Imagens da página

when signing treaties on horseback', to cultivate a clear running hand'. Distinguished as he was above other men in his fame and in his fortunes', I believe we may also concede to him the honour of having written the worst', possible hand', decipherable by human ingenuity'. And when we find', from the facsimiles of some of his early despatches', how abominably he spelled', as well as wrote', we are led to infer', that a defective education', and an eagle-eyed ambition which soon began to gaze too steadily at the sun', to regard the motes in the atmosphere', will sufficiently account for a matter of so small import ance-to so great a man', without resorting to metaphysical âid' to account for his bad writing'.

But to leave this droughty and prosing disquisition', I am minded to illustrate both the evils and the advantages of bad or illegible writing', by incidents’ which have occurred', or are easily supposable', in real life'. My poor old master', against whose memory I cherish no malice', notwithstanding his fre quent sustigation of my youthful knuckles', when he despaired of my profiting', either by the unction of his precepts', or the sore application of his ruler', endeavoured to frighten me into amendment by examples'. He composed for my use', a digested chronicle of casualties which had befallen those who perpetrated unseemly scrawls'; and after the manner of Swift', entitled his tract', “ God's Revenge against Cacography'." I have long since lost the precious gift'; but I have not forgotten all the legends it contained'.

The tale is old of the English gentleman' who had procured for his friend a situation in the service of the East India Com. pany', and who was put to unprofitable expense by misreading an epistle', in which the latter endeavoured to express his gratitude'. “ Having'," said the absentee', “ been thus placed in a post where I am sure of a regular salary', and where I have it in my power', while I enjoy health', to lay up something every year to provide for the future', I am not unmindful of my

benefactor', and mean soon to send you an equivalent'.Such a villanous hand did this grateful Indian write', that the gentleman thought he meant soon to send him an elephant'. Accordingly', he erected a large outhouse for the unwieldy pet'; but never got any thing to put into it', except a little pot of sweetmeats', and an additional bundle of compliments'.

Few who have read the newspapers', have not seen an anecdote of an amateur of queer animals', who sent an order to Africa for two monkeys. The word two', as he 'wrote it', so

In'sė.dents-not, dunts. Jèn'tl-mån--not, mun.

resembled the figures 100', that his literal and single-minded agent was somewhat perplexed in executing this commission', as it compelled him to make war on the whole nation'. And great was the naturalist's surprise and perplexity, when he received a letter', informing him', in mercantile phraseology', that 80 monkeys had been shipped', as per copy of the bill of lading enclosed', and that his correspondent hoped to be able to execute the rest of the order in time for the next vessel'.

Many', too', must have read a story which appeared in the English newspapers', a few months since', of the distressful predicament into which a poor fisherman's wife was thrown by the receipt of a letter from her husband', who had been absent from home', with several of his brethren', beyond the ordinary time'. The honest man stated', in piscatorial phrase', the causes of his detention', and what luck he had met with in his fishing': But the conclusion of his bulletin', as spelled by his loving', amphibious helpmate', was as follows': 'I AM NO MORE'! The poor woman gazed awhile on this fatal', official intelligence of her husband's demise', and then on her eleven now fatherless infants'; and then she burst into a paroxysm of clamorous sorrow', which drew around her the consorts of seventeen other fishermen who had departed in company with the deceased man'. None of them could read'; but they caught from the widow's broken lamentations', the contents of the supernatural postscript'; and taking it for granted', that they had all been served in the same manner by the treacherous element', they all listed up their voices', and the corners of their aprons', and made an ululation worthy of so many forsaken mermaids'. In the words of the poet', they made “ 'igh water in the sea',” whose margin they stood'; when one of the overseers of the poor', who came to the spot', alarmed by the rumour that the parish was like to be burdened with eighteen new widows', and a hundred and odd parcel of orphans', snatched the letter from the weeping Thetis', and silenced the grief of the company', by making out its conclusion correctly', which was', 'I add no more'.'

There is a memorable passage in our annals', which must be familiar to those who have read the old chronicles and records of our early', colonial history'. I allude to the consternation into which the General Court of the Massachusetts', and their associated settlements', were thrown', when their clerk read to them a letter from a worthy divine', purporting', that he addressed them', not as magistrates', but as a set of Indian Devils'.



The horrour-stricken official paused in his prelection', aghast as was the clerk in England'—for whose proper psalm a wag had substituted · Chevy Chase','—when he came to the words',

woful hunting';' He looked at the manuscript again', and after a thorough examination', exclaimed', “yea'! it is Indian Devils'.” A burst of indignation from the grave Sanhedrim', long', loud', and deep', followed this declaration'. They would all have better brooked to be called by the name of Baptists', Papists', or any other pestilent hereticks', than to be branded as the very heathen', whom they had themselves never scrupled to compliment by calling them children of Beelzebub'. If I remember aright', the venerable Cotton Mather notes', in his biographies of the eminent divines of his day', that the innocent offender was', in this instance', roughly handled by the secular arm of justice', for insulting the dignitaries both of church and state', before he had an opportunity of convincing his brother dignitaries', that the offensive epithet', Indian Devils', was a pure mistake in their manner of reading his epistle'; inasmuch as he had meant to employ the more harmless phrase', Individuals'. The apology was accepted'; though', I observe', that the latter .word is', at present', deemed impolite', if not actionable', in Kentucky'; and is as provoking to a citizen of that state', as it was to dame Quickly to be called a woman', and a thing to thank God on', by Sir John Falstaff'.


The Monk.-STERNE. A POOR Monk of the order of St. Francis', came into the room to beg something for his convent'. The moment I cast my eyes upon him', I was determined not to give him a single sous', and', accordingly', I put my purse into my pocket', buttoned it up', set myself a little more upon my centre', and advanced gravely up to him. There was something', I fear', forbidding in my look'. I have his picture this moment before my eyes', and think there was that in it which deserves better'.

The Monk', as I judged from the break in his tonsure', (a few scattered white hairs upon his temples being all that remained of it',) might be about seventy'; but from his eyes', and that sort of fire that was in them', which seemed more tempered by courtesy than years', could be no more than sixty':--Truth might lie between'. He was certainly sixty-five'; and the gen

[ocr errors]

eral air of his countenance', notwithstanding something seemed to have been planting wrinkles in it before their time', agreed to the account'.

It was one of those heads which Guido nas often painted mild', pale', penetrating'; free from all common-place ideas of fat', contented ignorance', looking downwards upon the earth'. It looked forward'; but looked as if it beheld something beyond this world'. How one of his order came by it', heaven above', who let it fall upon a Monk's shoulders', best knows'; but it would have suited a Bramin'; and had I met it upon

the plains of Hindostan', I had reverenced it'.

The rest of his outline may be given in a few strokes': it might be put into the hands of any one to design'; for it was neither elegant', nor otherwise', but as character and expression made it so'. It was a thin', spare form', somewhat above the common size', if it lost not the distinction by a bend forward in the figure'-but this was the attitude of entreaty'; and as it now stands present to my imagination', it gains more than it loses by it'.

When he had entered the room three paces', he stood still'; and laying his left hand upon his breast', (a slender', white staff with which he journeyed', being in his right',) when I had got close up to him', he introduced himself with the little story of the wants of his convent', and the poverty of his order'; and did it with so simple a grace', and such an air of deprecation was there in the whole cast of his look and figure',—that I must have been bewitched' .. not to have been struck with it'. ' A better reason was', I had predetermined not to give him a single sous'.

'Tis very true', said I', replying to a cast upwards with his eyes', with which he had concluded his address' =tis


true'; and Heaven be their resource', who have no other than the charity of the world'; the stock of which', I fear', is no way sufficient for the many great claims that are hourly made

upon it'.

As I pronounced the words great claims', he gave a slight glance with his eyes downwards upon the sleeve of his tunick'. -I felt the full force of the appeal'.-I acknowledge it', said ['-a coarse hâbit', and that but once in three years', with a meager diet', are no great matters'; but the true point of pity considers that the comforts of life can be earned in the world with but little industry', and that your order wishes to procure them by pressing upon a fund which is the property of the lame', the blind', the aged', and the infirm';~the captive', who lies down counting over and over again the days of his afflic. tion', languishes also for his share of it'. Had you been of the order of mercy', instead of the order of St. Francis', poor as I am', continued I', pointing to my portmanteau', full cheerfully should it have been opened to you for the ransom of the unfor. tunate'. The monk made me a bow'. But', resumed I', the unfortunate of our own country', surely have the first rights'; and I have left thousands in distress upon the English shore'. The Monk gave a cordial wave with his head', as much as to say', - No doubt'; there is misery enough in every corner of the world', as well as within our convent'.' But we distinguish', said I', laying my hand upon the sleeve of his tunick', in return for his appeal', we distinguish', my good father', betwixt those who wish only to eat the bread of their own labour', and those who eat the bread of other people's', and have no other plan in life than to get through it in sloth and ignorance for the love of God'! The poor

Franciscan made no reply'; a hectick of a moment passed across his cheek', but it could not tarry'. Nature seemed to have done with her resentments in him'. He showed none'; but letting his staff fall within his arm', he pressed both his hands on his breast with resignation', and retired'.

My heart smote me the moment he shut the door':-Pshaw'! said I', with an air of carelessness', three several times'. But it would not do':

every ungracious syllable I had uttered', crowded back upon my imagination'. I reflected that I had no right over the poor Franciscan but to deny him'; and that the punishment of that was enough to the disappointed', without the addition of unkind language'. I considered his gray hairs'; his courteous figure seemed to re-enter', and gently ask me', what injury he had done me', and why I could use him thus'? I would have given twenty livres for an advocate':- I have behaved very ill', said I within myself'; but I have only just set out upon my travels', and shall learn better manners as I get along'


Story of Le Fever.-STERNE. It was some time in the summer of that year in which Den dermond was taken by the allies', when my uncle Toby was one evening getting his supper', with Trim sitting behind him at a small sideboard'-I say', sitting', for', in consideration of

« AnteriorContinuar »