Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

7

[ocr errors]

sympathy, and external excitement, seem almost indispensable. Just as large towns are the only places in which first-rate workmen in any handicraft business can find employment, so men of letters, and of science generally, appear to think that nowhere but in a metropolis can they find the opportunities which they desire of improvement or of display. These persons are wise in their generation, but they are not children of light.

Among such persons it may perhaps he thought that our friend should be classed; and it cannot be doubted, that, in a more conspicuous field of action, he might have distinguished himself, and obtained a splendid fortune. But for distinction he never entertained the slightest desire; and with the goods of fortune which had fallen to his share, he was perfectly contented. But was he favourably situated for his intellectual advancement?—which, if such an inquiry had come before him concerning any other person, is what he would have considered to be the question-issimus. I answer, without the slightest hesitation, that he was. In London he might have mounted a physician's wig, have ridden in his carriage, have attained the honours of the college, and added F.R.S. to his professional initials. He might, if fortune, opening her eyes, had chosen to favour desert, have become Sir Daniel Dove, Bart., Physician to his Majesty. But he would then have been a very different person from the Dr. Dove of Doncaster, whose memory will be transmitted to posterity in these volumes, and he would have been much less worthy of being remembered. The course of such a life would have left him no leisure for himself; and metropolitan society, in rubbing off the singularities of his character, would just in the same degree have taken from its strength.

• It is a pretty general opinion that no society can be so bad as that of a small country town; and certain it is that such towns offer little or no choice. You must take what they have, and make the best of it. But there are not many persons to whom circumstances allow much latitude of choice anywhere except in those public places, as they are called, where the idle and the dissipated, like birds of a feather, flock together. In any settled place of residence, men are circumscribed by station and opportunities, and just as much in the capital as in a provincial town. No one will be disposed to regret this, if he observes, where men have most power of choosing their society, how little benefit is derived from it; or, in other words, with how little wisdom it is used.

. After all, the common varieties of human character will be found distributed in much the same proportion everywhere, and in most places there will be a sprinkling of the uncommon ones. Everywhere you may find the selfish and the sensual, the carking and the careful, the cunning and the credulous, the worldling and the reckless. kind hearts are also everywhere to be found--right intentions, sober minds, and private virtues—for the sake of which let us hope that God may continue to spare this hitherto highly-favoured nation, not

withstanding

[ocr errors]

withstanding the fearful amount of our public and manifold offences.' -vol. ii., pp. 244-247.

Another favourite theme with our author is one which has been so often dwelt

upon of late

years

in this Journal, that we may presume our readers to be in possession of most of the important facts bearing on it-namely, the imperious necessity, and most sacred duty, of proceeding to bring into cultivation the enormous tracts of unproductive but improveable land in these kingdoms. This writer details in clear and forcible language the means by which a large morass near Doncaster, called the Potteric Carr, was drained and converted into fertile ground, about the year 1766 ; and as this example had never before reached our own knowledge, we must extract a portion of the chapter in which it is described.

Four thousand acres of bog, whereof that Carr consisted, and upon which common sand, coal ashes, and the scrapings of a limestone road, were found the best manure, produce now good crops of grain and excellent pasturage. There are said to be in England and Wales, at this time, 3,984,000 acres of uncultivated but cultivable ground; 5,950,000 in Scotland; 4,900,000 in Ireland; 166,000 in the smaller British islands. Crags, woods, and barren land are not included in this statement. Here are 15,000,000 acres, the worst of which is as good as the morass which has been reclaimed near Doncaster, and the far greater part very materially better.

• The money which is annually raised for poor-rates in England and Wales has for some years amounted to from five to six millions, With all this expenditure, cases are continually occurring of death from starvation, either of hunger or cold, or both together; wretches are carried before the magistrates for the offence of lying in the streets or in unfinished houses, when they have not where to hide their heads; others have been found dead by the side of lime-kilns, or brick-kilns, whither they had crept to save themselves from perishing for cold ; and untold numbers die of the diseases produced by scanty and unwholesome food. This money, moreover, is for the most part so applied, that they who have a rightful claim upon ceive less than, in justice, in humanity, and according to the intent of a law wisely and humanely enacted, ought to be their portion ; while they who have only a legal claim upon it, that claim arising from an evil usage which has become prescriptive, receive pay, where justice, policy, and considerate humanity, and these very laws themselves if rightly administered, would award restraint or punishment. Thus it is in those parts of the United Kingdom where a provision for the poor is directly raised by law. In Scotland, the proportion of paupers is little less, and the evils attendant upon poverty are felt in an equal or nearly equal degree. In Ireland they exist to a far greater extent, and may truly be called terrible. Is it fitting that this should be while there are fifteen millions of cultivable acres lying waste ? Is it possible to conceive grosser improvidence in a nation, grosser

folly,

it re

folly, grosser ignorance of its duty and interest, or grosser neglect of both, than are manifested in the continuance and growth and increase of this enormous evil, when the means of checking it are so obvious; and that too by a process in which every step must produce direct and tangible good ?

• But while the Government is doing those things which it ought not to have done, and leaves undone those things which it ought to do, let parishes and corporations do what is in their power for themselves. · And bestir yourselves in this good work, ye who can! The supineness of the Government is no excuse for you. It is in the exertions of individuals that all national reformation must begin. Go to work cautiously, experimentally, patiently, charitably, and in faith! I am neither so enthusiastic as to suppose, nor so rash as to assert, that a cure may thus be found for the complicated evils arising from the condition of the labouring classes. But it is one of those remedial means by which much misery may be relieved, and much of that profligacy that arises from hopeless wretchedness be prevented. It is one of those means from which present relief may be obtained, and future good expected. It is the readiest way in which useful employment can be provided for the industrious poor. And if the land so appropriated should produce nothing more than is required for the support of those employed in cultivating it, and who must otherwise be partly or wholly supported by the poor-rates, such cultivation would even then be profitable to the public. Wherever there is heath, moor, or fenwhich there is in every part of the islandthere is work for the spade; employment and subsistence for man is to be found there --and room for him to increase and multiply for generations.'-vol. ii.,

pp. 27-30.

The

Among the many beautiful detached passages of Christian reflection which occur in this strange book, we have been particularly struck with one suggested by a melancholy page in the writings of Sir Egerton Brydges, who is well characterized here as an elegant, and wise, and thoughtful author.'

The baronet had said:

age

of a cultivated mind is often more complacent, and even more luxurious, than the youth. It is the reward of the due use of the endowments bestowed by nature : while they who in youth have made no provision for age, are left like an unsheltered tree, stripped of its leaves and its branches, shaking and withering before the cold blasts of winter. In truth, nothing is so happy to itself and so attractive to others, as a genuine and ripened imagination, that knows its own powers,

and throws forth its treasures with frankness and fearlessness. The more it produces, the more capable it becomes of production; the creative faculty grows by indulgence; and the more it combines, the more means and varieties of combinations it discovers. When death comes to destroy that mysterious and magical union of capacities and acquirements which has brought a noble genius to this point of power, how frightful and lamentable is the effect of the stroke that stops the current which was wont to put this mighty formation into activity! Perhaps the incomprehensible Spirit may have acted in conjunction with its corporeal adherents to the last. Then, in one moment, what darkness and destruction follows a single gasp of breath?

that graça

The commentary of · The Doctor' is as follows :

• This fine passage is as consolatory in its former part, as it is gloomy at the conclusion; and it is gloomy there, because the view which is there taken is imperfect. Our thoughts, our reminiscences, our intellectual acquirements, die with us to this world—but to this world only. If they are what they ought to be, they are treasures which we lay up for heaven. That which is of the earth, earthly, perishes with wealth, rank, honours, authority, and other earthly and perishable things. But nothing that is worth retaining can be lost. When Ovid says,

in Ben Jonson's play, —
“We pour out our affections with our blood,

And with our blood's affections fade our loves," the dramatist makes the Roman poet speak like a sensualist, as he was; and the philosophy is as false as it is foul. Affections, well placed and dutifully cherished; friendships, happily formed and faith. fully maintained; knowledge, acquired with worthy intent, and intellectual powers, that have been diligently improved, as the talents which our Lord and Master has committed to our keeping ;—these will accompany us into another state of existence, as surely as the soul in that state retains its identity and its consciousness.'--vol. ii.,

On the subject of death, our author has many passages besides this, not less worthy of being extracted. We are sure every reader will thank us for the following specimen, and more especially for the anecdote of Thistlewood with which it concludes.

" It is one thing to jest, it is another to be mirthful, --Sir Thomas More jested as he ascended the scaffold. In cases of violent death, and especially upon an unjust sentence, this is not surprising ; because the sufferer has not been weakened by a wasting malady, and is in a state of high mental excitement and exertion. But even when dissolution conies in the course of nature, there are instances of men who have died with a jest upon their lips. Garci Sanchez de Badajoz, when he was at the point of death, desired that he might be dressed in the habit of St. Francis ; this was accordingly done, and over the Franciscan frock they put on his habit of Santiago, for he was a knight of that order. It was a point of devotion with him to wear the one dress, a point of honour to wear the other; but looking at himself in this double attire, he said to those who surrounded his death-bed, “ The Lord will say to me presently, “My friend Garci Sanchez, you come very well wrapt up!' (muy arropado) and I shall reply, · Lord, it is no wonder, for it was winter when I set off.?" · The author who relates this anecdote remarks that “o morrer com

pp. 50-53.

[ocr errors]

ance.

graça he muyto bom, e com graças he muyto mão:" the observation is good, but untranslateable, because it plays upon the word which means grace as well as wit. The anecdote itself is an example of the ruling humour " strong in death ;" perhaps also of that pride or vanity, call it which we will, which so often, when mind and body have not yielded to natural decay, or been broken down by suffering, clings to the last in those whom it has strongly possessed.

• Don Rodrigo Calderon, whose fall and exemplary contrition served as a favourite topic for the poets of his day, wore a Franciscan habit at his execution, as an outward and visible sign of penitence and humiliation : as he ascended the scaffold, he lifted the skirts of the habit with such an air that his attendant confessor thought it necessary to reprove

him for such an instance of ill-timed regard to his appear

Don Rodrigo excused himself by saying that he had all his life carried himself gracefully !—The author by whom this is related calls it an instance of illustrious hypocrisy. In my judgment the father confessor who gave occasion for it deserves a censure far more than the penitènt sufferer. The movement, beyond all doubt, was purely habitual,-as much so as the act of lifting his feet to ascend the steps of the scaffold ; but the undeserved reproof made him feel how curiously whatever he did was remarked ; and that consciousness reminded him that he had a part to support, when his whole thoughts would otherwise have been far differently directed. A personage in one of Webster's plays says,

" I knew a man that was to lose his head

Feed with an excellent good appetite
To strengthen his heart, scarce half an hour before,

And if he did, it only was to speak."
Probably the dramatist alluded to some well-known fact, which was at
that time of recent occurrence. When the desperate and atrocious
traitor Thistlewood was on the scaffold, his demeanour was that of a
man who was resolved boldly to meet the fate he had deserved; in
the few words which were exchanged between him and his fellow
criminals he observed, that the grand question whether or not the
soul was immortal would soon be solved for them. No expression of
hope escaped him, no breathing of repentance; no spark of grace ap-
peared. Yet (it is a fact which, whether it be more consolatory or
awful, ought to be known) on the night after the sentence, and pre-
ceding his execution, while he supposed that the person who was
appointed to watch him in his cell was asleep, this miserable man
was seen by that person repeatedly to rise upon his knees, and heard
repeatedly calling upon Christ his Saviour to have mercy upon him,
and to forgive him his sins !

* All men and women are verily, as Shakspeare has said of them, merely players,—when we see them upon the stage of the world ; that is, when they are seen anywhere except in the freedom and undressed intimacy of private life.'- vol. ii. pp. 301-304

We

« AnteriorContinuar »