« ZurückWeiter »
Minister, and I was disappointed on meeting him in after life to find he was no more than six feet high.
Dick Steele, the Charterhouse gownboy, contracted such an admiration in the years of his childhood, and retained it faithfully through his life. Through the school and through the world, wbithersoever his strange fortune led this erring, wayward, affectionate creature, Joseph Addison was always his head boy. Addison wrote his exercises. Addison did his best themes. He ran on Addison's messages : fagged for him and blacked his shoes: to be in Joe's company was Dick's greatest pleasure ; and he took a sermon or a caning from his monitor with the most boundless reverence, acquiescence, and affection.*
Steele found Addison a stately college Don at Oxford, and himself did not make much tigre at this place. He wrote a comedy, which, by the advice of a friend, the humble fellow burned there, and some verses, which I dare say are as sublime as other gentlemen's composition at that age; but being smitten with a sudden love for military glory, he threw up the cap and gown for the saddle and bridle, and rode privately in the Horse Guards, in the Duke of Ormond's troop — the second — ancı probably, with the rest of the gentlemen of his troop, “all mounted on black horses with white feathers in their hats, and scarlet coats richly laced,” marched by King William, in Hyde Park, in November, 1699, and a great show of the nobility, besides twenty thousand people, and above a thousand coaches. " The Guards had just got their new clothes,” the London Pust said: “they are extraordinary grand, and thought to be the finest body of horse in the world.” But Steele could hardly have seen any actual service. He who wrote about himself, his mother, his wife, his loves, his debts, his friends, and the wine be drank, would have told us of his battles if he had seen any. His old patron, Ormond, probably got him his cornetey in the Guards, from which he was promoted to be a captain in Lucas's Fusiliers, getting his company through the patronage of Lord Cutts, whose secretary he was, and to whom he dedicated his work called the “ Christian Hero.” As for Dick, whilst writing this ardent devotional work, he was deep in debt, in drink, and in all the follies of the town; it is related that all the officers of Lucas's, and the gentlemen of the Guarris, laughed at Dick.* And in truth a theologian in liquor is not a
* “Steele had the greatest veneration for Addison, and used to show it, in all companies, in a particular manner. Addison, now and then, used to play a little upon him; but he always took it well.” – Pope. Spence's Anecdotes.
“Sir Richard Steele was the best-natured creature in the world: even in his worst state of health, he seemed to desire nothing but to please and he pleased.” – Dr. Youso. Sence's Anecdotes
The gayety of his dramatic tone may be seen in this little scene he tween two brilliant sisters, from his comedy “The Funeral, or Grief à la Mode.” Dick wrote this, he said, from “ a necessity of enlivening his char. acter,” which, it seemed, the “ Christian Hero” had a tendency to make too decorous, grave, and respectable in the eyes of readers of that pious piece. (Scene drous and discorers LADY CHARLOTTE, reading at a talle, - LADY
Harriet, playing at a glass, to and fio, and viewing herself.] “ L. IIa. – Nay, good sister, you may as well talk to me (looking at herself as she speaks) as sit staring at a book which I know you can't attend.
- Good Dr. Lucas may have writ there what he pleases, but there's no putting Francis, Lord Hardy, now Earl of Brumpton, out of your head, or making him absent from your eyes. Do but look on me, now, and deny it if you can.
“ L. Ch. You are the maddest girl (smiling).
“ L. Ha. - Look ye, I knew you could not say it and forbear laughing Llooking over Charlotte): – Oh! I see liis name as plain as you do — F-r-8-n, Fran, c-i-s, cis, Francis, 'tis in every line of the book.
“L. Ch. (rising). — It's in vain, I see, to mind anything in such imper. tinent company
but granting 't were as you say, as to iny Lord Hardy – 'tis more excusable to admire another than oneself.
“ L. Ha. — No, I think not, - yes, I grant you, than really to be rain of one's person, but I don't admire myself - Pish! I don't believe my eyes to have that softness. (Looking in the glass. They a’n't so piercing: 10, 'tis only stuff, the men will be talking. Some people are such admirers of teeth – Lord, what signifies teeth! (Showing her terth.) A very blackamoor has as white a set of teeth as I. — No, sister, I don't admire myseil, but I've a spirit of contradiction in me: I don't know I'm in love with my. self, only to rival the men.
“L. Ch. — Ay, but Mr. Campley will gain ground ev’n of that rival of his, your dear seif.
• L. Ha. -Oh, what have I done to you, that you should name that insolent intruder ? A confident, opionative fop. No, indeed, if I am, as a poetical lover of mine sighed and sung of both sexes,
The public envy and the public care, I shan't be so easily catched - I thank him - I want but to be sure I should beartily torment him by banishing him, and then consider whether le should depart this life or not.
“ L. Ch. – Indeed, sister, to be serious with you, this vanity in your humor does not at all become you.
“ L. Ila. – Vanity! All the matter is, we gay people are more sincere than you wise folks : all your life's an art. — Speak your soul. — Look you there. – [Hauling her to the glass.] Are you not struck with a secret pleasure when you view that bloom in your look, that harmony in your shape, that promptitude in your mein ?
“L. Ch.- Well, simpleton, if I am at first so simple as to be a little taken with myself, I know it a fault, and take pains to correct it.
respectable object, and a hermit, though he may be out at elbows, must not be in debt to the tailor. Steele says of himself that he was always sioning and repenting. He beat his breast and cried most piteously when he did repent: but as soon as crying had made him thirsty, he fell to sinning again. In that charming paper in the l'atler, in which he records his father's death, his mother's griefs, his own most solemn and tender emotions, he says he is interrupted by the arrival of a hamper of wine, “ the same as is to be sold at Garraway's, next week ;” upon the receipt of which le sends for three friends, and they fall to instantly, “ drinking two bottles apiece, with great benefit to themselves, and not separating till two o'clock in the morning."
Ilis life was so. Jack the drawer was always interrupting it, bringing him a bottle from the “ Rose,” or inviting him over to a bout there with Sir Plume and Mr. Diver; and Dick wiped his eyes, which were whimpering over his papers, took down his laced hat, put on his sword and wig, kissed his wife and children, told them a lie about pressing business, and went off to the “ Rose" to the jolly fellows.
While Mr. Addison was abroad, and after he came home in rather a dismal way to wait upon Providence in his shabby lodging in the Haymarket, young Captain Steele was cutting a much smarter figure than that of his classical friend of Charterhouse Cloister and Maudlin Walk. Could not some painter give an interview between the gallant captain of Lucas's, with his hat cocked, and his lace, and his face too, a trifle tarnished with drink, and that poet, that philosopher, pale, proud, and poor, his friend and monitor of school-days, of all days? How Dick must have bragged about his chances and his hopes, and the fine company he kept, and the charms of the reigning toasts and popular actresses, and the number of bottles that be and my lord and some other pretty fellows bad cracked
“ L. Ha. Psbaw! Pshaw! Talk this musty tale to old Mrs. Fardingale, 'tis too soon for me to think at that rate.
L. Ch. - They that think it too soon to understand themselves will very soon find it too late – But tell me honestly, don't you like Campley ?
* L. Ho. — The fellow is not to be abhorred, if the forward thing did not think of getting me so easily. -- Of, I hate a heart I can't break when 1 please.
What makes the value of dear china, but that 'tis so britile? - were it not for that, you might as well have stone mugs in your closet.” The funeral, Oct. 2nii.
“ We knew the obligations the stage had to his writings [Steele's]; there Ling searcely a comedian of merit in our whole company whom huis Tul. brs liad not made better by his recommendation of them.” CIBUER.
over-night at the “Devil,” or the “Garter!” Cannot one fancy Joseph Addison's calm smile and cold gray eyes following Dick for an instant, as he struts down the Mall, to dine with the Guard at St. James's, before he turns with his sober pace and threadbare suit, to walk back to his lodginys up the two pair of stairs? Steele's name was down for promotion, Dick always said himself, in the glorious, pious, and immortal Willian's last table-book. Jonathan Swift's name had been written there by the same hand too.
Our worthy friend, the author of the "Christian Hero," continued to make no small figure about town by the use of his wits.* He was appointed Gazetteer: he wrote, in 1703, " The Tender Husband,” his second play, in which there is soine delightful farcical writing, and of which he fondly owned in after-life, and when Addison was no more, that there were “ many applauded strokes” from Addison's beloved hand.i Is it not a pleasant partnership to remember? Can't one fancy Steele full of spirits and youth, leaving his gay company to go to Addison's lodging, where his friend sits in the shabby sittingroom, quite serene, and cheerful, and poor? In 1704, Steele came on the town with another comedy, and behold it was so moral and religious, as poor Dick insisted, so dull the town thought, — that the ". Lying Lover” was damned.
Addison's hour of success now came, and he was able to help our friend the “ Christian Hero” in such a way, that, if there had been any chance of keeping that poor tipsy champion upon his legs, his fortune was safe, and his competence assured. Steele procured the place of Commissioner of Stamps: he wrote so richly, so gracefully often, so kindly always, with
* “There is not now in his sight that excellent man, whom Heaven made his friend and superior, to be at a certain place in pain for what he should say or do. I will go on in his further encouragement. The best woman that ever man had cannot now lament and pine at his neglect of himself.”— STEELE (of himself] : The Theatre. No. 12, Feb. 1719-20.
+ “The Funeral” supplies an admirable stroke of humor, - one which Sydney Smith has used as an illustration of the faculty in his Lectures.
The undertaker is talking to his employés about their duty;
Sable. — “ Ha, you! – A little more upon the dismal [ forming their countenances] ; this fellow has a good mortal look, — place him near the corpse: that wainscot-face must be o' top of the stairs; that fellow's almost in a fright (that looks as if he were full of some strange misery) at the end of the hall.' So – But I'll fix you all myself. Let's have no laughing now on any provocation. Look yonder, – that hale, well-looking puppy! You ungrateful scoundrel, did not I pity you, take you out of a great man's service, and show you the pleasure of receiving wages? Did not I gie you ten, then fifteen, and twenty shillings a week to be sorrowful ? — and the song 1 give you I think the gladder you are!”
such a pleasant wit and easy frankness, with such a gush of good spirits and good humor, that his early papers may be compared to Addison's own, and are to be read, by a male reader at least, with quite an equal pleasure.*
* “FROM MY OWN APARTMENT, Nov. 16. " There are several persons who have many pleasures and entertainments in their possession, which they do not enjoy; it is, therefore, a kind and good office to acquaint them with their own happiness, and turn their attention to such instances of their good fortune as they are apt to overlook. Persons in the married state often want such a monitor; and pine away their days by looking upon the same condition in anguish and nurmuring, which carries with it, in the opinion of others, a complication of all the pleasures of life, and a retreat from its inquietudes.
* I am led into this thought by a visit I made to an old friend wlio was formerly my schoolfellow. He came to town last week, with his family, for the winter; and yesterday morning sent me word his wife expected me to dinner. I am, as it were, at home at that house, and every member of it knows me for their well-wisher. I cannot, indeed, express the pleasure it is to be met by the children with so much joy as I am when I go thither. The boys and girls strive who shall come first, when they think it is I that am knocking at the door; and that child which loses the race to me runs back again to tell the father it is Mr. Bickerstaff. This day I was led in by a pretty girl that we all thought must have forgot me; for the family has been out of town these two years. Her knowing me again was a mighty subject with us, and took up our discourse at the first entrance ; after which, they began to rally me upon a thousand little stories they heard in the country, about my marriage to one of my neighbors' daughters; upon which, the gentleman, my friend, said, 'Nay; if Mr. Bickerstaff marries a child of any of his old companions, I hope mine shall have the preference: there is Mrs. Mary is now sixteen, and would make him as fine a widow as the best of them. But I know him too well; he is so enamored with the very memory of those who flourished in our youth, that he will not so much as look upon the modern beauties. I remember, old gentleman, how often you went home in a day to refresh your countenance and dress when Teraminta reigned in your heart. As we came up in the coach, I repeated to my wife some of your verses on her.' With such reflections on little passages which happened long ago, we passed our time during a cheerful and elegant meal. After dinner his lady left the room, as did also the children. As soon as we were alone, he took me by the hand: 'Well, my good friend,' says he, 'I am heartily glad to see thee; I was afraid you would never liave seen all the company that dined with you to-day again. Do not you think the good woman of the house a little altered since you followed her from the playhouse to find out who she was for me?' I perceived a tear fall down his cheek as he spoke, which moved me not a little. But, to turn the discourse, I said, 'She is not, indeed, that creature she was when she returned me the letter I carried from you, and cold me, "She hoped, as I was a gentleman, I would be employed no more to trouble her, who had never offended me; but would be so much the gentleman's friend as to dissuade him from a pursuit which he could never succeed in." You may remember I thought her in earnest, and you were forced to employ your cousin Will, who made his sister get acquainted with her for you. You cannot expect her to be forever fifteen.' • Fifteen!' replied my good friend. 'Ah! you little understand – you that have