Imágenes de páginas

only in the variety of their shapes, complexions, and clothes ; so that they looked like different nations of the same species.

Observing an old man (who was the same person I before mentioned, as the only artist that was at work on this side of the gallery) creeping up and down from one picture to another, and retouching all the fine pieces that stood before me, I could not but be very attentive to all his motions. I found his pencil was so very light, that it worked imperceptibly, and after a thousand touches, scarce produced any visible effect in the picture on which he was employed. However, as he busied himself incessantly, and repeated touch after touch without rest or intermission, he wore off insensibly every little disagreeable gloss that hung upon a figure; he also added such a beautiful brown to the shades, and mellowness to the colours, that he made every picture appear more perfect than when it came fresh from the master's pencil. I could not forbear looking upon the face of this ancient workman, and immediately, by the long lock of hair upon his forehead, discovered him to be Time.

Whether it were because the thread of my dream was at an end, I cannot tell, but upon my taking a survey of this imaginary old man, my sleep left me.



Interdum speciosa locis, morataque recte
Fabula nullius Veneris, sine pondere et arte,
Valdius oblectat populum, meliusque moratur,

Quam versus inopes rerum, nugæque canoræ. HOR. It is the custom of the Mahometans, if they see any printed or written paper upon the ground, to take it up, and lay it aside carefully, as not knowing but it may contain some piece of their Alcoran. I must confess I have so much of the Mussulman in me, that I cannot forbear looking into every printed paper which comes in my way, under whatsoever despicable circumstances it may appear : for as no mortal author, in the ordinary fate and vicissitude of things, knows

" No mortal author.] The epithet “mortalas applied, in this place, to

author,is very expressive. But the humour of the expression depends on knowing that no mortal man is used, in familiar discourse, simply, for

[ocr errors]

no man.

to what use his works may, some time or other, be applied, a man may often meet with


celebrated names in a paper of tobacco. I have lighted my pipe more than once with the writings of a prelate; and know a friend of mine, who, for these several years, has converted the essays of a man of quality into a kind of fringe for his candlesticks. I remember, in particular, after having read over a poem of an eminent author on a victory, I met with several fragments of it upon the next rejoicing day, which had been employed in squibs and crackers, and by that means celebrated its subject in a double capacity. I once met with a page of Mr. Baxter under a Christmas pie. Whether or no the pastry-cook had made use of it through chance or waggery, for the defence of that superstitious viand, I know not; but upon the perusal of it, I conceived so good an idea of the author's piety, that I bought the whole book. I have often profited by these accidental readings, and have sometimes found very curious pieces, that are either out of print, or not to be met with in the shops of our London booksellers. For this reason, when my friends take a survey

of my library, they are very much surprised to find, upon the shelf of folios, two long bandboxes standing upright among my books, till I let them see that they are both of them lined with deep erudition and abstruse literature. I might likewise mention a paper-kite, from which I have received great improvement; and a hatcase, which I would not exchange for all the beavers in Great Britain. This my inquisitive temper, or rather impertinent humour of prying into all sorts of writing, with my natural aversion to loquacity, gives me a good deal of employment when I enter any house in the country; for I cannot for my heart leave a room, before I have thoroughly studied the walls of it, and examined the several printed papers which are usually pasted upon them. The last piece that I met with upon this occasion, gave me a most exquisite quaint him, that the piece I am going to speak of was the


[ocr errors]

| The Puritans scrupled eating what are called Christmas pies. Hence the raillery. But that this raillery might not be construed to extend further than the subject of it, he takes care, at the same time, to speak well of the author's [Mr. Baxter's] general worth and piety. So wise was this excellent writer, even in his mirth!


old ballad of the Two Children in the Wood, which is one of the darling songs of the common people, and has been the delight of most Englishmen in some part of their age.

This song is a plain, simple copy of nature, destitute of all the helps and ornaments of art. The tale of it is a pretty tragical story, and pleases for no other reason but because it is a copy of nature. There is even a despicable simplicity in the verse; and yet, because the sentiments appear genuine and unaffected, they are able to move the mind of the most polite reader with inward meltings of humanity and compassion. The incidents grow out of the subject, and are such as are the most proper to excite pity; for which reason the whole narration has something in it very moving, notwithstanding the author of it (whoever he was) has delivered it in such an abject phrase and poorness of expression, that the quoting any part of it would look like a design of turning it into ridicule. But though the language is mean, the thoughts, as I have before said, from one end to the other are natural, and therefore cannot fail to please those who are not judges of language, or those who, notwithstanding they are judges

of language, have a true and unprejudiced taste of nature. The condition, speech, and behaviour of the dying parents, with the age, innocence, and distress of the children, are set forth in such tender circumstances, that it is impossible for a reader of common humanity not to be affected with them. As for the circumstance of the Robin-red-breast, it is indeed a little poetical ornament; and to show the genius of the author amidst all his simplicity, it is just the same kind of fiction which one of the greatest of the Latin poets has made use of upon a parallel occasion; I mean that passage in Horace, where he describes himself when he was a child, fallen asleep in a desert wood, and covered with leaves by the turtles that took pity on him.

Me fabulosæ Vulture in Appulo,
Altricis extra limen Apuliæ,
Ludo fatigatumque somno

Fronde novâ puerum palumbes

Texere-I have heard that the late Lord Dorset, who had the greatest wit tempered with the greatest candour, and was one of the finest critics, as well as the best poets, of his age, had a numerous collection of old English ballads, and took a particular pleasure in the reading of them. I can affirm the same of Mr. Dryden ; and know several of the most refined writers of our present age who are of the same humour.

I might likewise refer my reader to Moliere's thoughts on this subject, as he has expressed them in the character of the Misanthrope; but those only who are endowed with a true greatness of soul and genius, can divest themselves of the little images of ridicule, and admire nature in her simplicity and nakedness. As for the little conceited wits of the age, who can only show their judgment by finding fault, they cannot be supposed to admire these productions which have nothing to recommend them but the beauties of nature, when they do not know how to relish even those compositions that, with all the beauties of nature, have also the additional advantages of art.

No. 86. FRIDAY, JUNE 8.

Heu quam difficile est crimen non prodere vultu ! Ovid. THERE are several arts which all men are in some measure masters of, without having been at the pains of learning them. Every one that speaks or reasons is a grammarian and a logician, though he may be wholly unacquainted with the rules of grammar or logic, as they are delivered in books and systems. In the same manner, every one is in some degree a master of that art which is generally distinguished by the name of physiognomy; and naturally forms to himself the character or fortune of a stranger, from the features and lineaments of his face. We are no sooner presented to any one we never saw before, but we are immediately struck with the idea of a proud, a reserved, an affable, or a good-natured man;

and upon our first going into a company of strangers, our benevolence or aversion, awe or contempt, rises naturally towards several particular persons, before we have heard them speak a single word, or so much as know who they are.

Évery passion gives a particular cast to the countenance, and is apt to discover itself in some feature or other. I have

? A man cannot be said to "form to himself the character or fortune of another, but an idea of the character or fortune. He says below, more properly, to frame a notion of,” &c.


[ocr errors]

seen an eye curse for half an hour together, and an eye-brow call a man scoundrel. Nothing is more common than for lovers to complain, resent, languish, despair, and die, in dumb show. For my own part, I am so apt to frame a notion of every man's humour or circumstances by his looks, that I have sometimes employed myself from Charing Cross to the Royal Exchange in drawing the characters of those who have passed by me. When I see a man with a sour, rivelled face, I cannot forbear pitying his wife; and when I meet with an open, ingenuous countenance, think 1 on the happiness of his friends, his family, and relations.

I cannot recollect the author of a famous saying to a stranger who stood silent in his company, “Speak, that I may see thee." But, with submission, I think we may be better known by our looks than by our words, and that a man's ch is much more easily disguised than his counte

In this case, however, I think the air of the whole face is much more expressive than the lines of it: the truth of it is, the air is generally nothing else but the inward disposition of the mind made visible.

Those who have established physiognomy into an art, and laid down rules of judging men's tempers by their faces, have regarded the features much more than the air. Martial has a pretty epigram on this subject.

Crine ruber, niger ore, brevis pede, lumine læsus;

Rem magnam præstas, Zoile, si bonus es.
Thy beard and head are of a different dye ;
Short of one foot, distorted in an eye;
With all these tokens of a knave complete,

Should'st thou be honest, thou'rt a dev'lish cheat. I have seen a very ingenious author on this subject, who founds his speculations on the supposition, that as a man hath in the mould of his face a remote likeness to that of an ox, a sheep, a lion, an hog, or any other creature, he hath the same resemblance in the frame of his mind, and is subject to those passions which are predominant in the creature that appears in his countenance. Accordingly he gives the prints of several faces that are of a different mould, and by a little overcharging the likeness, discovers the figures of these several kinds of brutal faces in human features. I re

| Think.] It should either be, thinking” in reference to cannot forbear,” in the former part of this sentence, or else, " I think.”


« AnteriorContinuar »