperity of his conceits, which made him pass for a wit with the widow at the coffee-house and the ordinary mechanics that frequent it; nor could I myself forbear laughing at them most heartily, tho upon examination I thought most of them very flat and insipid. I found, after some time, that the merit of his wit was founded upon the shaking of a fat paunch, and the tossing up of a pair of rosy jowls. Poor Dick had a fit of sickness, which robbed him of his fat and his fame at once; and it was full three months before he regained his reputation, which rose in proportion to his floridity. He is now very jolly and ingenious, and hath a good constitution for wit.
Those who are thus adorned with the gifts of nature, are apt to show their parts with too much ostentation. I would therefore advise all the professors of this art never to tell stories but as they seem to grow out of the subject-matter of the conversation, or as they serve to illustrate or enliven it. Stories that are very common are generally irksome; but may be aptly introduced, provided they be only hinted at, and mentioned by way of allusion. Those that are altogether new, should never be ushered in without a short and pertinent character of the chief persons concerned, because, by that means, you may make the company acquainted with them; and it is a certain rule, that slight and trivial accounts of those who are familiar to us, administer more mirth than the brightest points of wit in unknown characters.
A little circumstance in the complexion of dress of the man you are talking of, sets his image before the hearer, if it be chosen aptly for the story. Thus, I remember Tom Lizard, after having made his sisters merry with an account of a formal old man's way of complimenting, owned very frankly that his story would not have been worth one farthing, if he had made the hat of him whom he represented one inch narrower. Besides the marking distinct characters, and selecting pertinent circumstances, it is likewise necessary to leave off in time, and end smartly; so that there is a kind of drama in the forming of a story; and the manner of conducting and pointing it is the same as in an epigram. It is a miserable thing, after one hath raised the expectation of the company by humorous characters and a pretty conceit, to pursue the matter too far. There is no retreating; and how poor is it for a story-teller to end his relation by saying, "that's all!"
SIR ROGER AND THE WIDOW
In my first description of the company in which I pass most of my time, it may be remembered that I mentioned a great affliction which my friend Sir Roger had met with in his youth; which was no less than a disappointment in love. It happened this evening that we fell into a very pleasing walk at a distance from his house. As soon as we came into it. "It is," quoth the good old man, looking round him with a smile, "very hard that any part of my land should be settled upon one who has used me so ill as the perverse widow did; and yet I am sure I could not see a sprig of any bough of this whole walk of trees, but I should reflect upon her and her severity. She has certainly the finest hand of any woman in the world. You are to know, this was the place wherein I used to muse upon her; and by that custom I can never come into it, but the same tender sentiments revive in my mind, as if I had actually walked with that beautiful creature under these shades. I have been fool enough to carve her name on the bark of several of these trees; so unhappy is the condition of men in love, to attempt the removing of their passion by the methods which serve only to imprint it deeper. She has certainly the finest hand of any woman in the world."
Here followed a profound silence; and I was not displeased to observe my friend falling so naturally into a discourse, which I had ever before taken notice he industriously avoided. After a very long pause, he entered upon an account of this great circumstance in his life, with an air which I thought raised my idea of him above what I had ever had before; and gave me the picture of that cheerful mind of his before it received that stroke which has ever since affected his words and actions. But he went on as follows:
"I came to my estate in my twenty-second year, and resolved to follow the steps of the most worthy of my ancestors who have inhabited this spot of earth before me, in all the methods of hospitality and good neighborhood, for the sake of my fame; and in country sports and recreations, for the sake of my health. In my twenty-third year I was obliged to serve as sheriff of the county; and in my servants, officers, and whole equipage, indulged the pleasure of a young man (who did not think ill of his own person) in taking that public occasion of showing my figure and behavior to advantage. You may easily imagine to yourself what appearance I made, who am pretty tall, rode well, and was very well drest, at the head of a whole county, with music before me, a feather in my hat, and my horse well bitted. I can assure you, I was not a little pleased with the kind looks and glances I had from all the balconies and windows as I rode to the hall where the assizes were held.
"But when I came there, a beautiful creature, in a widow's habit, sat in court to hear the event of a cause concerning her dower. This commanding creature (who was born for the destruction of all who behold her) put on such a resignation in her countenance, and bore the whispers of all around the court with such a pretty uneasiness, I warrant you, and then recovered herself from one eye to another, until she was perfectly confused by meeting something so wistful in all she encountered, that at last, with a murrain to her, she cast her bewitching eye upon me. I no sooner met it but I bowed like a great surprized booby; and knowing her cause was to be the first which came on, I cried, like a great captivated calf as I was, 'Make way for the defendant's witnesses.' This sudden partiality made all the county immediately see the sheriff also was become a slave to the fine widow. During the time her cause was upon trial, she behaved herself, I warrant you, with such a deep attention to her business, took opportunities to have little billets handed to her counsel, then would be in such a pretty confusion, occasioned, you must know, by acting before so much company, that not only I, but the whole court, was prejudiced in her favor; and all that the next heir to her husband had to urge was thought so groundless and frivolous, that when it came to her counsel to reply, there was not half so much said as every one besides in the court thought he could have urged to her advantage.
"You must understand, sir, this perverse woman is one of those unaccountable creatures that secretly rejoice in the admiration of men, but indulge themselves in no further consequences. Hence it is that she has ever had a train of admirers, and she removes from her slaves in town to those in the country, according to the seasons of the year. She is a reading lady, and far gone in the pleasures of friendship. She is always accompanied by a confidant, who is witness to her daily protestations against our sex, and consequently a bar to her first steps toward love upon the strength of her own maxims and declarations.
"However, I must needs say this accomplished mistress of mine has distinguished me above the rest, and has been known to declare Sir Roger de Coverley was the tamest and most humane of all the brutes in the country. I was told she said so by one who thought he rallied me; but upon the strength of this slender encouragement of being thought least detestable, I made new liveries, new paired my coach horses, sent them all to town to be bitted, and taught to throw their legs well, and move all together before I pretended to cross the country, and wait upon her. As soon as I thought my retinue suitable to the character of my fortune and youth, I set out from hence to make my addresses. The particular skill of this lady has ever been to inflame your wishes, and yet command respect. To make her mistress of this art, she has a greater share of knowledge, wit, and good sense, than is usual even among men of merit. Then she is beautiful beyond the race of women. If you will not let her go on with a certain artifice with her eyes, and the skill of beauty, she will arm herself with her real charms, and strike you with admiration instead of desire. It is certain that if you were to behold the whole woman, there is that dignity in her aspect, that composure in her motion, that complacency in her manner, that if her form makes you hope, her merit makes you fear. But then again, she is such a desperate scholar, that no country gentleman can approach her without being a jest.
"As I was going to tell you, when I came to her house, I was admitted to her presence with great civility; at the same time she placed herself to be first seen by me in such an attitude as I think you call the posture of a picture, that she discovered new charms, and I at last came toward her with such an awe as made me speechless. This she no sooner observed but she made her advantage of it, and began a discourse to me concerning love and honor, as they both are followed by pretenders, and the real votaries to them. When she discust these points in a discourse, which I verily believe was as learned as the best philosopher in Europe could possibly make, she asked me whether she was so happy as to fall in with my sentiments on these important particulars. Her confidant sat by her, and upon my being in the last confusion and silence, this malicious aid of hers, turning to her, says, 'I am very glad to observe Sir Roger pauses upon this subject, and seems resolved to deliver all his sentiments upon the matter when he pleases to speak.'
"They both kept their countenances, and after I had sat half an hour meditating how to behave before such profound casuists, I rose up and took my leave. Chance has since that time thrown me very often in her way, and she as often directed a discourse to me which I do not understand.
"This barbarity has kept me ever at a distance from the most beautiful object my eyes ever beheld. It is thus also she deals with all mankind, and you must make love to her, as you would conquer the sphinx, by posing her. But were she like other women, and that there were any talking to her, how constant must the pleasure of that man be, who could converse with a creature—but, after all, you may be sure her heart is fixt on some one or other; and yet I have been credibly informed; but who can believe half that is said! After she had done speaking to me, she put her hand to her bosom, and adjusted her tucker. Then she cast her eyes a little down, upon my beholding her too earnestly. They say she sings excellently; her voice in her ordinary speech has something in it inexpressibly sweet. You must know I dined with her at a public table the day after I first saw her, and she helped me to some tansy in the eye of all the gentlemen in the country. She has certainly the finest hand of any woman in the world. I can assure you, sir, were you to behold her, you would be in the same condition; for as her speech is music, her form is angelic. But I find I grow irregular while I am talking of her; but, indeed, it would be stupidity to be unconcerned at such perfection. Oh, the excellent creature! she is as inimitable to all women as she is inaccessible to all men."
I found my friend begin to rave, and insensibly led him toward the house, that we might be joined by some other company; and am convinced that the widow is the secret cause of all that inconsistency which appears in some parts of my friend's discourse; tho he has so much command of himself as not directly to mention her.
THE COVERLEY FAMILY PORTRAITS
I was this morning walking in the gallery, when Sir Roger entered at the end opposite to me, and, advancing toward me, said he was glad to meet me among his relations the de Coverleys, and hoped I liked the conversation of so much good company who were as silent as myself. I knew he alluded to the pictures, and as he is a gentleman who does not a little value himself upon his ancient descent, I expected he would give me some account of them. We were now arrived at the upper end of the gallery, when the knight faced toward one of the pictures, and as we stood before it, he entered into the matter, after his blunt way of saying things, as they occur to his imagination, without regular introduction, or care to preserve the appearance of chain of thought.
"It is," said he, "worth while to consider the force of dress; and how the persons of one age differ from those of another, merely by that only. One may observe also, that the general fashion of one age has been followed by one particular set of people in another, and by them preserved from one generation to another. Thus the vast jutting coat and small bonnet, which was the habit in Henry the Seventh's time, is kept on in the yeomen of the guard; not without a good and politic view, because they look a foot taller, and a foot and a half broader; besides, that the cap leaves the face expanded, and consequently more terrible, and fitter to stand at the entrance of palaces.
"This predecessor of ours, you see, is drest after this manner, and his cheeks would be no larger than mine, were he in a hat as I am. He was the last man that won a prize in the Tilt-yard (which is now a common street before Whitehall). You see the broken lance that lies there by his right foot. He shivered that lance of his adversary all to pieces; and bearing himself, look you, sir, in this manner, at the same time he came within the target of the gentleman who rode against him, and taking him with incredible force before him on the pommel of his saddle, he in that manner rode the tournament over, with an air that showed he did it rather to perform the rule of the lists than expose his enemy; however, it appeared he knew how to make use of a victory, and with a gentle trot he marched up to a gallery, where their mistress sat (for they were rivals), and let him down with laudable courtesy and pardonable insolence. I do not know but it might be exactly where the coffee-house is now.
"You are to know this my ancestor was not only a military genius, but fit also for the arts of peace, for he played on the bass viol as well as any gentleman at court; you see where his viol hangs by his basket-hilt sword. The action at the Tilt-yard you may be sure won the fair lady, who was a maid of honor, and the greatest beauty of her time; here she stands the next picture. You see, sir, my great-great-great-grandmother has on the new-fashioned petticoat, except that the modern is gathered at the waist. My grandmother appears as if she stood in a large drum, whereas, the ladies now walk as if they were in a go-cart. For all this lady was bred at court, she became an excellent country wife, she brought ten children, and when I show you the library, you shall see in her own hand (allowing for the difference of the language) the best receipt now in English both for a hasty pudding and a white-pot.
"If you please to fall back a little, because it is necessary to look at the three next pictures at one view; these are three sisters. She on the right hand, who is so very beautiful, died a maid; the next to her, still handsomer, had the same fate, against her will; this homely thing in the middle had both their portions added to her own, and was stolen by a neighboring gentleman, a man of stratagem and resolution, for he poisoned three mastiffs to come at her, and knocked down two deer-stealers in carrying her off. Misfortunes happen in all families. The theft of this romp, and so much money, was no great matter to our estate. But the next heir that possess it was this soft gentleman whom you see there. Observe the small buttons, the little boots, the laces, the slashes about his clothes, and, above all, the posture he is drawn in (which, to be sure, was his own choosing), you see he sits with one hand on a desk writing and looking, as it were, another way, like an easy writer, or a sonneteer. He was one of those that had too much wit to know how to live in the world; he was a man of no justice, but great good manners; he ruined everybody that had anything to do with him, but never said a rude thing in his life; the most indolent person in the world; he would sign a deed that passed away half his estate with his gloves on, but would not put on his hat before a lady if it were to save his country. He is said to be the first that made love by squeezing the hand. He left the estate with ten thousand pounds debt upon it; but, however, by all hands I have been informed that he was every way the finest gentleman in the world. That debt lay heavy on our house for one generation, but it was retrieved by a gift from that honest man you see there, a citizen of our name, but nothing at all akin to us. I know Sir Andrew Freeport has said behind my back that this man was descended from one of the ten children of the maid of honor I showed you above; but it was never made out. We winked at the thing, indeed, because money was wanting at that time."
Here I saw my friend a little embarrassed, and turned my face to the next portraiture. Sir Roger went on with his account of the gallery in the following manner:
"This man [pointing to him I looked at] I take to be the honor of our house. Sir Humphrey de Coverley; he was in his dealings as punctual as a tradesman, and as generous as a gentleman. He would have thought himself as much undone by breaking his word, as if it were to be followed by bankruptcy. He served his country as a knight of the shire to his dying day. He found it no easy matter to maintain an integrity in his words and actions, even in things that regarded the offices which were incumbent upon him, in the care of his own affairs and relations of life, and therefore dreaded (tho he had great talents) to go into employments of state, where he must be exposed to the snares of ambition. Innocence of life and great ability were the distinguishing parts of his character; the latter, he had often observed, had led to the destruction of the former, and he used frequently to lament that great and good had not the same signification. He was an excellent husbandman, but had resolved not to exceed such a degree of wealth; all above it he bestowed in secret bounties many years after the sum he aimed at for his own use was attained. Yet he did not slacken his industry, but to a decent old age spent the life and fortune which was superfluous to himself, in the service of his friends and neighbors."
Here we were called to dinner, and Sir Roger ended the discourse of this gentleman, by telling me, as we followed the servant, that this his ancestor was a brave man, and narrowly escaped being killed in the civil wars. "For," said he, "he was sent out of the field upon a private message the day before the battle of Worcester." The whim of narrowly escaping by having been within a day of danger, with other matters above mentioned, mixed with good sense, left me at a loss whether I was more delighted with my friend's wisdom or simplicity.
ON CERTAIN SYMPTOMS OF GREATNESS
There is no affection of the mind so much blended in human nature, and wrought into our very constitution, as pride. It appears under a multitude of disguises, and breaks out in ten thousand different symptoms. Every one feels it in himself, and yet wonders to see it in his neighbor. I must confess, I met with an instance of it the other day where I should very little have expected it. Who would believe the proud person I am going to speak of is a cobbler upon Ludgate hill? This artist being naturally a lover of respect, and considering that his circumstances are such that no man living will give it him, has contrived the figure of a beau, in wood; who stands before him in a bending posture, with his hat under his left arm, and his right hand extended in such a manner as to hold a thread, a piece of wax, or an awl, according to the particular service in which his master thinks fit to employ him. When I saw him, he held a candle in this obsequious posture. I was very well pleased with the cobbler's invention, that had so ingeniously contrived an inferior, and stood a little while contemplating this inverted idolatry, wherein the image did homage to the man. When we meet with such a fantastic vanity in one of this order, it is no wonder if we may trace it through all degrees above it, and particularly through all the steps of greatness.
We easily see the absurdity of pride when it enters into the heart of a cobbler; tho in reality it is altogether as ridiculous and unreasonable, wherever it takes possession of a human creature. There is no temptation to it from the reflection upon our being in general, or upon any comparative perfection, whereby one man may excel another. The greater a man's knowledge is, the greater motive he may seem to have for pride; but in the same proportion as the one rises the other sinks, it being the chief office of wisdom to discover to us our weaknesses and imperfections.
As folly is the foundation of pride, the natural superstructure of it is madness. If there was an occasion for the experiment, I would not question to make a proud man a lunatic in three weeks' time, provided I had it in my power to ripen his frenzy with proper applications. It is an admirable reflection in Terence, where it is said of a parasite, "Hic homines ex stultis facit insanos." "This fellow," says he, "has an art of converting fools into madmen." When I was in France, the region of complaisance and vanity, I have often observed that a great man who has entered a levee of flatterers humble and temperate has grown so insensibly heated by the court which was paid him on all sides, that he has been quite distracted before he could get into his coach.
If we consult the collegiates of Moorfields, we shall find most of them are beholden to their pride for their introduction into that magnificent palace. I had, some years ago, the curiosity to inquire into the particular circumstances of these whimsical freeholders; and learned from their own mouths the condition and character of each of them. Indeed, I found that all I spoke to were persons of quality. There were at that time five duchesses, three earls, two heathen gods, an emperor, and a prophet. There were also a great number of such as were locked up from their estates, and others who concealed their titles. A leather-seller of Taunton whispered me in the ear that he was the "Duke of Monmouth," but begged me not to betray him. At a little distance from him sat a tailor's wife, who asked me, as I went, if I had seen the sword-bearer, upon which I presumed to ask her who she was, and was answered, "My lady mayoress."
I was very sensibly touched with compassion toward these miserable people; and, indeed, extremely mortified to see human nature capable of being thus disfigured. However, I reaped this benefit from it, that I was resolved to guard myself against a passion which makes such havoc in the brain, and produces so much disorder in the imagination. For this reason I have endeavored to keep down the secret swellings of resentment, and stifle the very first suggestions of self-esteem; to establish my mind in tranquillity, and over-value nothing in my own or in another's possession.
For the benefit of such whose heads are a little turned, tho not to so great a degree as to qualify them for the place of which I have been now speaking, I shall assign one of the sides of the college which I am erecting, for the cure of this dangerous distemper.
The most remarkable of the persons, whose disturbance arises from pride, and whom I shall use all possible diligence to cure, are such as are hidden in the appearance of quite contrary habits and dispositions. Among such, I shall, in the first place, take care of one who is under the most subtle species of pride that I have observed in my whole experience.
The patient is a person for whom I have a great respect, as being an old courtier, and a friend of mine in my youth. The man has but a bare subsistence, just enough to pay his reckoning with us at the Trumpet; but, by having spent the beginning of his life is the hearing of great men and persons of power, he is always promising to do good offices to introduce every man he converses with into the world; will desire one of ten times his substance to let him see him sometimes, and hints to him that he does not forget him. He answers to matters of no consequence with great circumspection; but, however, maintains a general civility in his words and actions, and an insolent benevolence to all whom he has to do with. This he practises with a grave tone and air; and tho I am his senior by twelve years, and richer by forty pounds per annum, he had yesterday the impudence to commend me to my face, and tell me, "he should be always ready to encourage me." In a word, he is a very insignificant fellow, but exceeding gracious. The best return I can make him for his favors is to carry him myself to Bedlam and see him well taken care of.
The next person I shall provide for is of a quite contrary character, that has in him all the stiffness and insolence of quality, without a grain of sense or good-nature, to make it either respected or beloved. His pride has infected every muscle of his face; and yet, after all his endeavors to show mankind that he contemns them, he is only neglected by all that see him, as not of consequence enough to be hated.
For the cure of this particular sort of madness, it will be necessary to break through all forms with him, and familiarize his carriage by the use of a good cudgel. It may likewise be of great benefit to make him jump over a stick half a dozen times every morning.
A third, whom I have in my eye, is a young fellow, whose lunacy is such that he boasts of nothing but what he ought to be ashamed of. He is vain of being rotten, and talks publicly of having committed crimes which he ought to be hanged for by the laws of his country.
There are several others whose brains are hurt with pride, and whom I may hereafter attempt to recover; but shall conclude my present list with an old woman, who is just dropping into her grave, that talks of nothing but her birth. Tho she has not a tooth in her head, she expects to be valued for the blood in her veins, which she fancies is much better than that which glows in the cheeks of Belinda, and sets half the town on fire.
HOW TO BE HAPPY THO MARRIED
My brother Tranquillus being gone out of town for some days, my sister Jenny sent me word she would come and dine with me, and therefore desired me to have no other company, I took care accordingly, and was not a little pleased to see her enter the room with a decent and matron-like behavior, which I thought very much became her. I saw she had a great deal to say to me, and easily discovered in her eyes, and the air of her countenance, that she had abundance of satisfaction in her heart, which she longed to communicate. However, I was resolved to let her break into her discourse her own way, and reduced her to a thousand little devices and intimations to bring me to the mention of her husband. But finding I was resolved not to name him, she began of her own accord. "My husband," said she, "gives his humble service to you," to which I only answered, "I hope he is well"; and, without waiting for a reply, fell into other subjects.
She at last was out of all patience, and said, with a smile and manner that I thought had more beauty and spirit than I had ever observed before in her, "I did not think, brother, you had been so ill-natured. You have seen, ever since I came in, that I had a mind to talk of my husband, and you will not be so kind as to give me an occasion."
"I did not know," said I, "but it might be a disagreeable subject to you. You do not take me for so old-fashioned a fellow as to think of entertaining a young lady with the discourse of her husband. I know nothing is more acceptable than to speak of one who is to be so, but to speak of one who is so! indeed, Jenny, I am a better-bred man than you think me."
She showed a little dislike at my raillery; and, by her bridling up, I perceived she expected to be treated hereafter not as Jenny Distaff, but Mrs. Tranquillus. I was very well pleased with this change in her humor; and, upon talking with her on several subjects, I could not but fancy I saw a great deal of her husband's way and manner in her remarks, her phrases, the tone of her voice, and the very air of her countenance. This gave me an unspeakable satisfaction, not only because I had found her a husband, from whom she could learn many things that were laudable, but also because I looked upon her imitation of him as an infallible sign that she entirely loved him. This is an observation that I never knew fail, tho I do not remember that any other has made it. The natural shyness of her sex hindered her from telling me the greatness of her own passion; but I easily collected it from the representation she gave me of his.
"I have everything," says she, "in Tranquillus, that I can wish for; and enjoy in him, what, indeed, you have told me were to be met with in a good husband, the fondness of a lover, the tenderness of a parent, and the intimacy of a friend."
It transported me to see her eyes swimming in tears of affection when she spoke. "And is there not, dear sister," said I, "more pleasure in the possession of such a man than in all the little impertinencies of balls, assemblies, and equipage, which it cost me so much pains to make you contemn?"
She answered, smiling, "Tranquillus has made me a sincere convert in a few weeks, tho I am afraid you could not have done it in your whole life. To tell you truly, I have only one fear hanging upon me, which is apt to give me trouble in the midst of all my satisfactions: I am afraid, you must know, that I shall not always make the same amiable appearance in his eye that I do at present. You know, brother Bickerstaff, that you have the reputation of a conjurer; and, if you have any one secret in your art to make your sister always beautiful, I should be happier than if I were mistress of all the worlds you have shown me in a starry night."
"Jenny," said I, "without having recourse to magic, I shall give you one plain rule that will not fail of making you always amiable to a man who has so great a passion for you, and is of so equal and reasonable a temper as Tranquillus. Endeavor to please, and you must please; be always in the same disposition, as you are when you ask for this secret, and you may take my word, you will never want it. An inviolable fidelity, good humor, and complacency of temper outlive all the charms of a fine face, and make the decays of it invisible."
We discoursed very long upon this head, which was equally agreeable to us both; for, I must confess, as I tenderly love her, I take as much pleasure in giving her instructions for her welfare, as she herself does in receiving them. I proceeded, therefore, to inculcate these sentiments by relating a very particular passage that happened within my own knowledge.
There were several of us making merry at a friend's house in a country village, when the sexton of the parish church entered the room in a sort of surprize, and told us, "that as he was digging a grave in the chancel, a little blow of his pickax opened a decayed coffin, in which there were several written papers." Our curiosity was immediately raised, so that we went to the place where the sexton had been at work, and found a great concourse of people about the grave. Among the rest there was an old woman, who told us the person buried there was a lady whose name I do not think fit to mention, tho there is nothing in the story but what tends very much to her honor. This lady lived several years an exemplary pattern of conjugal love, and, dying soon after her husband, who every way answered her character in virtue and affection, made it her death-bed request, "that all the letters which she had received from him, both before and after her marriage, should be buried in the coffin with her." These, I found upon examination, were the papers before us. Several of them had suffered so much by time that I could only pick out a few words; as my soul! lilies! roses! dearest angel! and the like. One of them, which was legible throughout, ran thus:
If you would know the greatness of my love, consider that of your own beauty. That blooming countenance, that snowy bosom, that graceful person, return every moment to my imagination; the brightness of your eyes hath hindered me from closing mine since I last saw you. You may still add to your beauties by a smile. A frown will make me the most wretched of men, as I am the most passionate of lovers.
It filled the whole company with a deep melancholy, to compare the description of the letter with the person that occasioned it, who was now reduced to a few crumbling bones, and a little moldering heap of earth. With much ado I deciphered another letter which began with, "My dear, dear wife." This gave me a curiosity to see how the style of one written in marriage differed from one written in courtship. To my surprize, I found the fondness rather augmented than lessened, tho the panegyric turned upon a different accomplishment. The words were as follows:
Before this short absence from you, I did not know that I loved you so much as I really do; tho, at the same time, I thought I loved you as much as possible. I am under great apprehension lest you should have any uneasiness whilst I am defrauded of my share in it, and can not think of tasting any pleasures that you do not partake with me. Pray, my dear, be careful of your health, if for no other reason but because you know I could not outlive you. It is natural in absence to make professions of an inviolable constancy; but toward so much merit it is scarce a virtue, especially when it is but a bare return to that of which you have given me such continued proofs ever since our first acquaintance. I am, etc.
It happened that the daughter of these two excellent persons was by when I was reading this letter. At the sight of the coffin, in which was the body of her mother, near that of her father, she melted into a flood of tears. As I had heard a great character of her virtue, and observed in her this instance of filial piety, I could not resist my natural inclination, of giving advice to young people, and therefore addrest myself to her. "Young lady," said I, "you see how short is the possession of that beauty, in which nature has been so liberal to you. You find the melancholy sight before you is a contradiction to the first letter that you heard on that subject; whereas, you may observe the second letter, which celebrates your mother's constancy, is itself, being found in this place, an argument of it. But, madam, I ought to caution you not to think the bodies that lie before you your father and your mother. Know their constancy is rewarded by a nobler union than by this mingling of their ashes, in a state where there is no danger or possibility of a second separation."
[Footnote 1: From the Guardian.]
[Footnote 2: From the Spectator.]
[Footnote 3: From the Spectator.]
[Footnote 4: From the Tatler.]
[Footnote 5: From the Tatler.]
Born in 1678, died in 1751; his name, before he was a peer, Henry St. John; entered Parliament in 1701, acting with the Tories; Secretary of War in 1704-08; Secretary of State in 1710-14; created Viscount Bolingbroke in 1714; opposed the accession of the House of Hanover, and on the death of Queen Anne in 1714, fled to France, entering the service of the Pretender, by whom he was soon dismissed and then returned to England; a friend of Pope and Swift, Pope's "Essay on Man" being addrest to him.
OF THE SHORTNESS OF HUMAN LIFE
I think very differently from most men of the time we have to pass, and the business we have to do, in this world. I think we have more of one, and less of the other, than is commonly supposed. Our want of time, and the shortness of human life, are some of the principal commonplace complaints which we prefer against the established order of things; they are the grumblings of the vulgar, and the pathetic lamentations of the philosopher; but they are impertinent and impious in both. The man of business despises the man of pleasure for squandering his time away; the man of pleasure pities or laughs at the man of business for the same thing; and yet both concur superciliously and absurdly to find fault with the Supreme Being for having given them so little time. The philosopher, who misspends it very often as much as the others, joins in the same cry, and authorizes this impiety. Theophrastus thought it extremely hard to die at ninety, and to go out of the world when he had just learned how to live in it. His master Aristotle found fault with nature for treating man in this respect worse than several other animals; both very unphilosophically! and I love Seneca the better for his quarrel with the Stagirite on this head.
We see, in so many instances, a just proportion of things, according to their several relations to one another, that philosophy should lead as to conclude this proportion preserved, even where we can not discern it; instead of leading us to conclude that it is not preserved where we do not discern it, or where we think that we see the contrary. To conclude otherwise is shocking presumption. It is to presume that the system of the universe would have been more wisely contrived, if creatures of our low rank among intellectual natures had been called to the councils of the Most High; or that the Creator ought to mend His work by the advice of the creature. That life which seems to our self-love so short, when we compare it with the ideas we frame of eternity, or even with the duration of some other beings, will appear sufficient, upon a less partial view, to all the ends of the creation, and of a just proportion in the successive course of generations. The term itself is long; we render it short; and the want we complain of flows from our profusion, not from our poverty.
Let us leave the men of pleasure and of business, who are often candid enough to own that they throw away their time, and thereby to confess that they complain of the Supreme Being for no other reason than this, that He has not proportioned His bounty to their extravagance. Let us consider the scholar and philosopher, who, far from owning that he throws any time away, reproves others for doing it; that solemn mortal who abstains from the pleasures, and declines the business of the world, that he may dedicate his whole time to the search of truth and the improvement of knowledge. When such a one complains of the shortness of human life in general, or of his remaining share in particular, might not a man more reasonable, tho less solemn, expostulate thus with him: "Your complaint is indeed consistent with your practise; but you would not possibly renew your complaint if you reviewed your practise. Tho reading makes a scholar, yet every scholar is not a philosopher, nor every philosopher a wise man. It cost you twenty years to devour all the volumes on one side of your library; you came out a great critic in Latin and Greek, in the Oriental tongues, in history and chronology; but you were not satisfied. You confest that these were the literae nihil sanantes, and you wanted more time to acquire other knowledge. You have had this time; you have passed twenty years more on the other side of your library, among philosophers, rabbis, commentators, school-men, and whole legions of modern doctors. You are extremely well versed in all that has been written concerning the nature of God, and of the soul of man, about matter and form, body and spirit, and space and eternal essences, and incorporeal substances, and the rest of those profound speculations. You are a master of the controversies that have arisen about nature and grace, about predestination and freewill, and all the other abstruse questions that have made so much noise in the schools, and done so much hurt in the world. You are going on, as fast as the infirmities you have contracted will permit, in the same course of study; but you begin to foresee that you shall want time, and you make grievous complaints of the shortness of human life. Give me leave now to ask you how many thousand years God must prolong your life in order to reconcile you to His wisdom and goodness?
"It is plain, at least highly probable, that a life as long as that of the most aged of the patriarchs would be too short to answer your purposes; since the researches and disputes in which you are engaged have been already for a much longer time the objects of learned inquiries, and remain still as imperfect and undetermined as they were at first. But let me ask you again, and deceive neither yourself nor me, have you, in the course of these forty years, once examined the first principles and the fundamental facts on which all those questions depend, with an absolute indifference of judgment, and with a scrupulous exactness? with the same care that you have employed in examining the various consequences drawn from them, and the heterodox opinions about them? Have you not taken them for granted in the whole course of your studies? Or, if you have looked now and then on the state of the proofs brought to maintain them, have you not done it as a mathematician looks over a demonstration formerly made—to refresh his memory, not to satisfy any doubt? If you have thus examined, it may appear marvelous to some that you have spent so much time in many parts of those studies which have reduced you to this hectic condition of so much heat and weakness. But if you have not thus examined, it must be evident to all, nay, to yourself on the least cool reflection, that you are still, notwithstanding all your learning, in a state of ignorance. For knowledge can alone produce knowledge; and without such an examination of axioms and facts, you can have none about inferences."
In this manner one might expostulate very reasonably with many a great scholar, many a profound philosopher, many a dogmatical casuist. And it serves to set the complaints about want of time, and the shortness of human life, in a very ridiculous but a true light.
RULES FOR THE STUDY OF HISTORY
I have considered formerly, with a good deal of attention, the subject on which you command me to communicate my thoughts to you; and I practised in those days, as much as business and pleasure allowed me time to do, the rules that seemed to me necessary to be observed in the study of history. They were very different from those which writers on the same subject have recommended, and which are commonly practised. But I confess to your lordship that this neither gave me then, nor has given me since, any distrust of them. I do not affect singularity. On the contrary, I think that a due deference is to be paid to received opinions, and that a due compliance with received customs is to be held; tho both the one and the other should be, what they often are, absurd or ridiculous. But this servitude is outward only, and abridges in no sort the liberty of private judgment. The obligations of submitting to it likewise, even outwardly, extend no further than to those opinions and customs which can not be opposed; or from which we can not deviate without doing hurt, or giving offense, to society. In all these cases, our speculations ought to be free; in all other cases, our practise may be so. Without any regard, therefore, to the opinion and practise even of the learned world, I am very willing to tell you mine. But as it is hard to recover a thread of thought long ago laid aside, and impossible to prove some things and explain others, without the assistance of many books which I have not here, your lordship must be content with such an imperfect sketch as I am able to send you in this letter.
The motives that carry men to the study of history are different. Some intend, if such as they may be said to study, nothing more than amusement, and read the life of Aristides or Phocion, of Epaminondas or Scipio, Alexander or Caesar, just as they play a game at cards, or as they would read the story of the seven champions.
Others there are whose motive to this study is nothing better, and who have the further disadvantage of becoming a nuisance very often to society, in proportion to the progress they make. The former do not improve their reading to any good purpose; the latter pervert it to a very bad one, and grow in impertinence as they increase in learning. I think I have known most of the first kind in England, and most of the last in France. The persons I mean are those who read to talk, to shine in conversation, and to impose in company; who, having few ideas to vend of their own growth, store their minds with crude unruminated facts and sentences, and hope to supply by bare memory the want of imagination and judgment.
But these are in the two lowest forms. The next I shall mention are in one a little higher; in the form of those who grow neither wiser nor better by study themselves, but who enable others to study with greater ease, and to purposes more useful; who make fair copies of foul manuscripts, give the signification of hard words, and take a great deal of other grammatical pains. The obligation to these men would be great indeed, if they were in general able to do anything better, and submitted to this drudgery for the sake of the public; as some of them, it must be owned with gratitude, have done, but not later, I think, than about the time of the resurrection of letters. When works of importance are pressing, generals themselves may take up the pickax and the spade; but in the ordinary course of things, when that pressing necessity is over, such tools are left in the hands destined to use them, the hands of common soldiers and peasants. I approve, therefore, very much the devotion of a studious man at Christ Church, who was overheard in his oratory entering into a detail with God, acknowledging the divine goodness in furnishing the world with makers of dictionaries! These men court fame, as well as their letters, by such means as God has given them to acquire it; and Littleton exerted all the genius he had when he made a dictionary, tho Stephens did not. They deserve encouragement, however, while they continue to compile, and neither affect wit, nor presume to reason.
There is a fourth class, of much less use than these, but of much greater name. Men of the first rank in learning, and to whom the whole tribe of scholars bow with reverence. A man must be as indifferent as I am to common censure or approbation, to avow a thorough contempt for the whole business of these learned lives; for all the researches into antiquity, for all the systems of chronology and history, that we owe to the immense labors of a Scaliger, a Bochart, a Petavius, an Usher, and even a Marsham. The same materials are common to them all; but these materials are few, and there is a moral impossibility that they should ever have more. They have combined these into every form that can be given to them; they have supposed, they have guessed, they have joined disjointed passages of different authors, and broken traditions of uncertain originals, of various people, and of centuries remote from one another as well as from ours. In short, that they might leave no liberty untaken, even a wild fantastical similitude of sounds has served to prop up a system. As the materials they have are few, so are the very best and such as pass for authentic extremely precarious, as learned persons themselves confess.
Julius Africanus, Eusebius, and George the Monk opened the principal sources of all this science; but they corrupted the waters. Their point of view was to make profane history and chronology agree with sacred. For this purpose, the ancient monuments that these writers conveyed to posterity were digested by them according to the system they were to maintain; and none of these monuments were delivered down in their original form and genuine purity. The dynasties of Manetho, for instance, are broken to pieces by Eusebius, and such fragments of them as suited his design are stuck into his work. We have, we know, no more of them. The "Codex Alexandrinus" we owe to George the Monk. We have no other authority for it; and one can not see without amazement such a man as Sir John Marsham undervaluing this authority in one page, and building his system upon it in the next. He seems even by the lightness of his expressions, if I remember well, for it is long since I looked into his canon, not to be much concerned what foundation his system had, so he showed his skill in forming one, and in reducing the immense antiquity of the Egyptians within the limits of the Hebraic calculation.
[Footnote 6: A name under which Aristotle was sometimes known, from his birthplace Stag.]
[Footnote 7: One of the "Letters on the Study of History."]
Born to London in 1688, died in 1744; his father a linen draper, converted to the Catholic faith; not regularly educated, owing to his frail and sickly body; began to write in boyhood, and before he was seventeen had met the leading literary men of London; his "Essay on Criticism," published in 1711, translation of Homer in 1720 and 1725, "Essay on Man," in 1732-34.
AN ANCIENT ENGLISH COUNTRY SEAT
'Tis not possible to express the least part of the joy your return gives me; time only and experience will convince you how very sincere it is. I excessively long to meet you, to say so much, so very much to you, that I believe I shall say nothing. I have given orders to be sent for the first minute of your arrival—which I beg you will let them know at Mr. Jervas's. I am four-score miles from London, a short journey compared to that I so often thought at least of undertaking, rather than die without seeing you again. Tho the place I am in is such as I would not quit for the town, if I did not value you more than any, nay everybody else there; and you will be convinced how little the town has engaged my affections in your absence from it, when you know what a place this is which I prefer to it; I shall therefore describe it to you at large, as the true picture of a genuine ancient country-seat.
You must expect nothing regular in my description of a house that seems to be built before rules were in fashion: the whole is so disjointed, and the parts so detached from each other, and yet so joining again, one can not tell how, that—in a poetical fit—you would imagine it had been a village in Amphion's time, where twenty cottages had taken a dance together, were all out, and stood still in amazement ever since. A stranger would be grievously disappointed who should ever think to get into this house the right way. One would expect, after entering through the porch, to be let into the hall; alas! nothing less, you find yourself in a brew-house. From the parlor you think to step into the drawing-room; but, upon opening the iron-nailed door, you are convinced, by a flight of birds about your ears, and a cloud of dust in your eyes, that it is the pigeon-house. On each side our porch are two chimneys, that wear their greens on the outside, which would do as well within, for whenever we make a fire, we let the smoke out of the windows. Over the parlor window hangs a sloping balcony, which, time has turned to a very convenient penthouse. The top is crowned with a very venerable tower, so like that of the church just by, that the jackdaws build in it as if it were the true steeple.
The great hall is high and spacious, flanked with long tables, images of ancient hospitality; ornamented with monstrous horns, about twenty broken pikes, and a matchlock musket or two, which they say were used in the civil wars. Here is one vast arched window, beautifully darkened with divers scutcheons of painted glass. There seems to be great propriety in this old manner of blazoning upon glass, ancient families being like ancient windows, in the course of generations seldom free from cracks. One shining pane bears date 1286. The youthful face of Dame Elinor owes more to this single piece than to all the glasses she ever consulted in her life. Who can say after this that glass is frail, when it is not half so perishable as human beauty or glory? For in another pane you see the memory of a knight preserved, whose marble nose is moldered from his monument in the church adjoining. And yet, must not one sigh to reflect, that the most authentic record of so ancient a family should lie at the mercy of every boy that throws a stone? In this hall, in former days, have dined gartered knights and courtly dames, with ushers, sewers, and seneschals; and yet it was but the other night that an owl flew in hither, and mistook it for a barn.
This hall lets you up (and down) over a very high threshold, into the parlor. It is furnished with historical tapestry, whose marginal fringes do confess the moisture of the air. The other contents of this room are a broken-bellied virginal, a couple of crippled velvet chairs, with two or three mildewed pictures of moldy ancestors, who look as dismally as if they came fresh from hell with all their brimstone about 'em. These are carefully set at the further corner: for the windows being everywhere broken, make it so convenient a place to dry poppies and mustard-seed in, that the room is appropriated to that use.
Next this parlor lies, as I said before, the pigeon-house, by the side of which runs an entry that leads, on one hand and t'other, into a bed-chamber, a buttery, and a small hole called the chaplain's study. Then follow a brew-house, a little green and gilt parlor, and the great stairs, under which is the dairy. A little further on the right, the servants' hall; and by the side of it, up six steps, the old lady's closet, which has a lattice into the said hall, that, while she said her prayers, she might cast an eye on the men and maids. There are upon this ground floor in all twenty-four apartments, hard to be distinguished by particular names; among which I must not forget a chamber that has in it a large antiquity of timber, which seems to have been either a bedstead or a cider-press.
Our best room above is very long and low, of the exact proportion of a bandbox; it has hangings of the finest work in the world; those, I mean, which Arachne spins out of her own bowels: indeed, the roof is so decayed, that after a favorable shower of rain, we may, with God's blessing, expect a crop of mushrooms between the chinks of the floors.
All this upper story has for many years had no other inhabitants than certain rats, whose very age renders them worthy of this venerable mansion, for the very rats of this ancient seat are gray. Since these have not quitted it, we hope at least this house may stand during the small remainder of days these poor animals have to live, who are now too infirm to remove to another: they have still a small subsistence left them in the few remaining books of the library.
I had never seen half what I have described, but for an old starched gray-headed steward, who is as much an antiquity as any in the place, and looks like an old family picture walked out of its frame. He failed not, as we passed from room to room, to relate several memoirs of the family; but his observations were particularly curious in the cellar: he shewed where stood the triple rows of butts of sack, and where were ranged the bottles of tent for toasts in the morning; he pointed to the stands that supported the iron-hooped hogsheads of strong beer; then stepping to a corner, he lugged out the tattered fragment of an unframed picture: "This," says he, with tears in his eyes, "was poor Sir Thomas, once master of all the drink I told you of: he had two sons (poor young masters!) that never arrived to the age of his beer; they both fell ill in this very cellar, and never went out upon their own legs." He could not pass by a broken bottle without taking it up to show us the arms of the family on it. He then led me up the tower, by dark winding stone steps, which landed us into several little rooms, one above the other; one of these was nailed up, and my guide whispered to me the occasion of it. It seems the course of this noble blood was a little interrupted about two centuries ago by a freak of the Lady Frances, who was here taken with a neighboring prior; ever since which the room has been nailed up, and branded with the name of the adultery-chamber. The ghost of Lady Frances is supposed to walk here: some prying maids of the family formerly reported that they saw a lady in a farthingale through the keyhole; but this matter was hushed up, and the servants forbid to talk of it.
I must needs have tired you with this long letter; but what engaged me in the description was a generous principle to preserve the memory of a thing that must itself soon fall to ruin; nay, perhaps, some part of it before this reaches your hands: indeed, I owe this old house the same sort of gratitude that we do to an old friend that harbors us in his declining condition, nay, even in his last extremities. I have found this an excellent place for retirement and study, where no one who passes by can dream there is an inhabitant, and even anybody that would visit me dares not venture under my roof. You will not wonder I have translated a great deal of Homer in this retreat; any one that sees it will own I could not have chosen a fitter or more likely place to converse with the dead. As soon as I return to the living, it shall be to converse with the best of them. I hope, therefore, very speedily to tell you in person how sincerely and unalterably I am, madam, your most faithful, obliged, and obedient servant.
I beg Mr. Wortley to believe me his most humble servant.
HIS COMPLIMENTS TO LADY MARY
I have been (what I never was till now) in debt to you for a letter some weeks. I was informed you were at sea, and that 'twas to no purpose to write till some news had been heard of you somewhere or other. Besides, I have had a second dangerous illness, from which I was more diligent to be recovered than from the first, having now some hopes of seeing you again. If you make any tour in Italy, I shall not easily forgive you for not acquainting me soon enough to have met you there. I am very certain I shall never be polite unless I travel with you, and it is never to be repaired, the loss that Homer has sustained for want of my translating him in Asia.
You will come here full of criticisms against a man who wanted nothing to be in the right, but to have kept you company; you have no way of making me amends but by continuing an Asiatic when you return to me, whatever English airs you may put on to other people. I prodigiously long for your sounds, your remarks, your Oriental learning; but I long for nothing so much as your Oriental self. You must of necessity be advanced so far back in true nature and simplicity of manners, by these three years' residence in the East, that I shall look upon you as so many years younger than you was, so much nearer innocence (that is truth) and infancy (that is openness). I expect to see your soul as much thinner drest than your body, and that you have left off as weary and cumbersome a great many damned European habits. Without offense to your modesty be it spoken, I have a burning desire to see your soul stark naked, for I am confident it is the prettiest kind of white soul in the universe. But I forget whom I am talking to; you may possibly by this time believe according to the Prophet, that you have none; if so, show me that which comes next to a soul, you may easily put it upon a poor ignorant Christian for a soul and please him as well with it—I mean your heart—Mohammed I think allows you hearts; which (together with fine eyes and other agreeable equivalents) are with all the souls on the other side of the world.
But if I must be content with seeing your body only, God send it come quickly. I honor it more than the diamond casket that held Homer's Iliads; for in the very twinkle of one eye of it there is more wit, and in the very dimple of one cheek of it there is more meaning, than all the souls that were carefully put into woman since God had the making of them.
I have a mind to fill the rest of this paper with an accident that has happened just under my eyes, and has made a great impression on me. I have just passed part of the summer at an old romantic seat of my Lord Harcourt's which he lent me. It overlooks a commonfield, where, under the shade of the haycock, sat two lovers as constant as ever were found in romance, beneath a spreading beech. The name of the one (let it sound as it will) was John Hewet; of the other, Sarah Drew. John was a well-set man of about five and twenty, Sarah a brown woman of eighteen. John had for several months borne the labor of the day in the same field with Sarah; when she milked it was his morning and evening charge to bring the cows to her pail.
Their love was the talk, but not the scandal, of the whole neighborhood; for all they aimed at was the blameless possession of each other in marriage. It was but this very morning that he had obtained her parent's consent, and it was but till the next week that they were to wait to be happy. Perhaps this very day, in the interval of their work, they were talking about their wedding clothes, and John was now matching several kinds of poppies and field flowers to her complexion to make her a present of knots for the day.
While they are thus employed (it was in the last of July) a terrible storm of thunder and lightning arose, that drove the laborers to what shelter the trees or hedge afforded. Sarah, frightened and out of breath, sunk on a haycock, and John (who was never separated from her) sate by her side, having raked two or three heaps together to secure her. Immediately there was heard so loud a crash as if heaven were burst asunder. The laborers, all solicitous for each other's safety, called to one another. Those that were nearest our lovers, hearing no answer, stept to the place where they lay; they first saw a little smoke and after this the faithful pair—John with one arm about his Sarah's neck, and the other held over her face as if to screen her from the lightning. They were struck dead and already grown stiff and cold in this tender posture. There was no mark or discoloring on their bodies, only that Sarah's eyebrow was a little singed and a small spot between her breasts. They were buried the next day in one grave, in the parish of Stanton Harcourt, in Oxfordshire; where my lord Harcourt, at my request, has erected a monument over them....
Upon the whole, I can't think these people unhappy. The greatest happiness, next to living as they would have done, was to die as they did. The greatest honor people of their low degree could have was to be remembered on a little monument; unless you will give them another—that of being honored with a tear from the finest eyes in the world. I know you have tenderness; you must have it; it is the very emanation of good sense and virtue; the finest minds like the finest metals dissolve the easiest.
But when you are reflecting upon objects of pity, pray do not forget one, who had no sooner found out an object of the highest esteem than he was separated from it; and who is so very unhappy as not to be susceptible of consolation from others, by being so miserable in the right as to think other women what they really are. Such a one can't but be desperately fond of any creature that is quite different from these. If the Circassian be utterly void of such honor as these have, and such virtue as these boast of, I am content. I have detested the sound of honest woman, and loving spouse, ever since I heard the pretty name of Odaliche.
Dear Madam, I am forever yours,
My most humble services to Mr. Wortley. Pray let me hear from you soon, tho I shall very soon write again. I am confident half our letters are lost.
HOW TO MAKE AN EPIC POEM
It is no small pleasure to me, who am zealous in the interests of learning, to think I may have the honor of leading the town into a very new and uncommon road of criticism. As that kind of literature is at present carried on, it consists only in a knowledge of mechanic rules which contribute to the structure of different sorts of poetry, as the receipts of good housewives do to the making puddings of flour, oranges, plums, or any other ingredients. It would, methinks, make these my instructions more easily intelligible to ordinary readers, if I discoursed of these matters in the style in which ladies learned in economics dictate to their pupils for the improvement of the kitchen and larder.
I shall begin with epic poetry, because the critics agree it is the greatest work human nature is capable of. I know the French have already laid down many mechanical rules for compositions of this sort, but at the same time they cut off almost all undertakers from the possibility of ever performing them; for the first qualification they unanimously require in a poet is a genius. I shall here endeavor (for the benefit of my countrymen) to make it manifest that epic poems may be made "without a genius," nay, without learning, or much reading. This must necessarily be of great use to all those poets who confess they never read, and of whom the world is convinced they never learn. What Moliere observes of making a dinner, that any man can do it with money, and if a profest cook can not without, he has his art for nothing, the same may be said of making a poem—it is easily brought about by him that has a genius, but the skill lies in doing it without one. In pursuance of this end, I shall present the reader with a plain and certain receipt, by which even sonneteers and ladies may be qualified for this grand performance.
I know it will be objected that one of the chief qualifications of an epic poet is to be knowing in all arts and sciences. But this ought not to discourage those that have no learning, as long as indexes and dictionaries may be had, which are the compendium of all knowledge. Besides, since it is an established rule that none of the terms of those arts and sciences are to be made use of, one may venture to affirm our poet can not impertinently offend in this point. The learning which will be more particularly necessary to him is the ancient geography of towns, mountains, and rivers; for this let him take Culverius, value fourpence.
Another quality required is a complete skill in languages. To this I answer that it is notorious persons of no genius have been oftentimes great linguists. To instance in the Greek, of which there are two sorts; the original Greek, and that from which our modern authors translate. I should be unwilling to promise impossibilities; but modestly speaking, this may be learned in about an hour's time with ease. I have known one who became a sudden professor of Greek immediately upon application of the left-hand page of the Cambridge Homer to his eye. It is in these days with authors as with other men, the well bred are familiarly acquainted with, them at first sight; and as it is sufficient for a good general to have surveyed the ground he is to conquer, so it is enough for a good poet to have seen the author he is to be master of. But to proceed to the purpose of this paper.
For the Fable.—Take out of any old poem, history book, romance or legend (for instance, Geoffrey of Monmouth, or Don Belianis of Greece), those parts of story which afford most scope for long descriptions. Put these pieces together, and throw all the adventures you fancy into one tale. Then take a hero you may choose for the sound of his name, and put him into the midst of these adventures. There let him work for twelve books; at the end of which you may take him out ready prepared to conquer, or to marry; it being necessary that the conclusion of an epic poem be fortunate.
To Make an Episode.—Take any remaining adventure of your former collection, in which you could no way involve your hero; or any unfortunate accident that was too good to be thrown away; and it will be of use applied to any other person, who may be lost and evaporate in the course of the work, without the least damage to the composition.
For the Moral and Allegory.—These you may extract out of the fable afterward, at your leisure. Be sure you strain them sufficiently.
For the Manners.—For those of the hero, take all the best qualities you can find in all the celebrated heroes of antiquity; if they will not be reduced to a consistency, lay them all in a heap upon him. But be sure they are qualities which your patron would be thought to have; and, to prevent any mistake which the world may be subject to, select from the alphabet those capital letters that compose his name, and set them at the head of a dedication before your poem. However, do not absolutely observe the exact quantity of these virtues, it not being determined whether or no it be necessary for the hero of a poem to be an honest man. For the under characters, gather them from Homer and Virgil, and change the names as occasion serves.
For the Machines.—Take of deities, male and female, as many as you can use. Separate them into two equal parts, and keep Jupiter in the middle. Let Juno put him in a ferment, and Venus mollify him. Remember on all occasions to make use of volatile Mercury. If you have need of devils, draw them out of Milton's Paradise, and extract your spirits from Tasso. The use of these machines is evident; for since no epic poem can possibly subsist without them, the wisest way is to reserve them for your greatest necessities. When you can not extricate your hero by any human means, or yourself by your own wits, seek relief from heaven, and the gods will do your business very readily. This is according to the direct prescription of Horace in his "Art of Poetry," verse 191:
Never presume to make a god appear, But for a business worthy of a god.
That is to say, a poet should never call upon the gods for their assistance but when he is in great perplexity.
For a Tempest.—Take Eurus, Zephyr, Auster, and Boreas, and cast them together in one verse. Add to these of rain, lightning, and of thunder (the loudest you can) quantum sufficit. Mix your clouds and billows well together until they foam, and thicken your description here and there with a quicksand. Brew your tempest well in your head, before you set it a-blowing.
For a Battle.—Pick a large quantity of images and descriptions from Homer's "Iliad," with a spice or two of Virgil, and if there remain any overplus you may lay them by for a skirmish. Season it well with similes, and it will make an excellent battle.
For Burning a Town.—If such a description be necessary, because it is certain there is one in Virgil, Old Troy is ready burned to your hands. But if you fear that would be thought borrowed, a chapter or two of the Theory of the Conflagration, well circumstanced, and done into verse, will be a good succedaneum.
As for Similes and Metaphors, they may be found all over the creation; the most ignorant may gather them, but the danger is in applying them. For this advise with your bookseller.
For the Language (I mean the diction).—Here it will do well to be an imitator of Milton, for you will find it easier to imitate him in this than anything else. Hebraisms and Grecisms are to be found in him, without the trouble of learning the languages. I knew a painter, who (like our poet) had no genius, make his daubings to be thought originals by setting them in the smoke. You may in the same manner give the venerable air of antiquity to your piece by darkening it up and down with old English. With this you may be easily furnished upon any occasion by the dictionary commonly printed at the end of Chaucer.
I must not conclude without cautioning all writers without genius in one material point, which is, never to be afraid of having too much fire in their works. I should advise rather to take their warmest thoughts, and spread them abroad upon paper; for they are observed to cool before they are read.
[Footnote 8: A letter to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. The mansion here described is Stanton Harcourt, near the hamlet of Cokethorpe in Oxfordshire. Here the Harcourts had lived since the twelfth century. At the date of Pope's letter, it was the seat of Simon Harcourt, first viscount, but Simon's father, Sir Philip Harcourt, for many years was the last of the family actually to live there, his widow afterward permitting the buildings to fall into the state of decay which Pope describes. In the tower is an upper chamber over the chapel which still bears the name of "Pope's Study." It was there, in 1718, that Pope finished the fifth volume of his translation of Homer. Simon, the first viscount, had taken up his residence at Stanton Harcourt a short time before the date of Pope's letter—that is, about 1715. He frequently had as guests Pope, Swift, Gay and Prior, being himself fond of literary pursuits. Twelve letters written to him by Pope have been preserved among the family papers. Pope, in his letter to Lady Mary, of September 1, 1718, which here follows the one beginning on the previous page, in referring to the mansion uses the words, "which he lent me," indicating that Pope was occupying the mansion at the invitation of Lord Harcourt. Swift and Harcourt sometimes quarreled over political matters, in which Harcourt was prominent. On one occasion Swift called him "Trimming Harcourt."]
[Footnote 9: A letter dated September 1, 1718, and addrest to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who was then living in Turkey. Pope and she afterward (about 1722) quarreled bitterly. Leslie Stephen, discussing the matter, says "the extreme bitterness with which Pope ever afterward assailed her can be explained most plausibly, and least to his discredit, upon the assumption that his extravagant expressions of gallantry covered some real passion." If this be a true inference, his passion "was probably converted into antipathy by the contempt with which she received his declaration."]
[Footnote 10: Her husband, Edward Wortley Montagu, the name Montagu having been added for reasons connected with a family estate.]
[Footnote 11: From the Guardian.]
[Footnote 12: "Belianis of Greece" was a continuation of the romance "Amadis of Gaul," which was published in Spanish in 1547, and translated into English in 1598. The author was Jeronimo Fernandez.]