« ZurückWeiter »
Upon applying to the commentators for a solution of my doubts, they heard me with the utmost contempt and indignation, and instead of argument, began to proceed to invective. Happily for me, they were but shades, otherwise I might have expected a much more injurious treatment; and I should certainly have fallen beneath the hands of this
men, who gloried in the title of Modernicides. Eustathius,* however, made up to me with looks of vehement indignation ; and lifting up his nervous arm, would have made me feel the force of his resentment, had I not been happily saved from the blow by waking from my dream.
HISTORY OF MISS STANTON.
I am apt to fancy you are frequently imposed upon by your correspondents with fictitious stories of distress; such indeed may have real merit in the design, as they promote that tenderness and benevolent love to each other by example, which didactic writers vainly attempt by maxim or reproof: but as they happen to want the sanction of truth, so are they frequently unnatural, and often betray that art which it should be every writer's endeavor to conceal.
If the following story is found to have any real merit, it must be wholly ascribed to that sincerity which guides the pen. I am
(Eustathius, bishop of Thessalonica, lived in the twelfth century. His commentaries upon Ilomer were first published with the text of Rome, 1550.)
+ [In this little narrative, which has not been included in any former edi. tion of Goldsmith's works, we find something like the first rude germ of the Vicar of Wakefield ; the catastrophe is indeed unnatural and abrupt. The story was probably hurried to a conclusion when the press required an imme. diate supply of matter. See Life, ch. ix.]
unused to correspond with magazines ; nor should now have walked from obscurity, if not convinced that a true though artless tale would be useful, and sensible that I could not give it a better conveyance to the public, than by diffusing it by means of your magazine.
Within ten miles of H., a town in the north of England, Mr. Stanton, a clergyman with a small fortune, had long resided; and, by a continued perseverance in benevolence and his duty, was esteemed by the rich, and beloved by the poor. He entertained the little circle of his friends with the produce of his glebe; the repast was frugal, but amply recompensed by the cheerfulness of the entertainer. He every evening sat by the wayside to welcome the passing stranger, where he was brought in for the night, and welcomed to a cup of cheerful ale and a glimmering fire. The parson inquired the news of the day, was solicitous to know how the world went, and, as the stranger told some new story, the entertainer would give some parallel instance from antiquity, or some occurrence of his youth. In this manner he had lived for twenty years, bound by every endearment to his parishioners, but particularly attached to one only daughter; the staff of his old age, the pride of the parish, praised by all for her understanding and beauty; and, what is more extraordinary, perfectly deserving all that praise.
As men increase in years, those attachments which are divided on a multiplicity of objects, gradually centre in one; the
young have many objects of affection, the aged generally but one. This was the case of Mr. Stanton; every year his love to his dear Fanny increased; in her he saw all her mother's beauty; her appearance every moment reminded him of his former happiness, and in her he expected to protract his now declining life. Thoroughly to feel his tenderness for his child we must be parents ourselves; he undertook to educate her himself, taught his lovely scholar all he knew, and found her sometimes even surpass her master. He expected her every morning to take his lessons in morality, pointed out her studies for the day; and as to music and dancing, those he had her instructed in by the best masters the country could afford. Though such an education generally forms a female pedant, yet Fanny was found to steer between those happy extremes of a thoughtless giggler and a formal reasoner ; could heighten the hours of pleasure with gayety and spirit, and improve every serious interval with good sense of her own, and a happy condescension for those qualities in others.
In this manner she and her father continued to improve each other's happiness; and as she grew up, she took the care of the family under her direction. A life of such tranquillity and undisturbed repose seemed a foretaste of that to come; when a gentleman, whom I may be permitted to call Dawson, happened to travel that way. A travelling rake seldom goes to church, except with a design of seeing the ladies of the country, and this induced the gentleman I refer to, to enter that of Mr. Stanton. Among the various objects that offered, none appeared half so lovely as the poor clergyman's daughter; she seemed, indeed, to surpass any thing he had ever seen before.
Mr. Dawson was thirty-six years of age, tolerably well made, and with such a face as is not much impaired by arriving at the middle period of life : but what he wanted in personal beauty, he made up in a perfect knowledge of the world; he had travelled through Europe, and been improved in sentiment and address. He knew perfectly all the windings of the human heart; had kept the very best company; and consequently appeared no way superior to those whose good opinions he endeavored to conciliate.
This was only one side of his character; the reverse was marked with dissimulation, a passionate admiration, and yet what .
only seems an inconsistence, at the same time a perfect con. tempt for the beautiful sex. He had fortune to second this insi dious way of thinking, and perseverance to carry all his schemes into execution. If the passion he felt at church upon seeing the innocent subject of my story can be called love, he loved with the utmost ardor; he had been long unacquainted with any obstacles to his illicit desires, and therefore expected none now.
Dressing himself, therefore, in the habit of a scholar, with a stick in his hand, he, the evening following, walked with seeming fatigue before Mr. Stanton's door, where he expected to find him and his daughter sitting. As he expected, it happened: the old man, perceiving a stranger dressed in black, with a gray wig, passing wearily by his door, was touched at once with pity and curiosity, and instantly invited him in. To this the stranger testified some reluctance; but the daughter joining in her father's intercessions, he was soon prevailed upon to come in, and refresh himself with a cup of home-brewed, which had been made under miss's own inspection. The wily traveller knew how to make the best of this invitation ; he complaisantly left his wallet and his staff at the door; the earthen mug went round. Miss touched the cup, the stranger pledged the parson, the reserve of strangeness soon was dissipated; the story was told, and another was given in return. The poor old man found his guest infinitely amusing, desired to hear an account of his travels, of the dangers he had passed, the books he had written, and the countries he had seen.
But miss was peculiarly charmed with his conversation : she had hitherto known only 'squires and neighboring parsons, men really ignorant, or without sufficient art to conceal the art they use. But the insidious Mr. Dawson had learned in courts the whole art of pleasing; and with the most apparent simplicity joined the most consummate address.
When night began to fall, he made some modest though re luctant efforts to withdraw; but the old man, whose bed was ever ready for a stranger, invited him once more to stay; and at the same time he read in the daughter's eyes how very agreeable would be a compliance with her father's request.
This was what he ardently wished for. To abridge the tediousness of the narrative: he thus passed several days in their company, until he at last found he had strongly fixed himself in the young lady's affections. He now thought it the most convenient way to add the blaze of fortune to the stroke he had already given; and, after a fortnight's stay, invited the clergy man and his daughter to his house, about forty miles distant from theirs. • He soon got over all their objections to the journey; and one of the principal obstructions he immediately obviated, by ordering his equipage to their door. As before they had been astonished at the wisdom, so now were they astonished at the grandeur of their new companion: they accepted his proposal with pleasure, nor did the deluded Fanny even suppress some forebodings of ambition.
His address now at once indicated his effrontery and experience of the sex, Assiduous in all his actions, patient after a repulse, again attempting and again rejected, he at length succeeded in his villanous design, and found that happiness he by no means deserved to possess.
Not able to suppress his triumph at such a dearly earned favor, it was soon discovered as a secret to some of his friends, who Boon delivered it as such to others; and the unhappy Miss Stanton's infamy was common before it reached the ears of her father.
Soon, however, the old man became acquainted with her folly, and the disgrace of his unhappy family. Agonizing, despairing, half mad, what could he do! The child of his heart, the only object that stept between him and the horrors of the approaching grave was pow contaminated forever; he was now declined in the