Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

way, to read Shakspeare with care; and they will soon be deterred from putting forth what is usually called tragedy. The way of common writers in this kind is rather the description than the expression of sorrow. There is no medium in these attempts, and you must go to the very bottom of the heart, or it is all mere language; and the writer of such lines is no more a poet, than a man is a physician for knowing the names of distempers, without the causes of them. Men of sense are professed enemies to all such empty labours; for he who pretends to be sorrowful, and is not, is a wretch yet more contemptible than he who pretends to be merry and is not. Such a tragedian is only maudlin drunk. The gentleman went on with much warmth ; but all he could say had little effect upon me; but when I came hither, I so far observed his counsel, that I looked into Shakspeare. The tragedy I dipped into was ‘Harry the Fourth. In the scene where Morton is preparing to tell Northumberland of his son's death, the old man does not give him time to speak, but says,

'The whiteness of thy cheeks
Is apter than thy tongne to tell thy errand;
Even such a man, so faint, so spiritless,
So dull, so dead in look, so woe-begone,
Drew Priam's curtain at the dead of night,
And would have told him half his Troy was burnt;
But Priam found the fire, ere he his tongue,
And I my Percy's death, ere thou report'st it.'

The image in this place is wonderfully noble and great; yet this man in all this is but rising towards his great affliction, and is still enough himself, as you see, to make a simile. But when he is certain of his son's death, he is lost to all patience, and gives up all the regards of this life ; and since the

last of evils is fallen upon him, he calls for it upon all the world.

Now let not nature's hand
Keep the wild flood confin'd; let order die,
And let the world no longer be a stage,
To feed contention in a lingering act;
But let one spirit of the first born Cain
Reign in all bosoms, that each heart being set
On bloody courses, the wide scene may end,
And darkness be the burier of the dead.'

[ocr errors]

Reading but this one scene has convinced me, that he, who describes the concern of great men, must have a soul as noble, and as susceptible of high thoughts, as they whom he represents: I shall therefore lay by my drama for some time, and turn my thoughts to cares and griefs, somewhat below that of heroes, but no less moving. A misfortune, proper for me to take notice of, has too lately happened: the disconsolate Maria has three days kept her chamber for the loss of the beauteous Fidelia, her lapdog. Lesbia herself did not shed more tears for her sparrow. What makes her the more concerned, is, that we know not whether Fidelia was killed or stolen ; but she was seen in the parlour window when the trainbands went by, and never since. Whoever gives notice of her, dead or alive, shall be rewarded with kiss of her lady

No. 48. SATURDAY, JULY 30, 1709.

- Virtutem verba putant, ut
Lucum ligna-

HOR. EPIST. vi. 31.

"They look on virtue as an empty name.'

FROM MY OWN APARTMENT, JULY 29. This day I obliged Pacolet to entertain me with matters which regarded persons of his own character and occupation.

We chose to take our walk on Tower-hill; and as we were coming from thence, in order to stroll as far as Garraway's,* I observed two men, who had but just landed, coming from the water-side. I thought there was something uncommon in their mien and aspect; but though they seemed by their visage to be related, yet there was a warmth in their manner, as if they differed very much in their sentiments of the subject on which they were talking. One of them seemed to have a natural confidence, mixed with an ingenuous freedom, in his gesture ; his dress very plain, but very graceful and becoming: the other, in the midst of an overbearing carriage, betrayed, by frequently looking round him, a suspicion that he was not enough regarded by those he met, or that he feared they would make some attack upon him. This person was much taller than his companion, and added to

* Garraway kept a coffee-house at that time, opposite to the Royal Exchange, probably in the place where there is now a coffee-house well known by the same name.

that height the advantage of a feather in his hat, and heels to his shoes so monstrously high, that he had three or four times fallen down, had he not been supported by his friend. They made a full stop as they came within a few yards of the place where we stood. The plain gentleman bowed to Pacolet, the other looked on him with some displeasure ; upon which I asked him who they both were; when he thus informed me of their persons and circumstances :

* You may remember, Isaac, that I have often told you,

there are beings of a superior rank to mankind; who frequently visit the habitations of men, in order to call them from some wrong pursuits in which they are actually engaged, or divert them from methods which will lead them into errors for the future. He that will carefully reflect upon the occurrences of his life will find he has been sometimes extricated out of difficulties, and received favours where he could never have expected such benefits; as well as met with cross events from some unseen hand, which have disappointed his best-laid designs. Such accidents arrive from the interventions of aërial beings, as they are benevolent or hurtful to the nature of man; and attend his steps in the tracks of ambition, of business, and of plea

Before I ever appeared to you in the manner I do now, I have frequently followed you in your evening walks ; and have often, by throwing some accident in your way, as the passing by of a funeral, or the appearance of some other solemn ob

ject, given your imagination a new turn, and changed a night you had destined to mirth and jollity, into an exercise of study and contemplation. I was the old soldier who met you last summer in Chelsea fields, and pretended that I had broken my

sure.

wooden leg, and could not get home; but I snapped it short off, on purpose that you might fall into the reflections you did on that subject, and take me into your hack. If you remember, you made yourself very merry on that fracture, and asked me whether I thought I should next winter feel cold in the toes of that leg ! as is usually observed, that those who lose limbs are sensible of pains in the extreme parts even after those limbs are cut off. However, my keeping you then in the story of the battle of the Boyne prevented an assignation, which would have led you

into more disasters than I then related. "To be short ; those two persons you see yonder are such as I am; they are not real men, but are mere shades and figures; one is named Alethes, the other Verisimilis. Their office is to be the guardians and representatives of conscience and honour. They are now going to visit the several parts of the town, to see how their interests in the world decay or flourish, and to purge themselves from the many false imputations they daily meet with in the commerce and conversation of men. You observed Verisimilis frowned when he first saw me. What he is provoked at is, that I told him one day, though he strutted and dressed with so much ostentation, if he kept himself within his own bounds, he was but a lackey, and wore only that gentleman's livery whom he is now with. This frets him to the heart: for you must know, he has pretended a long time to set up for himself, and gets among a crowd of the more unthinking part of mankind, who take him for a person of the first quality; though his introduction into the world was wholly owing to his present companion.'

This encounter was very agreeable to me, and I was resolved to dog them, and desired Pacolet to

« AnteriorContinuar »