« AnteriorContinuar »
Planter. Well, no matter for that,-but Mrs. H who is an excellent speller, never makes use of any other but Matthew Carey's spelling-book. It is a valuable work, the copyright is secured. But here comes Mrs. H—herself.
Mrs. H— now entered, followed by a negro girl, who held a peacock's feather in her hand. Mrs. H-- received my bow with a mutilated curtesey, and throwing herself on a sopha, called peremptorily to Prudence to brush the flies from her face. There was a striking contrast between the dress of the lady and her maid; the one was tricked out in all the finery of fashion; while the black skin of the other peeped through her garments.
Well, my dear, said Mr. H-, this young man is the person who advertised for the place of tutor in a respectable family. A little conversation with him will enable you to judge, whether he is qualified to instruct our children in the branches of a liberal education.
Mrs. H.- Why independent of his literary attainments, it will be necessary for him to produce certificates of his conduct. I am not easily satisfied in my choice of a tutor; a body should be very cautious in admitting a stranger to her family. This gentleman is young, and young men are very frequently addicted to bad habits. Some are prone to late hours; some to hard drinking; and some to Negur girls: the last propensity I could never forgive.
Mr. H. Yes, my dear, you discharged Mr. Spondee, our last tutor, for his intimacy with the Negur girls :-Prudence had a little one by him. Prudence looked reproachfully at her master; the child was in reality the offspring of Mr. H- who fearing the inquiries of the world on the subject, fathered it upon the last tutor. But they must have been blind who could not discover that the child was sprung from Mr. H—; for it had the same vulgar forehead, the same vacant eye, and the same idiot laugh.
Mr. H. Do, my dear, examine the young man a little on literary matters. He seems to have read Pope.
Mrs. H. What, Sir, is your opinion of Mr. Pope's Ode on Solitude?
Tutor. It is tolerable production, madam, for a child.
Mrs. H. A tolerable production for a child! Mercy on us! It is the most sublimest of his productions. But tastes differ. Have you read the works of Dr. Johnson? Which do you approve the most.
Tutor. Why, Madam, if you allude to his poems, I should, in conformity with your judgment, give a decided preference to his Epitaph on a Duck, written, if I mistake not, when he was four years old. It need scarcely
fear competition with Pope's Ode on Solitude.
At this moment the eldest daughter of this learned lady, of this unsexed female, tripped into the room on light, fantastic toe. Come, my daughter, said the lady, let this gentleman hear you repeat the Ode on Solitude.
Excuse me, Madam, cried I, taking up my hat and bowing.
Do you hear the child, bawled Mr. H I pray you, sir, to excuse me, rejoined I.
Mrs. H. It will not take the child ten minutes.
Tutor. Ten minutes, Madam, are the sixth part of an hour that will never return!
Mr. H. Politeness dictates it.
Mr. H. I cannot excuse you, I shall hire you as tutor, and I have a right to expect from you submission. I may perhaps give you the sum of fifty pounds a year.
Don't mention it, Sir, said I. There again you will have the goodness to excuse me. Madam, your most obedient. Miss, your very obsequious. Sir, your humble servant.*
My walk back to Charleston was along the * It has been my object in this scene to soften the condition of private tutors in America, by putting up Mr. H— in signum terroris et memorie to other purse-proud planters. I write not from personal pique, but a desire to benefit society. Happy shall I think myself should this page hold the mirror up to the inflation of pride, and the insolence of prosperity.
shore of the Atlantic, whose waves naturally associated the idea of a home I despaired ever again to behold. Sorrow always begets in me a disposition for poetry; and the reflexions that obtruded themselves in my lonely walk produced a little ode.
ODE ON HOME.
DEAR native soil! where once my feet
Were wont thy flow'ry paths to roam,
From India's climes restor'd to home;
And cheer again a parent's eye?
Thro' endless troubles doomed to sigh?
Or shall I, pensive and forlorn,
Of penury be yet the prey,
Without a friend to guide my way?
Tho' blest with magic power of song;
Unheeded by the worldly throng.
It was not long before my advertisement brought me other applications. The principal of Charleston College * honoured me with a letter, whom, pursuant to his desire, I waited on at his house.
I found Mr. Drone in his study, consulting (* The first Commencement was held in 1794. Ravenel, Charleston. New York. 1906; p. 348.]
with great solemnity the ponderous lexicon of Schrevelius.* I could not but feel a secret veneration from the scene before me. admitted to the presence of a man who was not less voluminous than learned; for no book under a folio ever stood on his shelf.
How stupendous, thought I, must be the erudition of this professor, who holds in sovereign contempt a volume of ordinary dimensions! Every animal has an aliment peculiarly suited to its constitution. The ox finds nourishment only from the earth; and a professor cannot derive knowledge from any volume but a folio.
Mr. Drone received me with all the little decorums of dulness. He, however, talked learnedly. He lamented the degeneracy of literature in England and America; discovered that taste was on the decline; and despaired of ever beholding the spirit of that age revived when writers sought not for new combinations of imagery, but were content to compile lexicons, and restore the true punctuation to an ancient poet.
Mr. Drone asked me whether I was conversant with Latin; and on my replying in the affirmative, he produced a Horace in folio, and desired I would construe the Ode of Quem tu Melpomene.
(* One of the earliest American editions of Schrevelius was that of 1814, “Novi-Eboraci : Impensis Eastburn, Kirk et Soc. Apud Cameras Literararias, Wall-Street."]