Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

satisfaction of the audience, which being finished, he threw the pamphlet on the table: that piece, gentlemen," says he, “is written in the very spirit and manner of Cervantes; there is great knowledge of human nature, and evident marks of the master in almost every sentence; and from the plan, the humor, and the execation, I can venture to say that it dropped from the pen of the ingenious Dr. -” Every one was pleased with the performance, and I was particularly gratified in hearing all the sensible part of the company give orders for the British Magazine. I was surprised, and even disgusted, to find in this odd assembly several gentlemen of exceeding good sense, but was somewhat satisfied when they told me, that they were drawn thither for want of business and diversions, and that this want had established a Wow-wow, or meeting of News-hunters, in every town in the kingdom. “This odd mixture of company," says one of them, “may to you, Sir, seem disagreeable; but in the country a man must elub his talents thus unequally, or seclude himself from company entirely; and though this meeting may give you no favorable idea of a country life, it will convince you that the human race, as well as other animals, are impatient for society, and that a man of sense would rather converse with his cook-maid than be alone, and especially if she be handsome."

lett appears to have executed his task with very little premeditation. During a part of the time he was residing at Paxmore, in Berwickshire, on a visit to the late George Home, Esq., and when post-time drew near, he used to retire for half an hour or an hour, to prepare the necessary quantity of copy, as it is technically called in the printing house, which he never gave himself the trouble to correct, or even to read over.”—SIR W. Scott, Prose Wo-ks, vol. iji. p. 149.)

ESSAY XXV.

ON ABUSE OF OUR ENEMIES.

As one of Alexander's soldiers was railing against the Per sians, condemning the whole nation as a pack of cowardly, effem inate, and perfidious scoundrels, “ my friend," cries the hero, over. hearing him, "I have employed you to fight the Persians, not to scold them.” The English have learned to fight like Alexander; they have done more; they have relieved those enemies in distress which their valor subdued; they have surpassed the old Macedonians in bravery and generosity; could they learn to scold their enemies less, all the world must own their superiority in politeness, as well as in arms and humanity.

I must own, nothing gives me more uneasiness in conversation, than to hear men talk of the French with detestation; to hear them condemned as guilty of every vice, and scarcely allowed any national virtue. I am the more displeased at such ignorant assertions because they are false, and because I don't much care to contradict them. To speak well of France in some companies, is almost as bad as if one acknowledged himself to be a spy; I am obliged, therefore, to sit silent, while I hear unlettered men talk of a people they do not know, and condemn them in the gross they know not why.

The French have been long acknowledged to have much bravery; a great part of Europe has owned their superiority in this respect; and I know scarcely any country but that which has beaten them, that dares deny the contrary. In short, I consider them in the same light with the subordinate characters in an epio poem, who are generally described as very terrible, only to height en our idea of the hero who conquers them.

To beat the French, and to scold them too, is out-heroding Herod; if we were not able to knock them o' the head, I should not be displeased if we showed our resentment by addressing their ears with reproach; but as it is, we only resemble a country justice, who, not content with putting a culprit in the stocks, stands by to reproach him for getting there.

Jack Reptile is a professed Antigallican; he gets drunk with French wine three times a week. To convince the world of his detestation of Monsieur Soup-maigre, he assures the company he has once, when he was young, boxed three Frenchmen, “ one down t'other come on," and beat them all; he wonders how French scoundrels can live who eat nothing but salads and frogs the year round. Jack hates every thing that is French, except their wine, and has been known to quarrel with some of his countrymen for wearing a bag-wig. His virulence against the enemy has even soured his disposition to his friends, and he seems never happy except when indulging invective.

If the present war or its causes happen to be the subject of conversation, he lays all the blame upon them alone, and can see neither avarice nor injustice in the planters of our side. If peace be the topic,“ his counsel is for open war;" nor can he think any terms honorable or advantageous that do not put us in possession, not only of all we have conquered, but almost all the enemy have to lose. Thus, while our soldiers earn victory abroad, Jack enjoys the price of it at home, and, unacquainted with the perils they endure, seems unmindful how long they undergo them. War gives him no uneasiness; he sits and soaks in profound security; the distresses, the calamities of mankind, neither interrupt his tranquillity, nor lesson his draught; the miseries of his fellow-creatures, like the pictures of a battle, serve rather to excite pleasure than pain.

Ten thousand fallen on one field make a curious article in the gazette. Hundreds sunk to the bottom by one broadside, furnish out the topic of the day. and zest his coffee : the very tempest guides him to his harbor. In short, he fancies he shows his loyalty by reproaches, and his courage by continuing the war.

What I would intend by all this, is to persuade my countrymen by the fireside to behave with the same degree of merit with those in the field; while they cover us with glory abroad, let us not tarnish it by invectives at home. I scarce read a periodical

paper that is not filled with indecencies of this kind, and as many of these papers pass into other countries, what idea will they form, not only of our good sense but humanity, when they see us thus depreciating the enemies we have subdued ? This, in fact, is lessening ourselves. An easy conquest is no very honor

I remember to have heard M. Voltaire observe, in a large company at his house at Monrion,* that at the battle of Dettingen, the English exhibited prodigies of valor; but they soon lessened their well-bought conquest, by lessening the merit of those they had conquered. Their despising the French then, he continued to observe, was probably the cause of their defeat at Fontenoy: one army fought with all the security of presumption; the other with the fury of men willing to rescue their char. acter from undeserved contempt.

able one.

ESSAY XXVI.

THE GODDESS OF SILENCE;

To the Ladies of London and Westminster, GREETING.

Ladies; though I am personally acquainted with but few of you; though an utter stranger at all your modern entertainments, routs, drums, or assemblies; yet as I was once well known

* (Ste Life, ch. v.]

to your grandmothers, and am still in some esteem with your husbands and lovers, I must be permitted to offer my complaint; I must beg leave to introduce my petition upon the strength of former intimacy, even though I should be heard with as much disgust as the poorest of your poor relations.

It is now many years since I was obliged to give up the amusements of town, and fly to a retreat in the country. I own I retired with reluctance, and fondly imagined you would have felt equal reluctance at my departure; but instead of this I find no single creature regrets my absence; every pretty mouth strives which shall make most poise, and all seem to conspire in thinking that company best where I am totally excluded.

And yet, Ladies, I have some right to expostulate against this ingratitude, for I will appeal to the opposite sex, whether you ever had in Great Britain a sincerer friend than I. I have made more matches in my time than a grass widow, and have reconciled more matrimonial disputes than the fears of pin-money, or a separate maintenance. I have taught ladies how to get husbands, and the harder lesson still, how to keep them; and yet for all this I am discarded, rejected from all polite society.

But I am not only deposed; the Goddess of Discord has been set up in my stead; all your pleasures seem dictated by her direction; she is constituted mistress of the ceremonies, if I can call that ceremony which is noise and confusion; it is she alone that prescribes the drum, the ball, and the tempests; 'tis she increases the hurry of ridottas, whirlwinds, routs, hurricanes but my head aches; I must discontinue a catalogue of names more grating than a curtain lecture, or the grenadier's march.

I never think of the power I once enjoyed without regret; in those happy times when the beautiful sex was dressed in ruffs and fardingales; when your grandmothers showed their skill, not in playing piquet, but in making pies; and were equally remark

« ZurückWeiter »