Imágenes de páginas
PDF

246 design of disappointing him; 'for,' said he, 'I would cut my bones for him; and if he had sent his dog for it, he should have had it' When we were to depart, our boat

250 was left by the ebb at a great distance from the water, but no sooner did we wish it afloat, than the islanders gathered round it, and, by the union of many hands, pushed it down

256 the beach; every man who could con

tribute his help seemed to think himself happy in the opportunity of being, for a moment, useful to his chief.

We now left those illustrious ruins, by which Mr. Boswell was much af- 260 f ected, nor would I willingly be thought to have looked upon them without some emotion. Perhaps, in the revolutions of the world, Iona may be sometime again the instructress of sea the Western regions.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH.

QLIVER GOLDSMITH (1728—1774), ^ the son of a clergyman, was born in the small Irish village of Pallas, Longford, and brought np in the hamlet of Lissoy, West Meath, which afterwards suggested the scenery of 'Auburn' in his Deserted Village. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin, but, failing to qualify for orders, went to Edinburgh to study medicine, and next to Leyden, from whence he undertook a long pedestrian tour through France, Switzerland, and northern Italy (1765—1766). On his return to England in 1766, he tried his fortunes in London, successively becoming a physician, an usher, and a bookseller's hack. In the profession of a journalist he succeeded at last, and so came to spend the rest of his life as a man of letters in the English metropolis. He first attracted attention by his Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning(1759); and his first poem, The Traveller (1764), brought him fame and subsequently the intimacy of such men as Dr. Johnson, Garrick the actor, Burke the politician, and Sir Joshua Reynolds the painter, who together formed the celebrated literary 'Club'. The work of his pen, especially his two comedies and his voluminous compilations, gained him an opulent income, which, however, was not sufficient for his careless and extravagant way of living. He died suddenly of a fever in 1774, owing no less than 2000/.

As a writer of verse, Goldsmith belongs to the artificial school of Pope, though his two didactic-descriptive poems, The Traveller (1764) and The Deserted Village (1770), and his brilliant piece of satire, the unfinished Retaliation (posth. 1774), belong to the best of their kind. More important, however, is the position he holds in the history of essay-writing, as

he introduced a lighter style of treatment, and thus forms a link between Steele and the 19th century essayists. Of the numerous essays, which he contributed to various periodicals, he collected the best into bookform: he reprinted the 'Chinese Letters', which described English life as seen by an Oriental, under the title of The Oitixen of the World (1762), and other essays taken from The Bee etc. he collected in the volume of miscellaneous Essays of 1765. Nowadays Goldsmith is best-known by his novel The Vicar of Wakefield, which was partly written in 1762 and published in 1766. Though neither remarkable for originality of invention nor skill of construction, and full of improbabilities and of but doubtful morality, this novel surpassed all its forerunners in refinement and grace of execution. Slow in finding immediate recognition, it captivated Europe, and even now holds its place as a charmingly told prose idyll and a delicately humorous picture of English domestic life, which added the figures of gentle Dr. Primrose, his green son Moses, and his two daughters, dashing Olivia and modest Sophia, to the permanent store of English literature. His two comedies, The Oood-Natured Man (1768) and She Stoops to Conquer (1773), the latter of which is still acted, proved immediately successful, and, with their exuberant fun, formed an effective protest against the then popular sentimental comedy of a Kelly and a Cumberland. All his prose shows an invariable charm of style, which gave popularity even to his numerous biographical and historical compilations, such as the lives of Voltaire, Nash, and others, the histories of England, of Rome, and of Greece, and a natural history chiefly drawn from Buffon.

BEAU TIBBS.

[From The Oitixm of the World, Letter W (1762)]

I am apt to fancy I have contracted a new acquaintance whom it will be no easy matter to shake off. My little beau yesterday overtook me

& again in one of the public walks, and slapping me on the shoulder, saluted me with an air of the most perfect familiarity. His dress was the same as usual, except that he had

10 more powder in his hair, wore a dirtier shirt, a pair of temple-spectacles, and his hat under his arm.

As I knew him to be a harmless, amusing little thing, I could not re

Ib turn his smiles with any degree of severity: so we walked forward on terms of the utmost intimacy, and in a few minutes discussed all the usual topics preliminary to particular

20 conversation. The oddities that marked his character, however, soon began to appear; he bowed to several welldressed persons, who, by their manner of returning the compliment, appeared

2& perfect strangers. At intervals he drew out a pocket-book, seeming to take memorandums before all the company, with much importance and assiduity. In this manner he led me

so through the length of the whole walk, fretting at his absurdities, and fancying myself laughed at not less than him by every spectator.

When we were got to the end of

86 our procession, 'Blast me,' cries he, with an air of vivacity. 'I never saw the Park so thin in my life before! There's no company at all today; not a single face to be seen.'

«o — *No company!' interrupted I peevishly; 'no company, where there is such a crowd? why, man, there's too much What are the thousands that have been laughing at us but com

16 pany?' — 'Lord, my dear,' returned he, with the utmost good humour,

'you seem immensely chagrined; but, blast me, when the world laughs at me, I laugh at the world, and so we are even. My Lord Trip, Bill Squash w the Creolian, and I, sometimes make a party at being ridiculous; and so we say and do thousand things for the joke's sake. But I see you are grave, and if you are for a fine 66 grave sentimental companion, you shall dine with me and my wife today; I must insist on't I'll introduce you to Mrs. Tibbs, a lady of as elegant qualifications as any in 60 nature; she was bred, but that's between ourselves, under the inspection of the Countess of All-night A charming body of voice; but no more of that, — she will give us a song. 65 You shall see my little girl too, Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Tibbs, a sweet pretty creature! I design her for my Lord Drumstick's eldest son; but that's in friendship, let it 70 go no farther: she's but six years old, and yet she walks a minuet, and plays on the guitar immensely already. I intend she shall be as perfect as possible in every accom- 76 plishment In the first place, I'll make her a scholar: I'll teach her Greek myself, and learn that language purposely to instruct her; but let that be a secret' so

Thus saying, without waiting for a reply, he took my arm, and hauled me along. We passed through many dark alleys and winding ways; for, from some motives to me unknown, 86 he seemed to have a particular aversion to every frequented street: at last, however, we got to the door of a dismal-looking house in the outlets of the town, where he informed me 90 he chose to reside for the benefit of the air.

We entered the lower door, which ever seemed to he most hospitably

96 open; and I began to ascend an old and creaking staircase, when, as he mounted to show me the way, he demanded whether I delighted in prospects; to which answering in the

100 affirmative, 'Then,' says he, 'I shall show you one of the most charming in the world out of my window; we shall see the ships sailing, and the whole country for twenty miles

106 round, tiptop, quite high. My Lord Swamp would give ten thousand guineas for such a one; but, as I sometimes pleasantly tell him, I always love to keep my prospects at

no home, that my friends may visit me the oftener.'

By this time we were arrived as high as the stairs would permit us to ascend, till we came to what he

ii6 was facetiously pleased to call the first floor down the chimney; and knocking at the door, a voice from within demanded, 'Who's there?' My conductor answered that it was him.

120 But this not satisfying the querist, the voice again repeated the demand; to which he again answered louder than before; and now the door was opened by an old woman with cau

126 tious reluctance.

When we were got in, he welcomed me to his house with great ceremony, and turning to the old woman, asked where was her lady? 'Good troth,'

iso replied she, in a peculiar dialect, 'she's washing your twa shirts at the next door, because they have taken an oath against lending out the tub any longer.' — 'My two

13& shirts!' cried he in a tone that faltered with confusion; 'what does the idiot mean?' — 'I ken what I mean weel enough,' replied the other; 'she's washing your twa shirts at the next

140 door, because .' — 'Fire and fury,

no more of thy stupid explanations!'

cried he; 'go and inform her we have got company. Were that Scotch hag,' continued he, turning to me, 'to be for ever in my family, she 145 would never learn politeness, nor forget that absurd poisonous accent of hers, or testify the smallest specimen of breeding or high life; and yet it is very surprising too, as 1150 had her from a parliament man, a friend of mine from the Highlands, one of the politest men in the world; but that's a secret'

We waited some time for Mrs. 155 Tibbs' arrival, during which interval I had a full opportunity of surveying the chamber and all its furniture, which consisted of four chairs with old wrought bottoms, that he assured 160 me were his wife's embroidery; a square table that had been once japanned; a cradle in one corner, a lumbering-cabinet in the other; a broken shepherdess and a mandarine 166 without a head were stuck over the chimney, and round the walls several paltry unframed pictures, which, he observed, were all his own drawing. 'What do you think, sir, of that 170 head in the corner, done in the manner of Grisoni? There's the true keeping in it; it is my own face, and though there happens to be no likeness, a Countess offered me an 175 hundred for its fellow. I refused her, for, hang it, that would be mechanical, you know.'

The wife at last made her appearance, at once a slattern and a co- iso quette; much emaciated, but still carrying the remains of beauty. She made twenty apologies for being seen in such odious dishabille, but hoped to be excused, as she had stayed out 135 all night at the gardens with the Countess, who was excessively fond of the horns. 'And, indeed, my dear,' added she, turning to her husband, 'his lordship drank your health in a 190 bumper.' — 'Poor Jack!' cries he; 'a dear good-natured creature, I know he loves me. But I hope, my dear, you have given orders for dinner;

19a you need make no great preparations neither, there are but three of us; something elegant and little will do,

— a turbot, an ortolan, a .' —

'Or what do you think, my dear,' inter

aooruptB the wife, 'of a nice pretty bit of ox-cheek, piping hot, and dressed with a little of my own sauce?' — 'The very thing!' replies he; 'it will eat best with some smart bottled beer:

205 but be sure to let us have the sauce his Grace was so fond of. I hate your immense loads of meat; that is

country all over; extreme disgusting to those who are in the least acquainted with high life.' 210

By this time my curiosity began to abate, and my appetite to increase: the company of fools may at first make us smile, but at last never fails of rendering us melancholy; 1215 therefore pretended to recollect a prior engagement, and after having shown my respect to the house, according to the fashion of the English, by giving the old servant a piece 220 of money at the door, I took my leave; Mrs. Tibbs assuring me that dinner, if I stayed, would be ready at least in less than two hours.

A COUNTRY PARSONAGE.

[From Tht Vicar of Wafofield, Chap. 4 (1766)]

A Proof that even the humblest Fortune may grant Happiness, which depends, not on Circumstances, but Constitution.

The place of our retreat was in a little neighbourhood, consisting of farmers who tilled their own grounds, and were equal strangers to opulence

5 and poverty. As they had almost all the conveniences of life within themselves, they seldom visited towns or cities in search of superfluity. Remote from the polite, they still

io retained the primeval simplicity of manners; and, frugal by habit, they scarce knew that temperance was a virtue. They wrought with cheerfulness on days of labour, but ob

15 served festivals as intervals of idleness and pleasure. They kept up the Christmas-carol, sent true love-knots on Valentine morning, ate pancakes on Shrovetide, showed their wit on

20 the first of April, and religiously cracked nuts on Michaelmas eve. Being apprised of our approach, the whole neighbourhood came out to meet their minister, dressed in their

25 finest clothes, and preceded by a pipe and tabor. A feast also was

provided for our reception, at which we sat cheerfully down; and what the conversation wanted in wit was made up in laughter. 30

Our little habitation was situated at the foot of a sloping hill, sheltered with a beautiful underwood behind, and a prattling river before; on one side a meadow, on the other 35 a green. My farm consisted of about twenty acres of excellent land, having given an hundred pounds for my predecessor's good - will. Nothing could exceed the neatness of my 40 little enclosures, the elms and hedgerows appearing with inexpressible beauty. My house consisted of but one story, and was covered with thatch, which gave it an air of great 45 snugness; the walls, on the inside, were nicely whitewashed, and my daughters undertook to adorn them with pictures of their own designing. Though the same room served us 50 for parlour and kitchen, that only made it the warmer. Besides, as it

was kept with the utmost neatness, the dishes, plates, and coppers being

55 well scoured, and all disposed in bright rows on the shelves, the eye was agreeably relieved, and did not want richer furniture. There were three other apartments; one for my

60 wife and me, another for our two daughters within our own, and the third with two beds for the rest of our children.

The little republic to which I gave

M laws, was regulated in the following manner: By sunrise we all assembled in our common apartment, the fire being previously kindled by the servant After we had saluted each

70 other with proper ceremony — for I always thought fit to keep up some mechanical forms of good breeding, without which freedom ever destroys friendship — we all bent in gratitude

76 to that Being who gave us another day. This duty being performed, my son and I went to pursue our usual industry abroad, while my wife and daughters employed themselves

so in providing breakfast, which was always ready at a certain time. I allowed half an hour for this meal, and an hour for dinner; which time was taken up in innocent mirth

86 between my wife and daughters, and in philosophical arguments between *my son and me.

As we rose with the sun, so we never pursued our labours after it

90 was gone down, but returned home to the expecting family, where smiling looks, a neat hearth, and pleasant fire were prepared for our reception. Nor were we without guests:

95 sometimes farmer Plamborough, our talkative neighbour, and often the blind piper, would pay us a visit, and taste our gooseberry wine, for the making of which we had lost

Ioo neither the receipt nor the reputation. These harmless people had several

ways of being good company; while one played, the other would sing some soothing ballad, — Johnny Armstrong's Last Good - Night, or 106 the Cruelty of Barbara Allen. The night was concluded in the manner we began the morning, my youngest boys being appointed to read the lessons of the day; and he that read no loudest, distinctest, and best, was to have a halfpenny on Sunday to put into the poor's box.

When Sunday came, it was indeed a day of finery, which all my m sumptuary edicts could not restrain. How well soever I fancied my lectures against pride had conquered the vanity of my daughters, yet I still found them secretly attached to all their uo former finery: they still loved laces, ribands, bugles, and catgut; my wife herself retained a passion for her crimson paduasoy, because I formerly happened to say it became her. i»

The first Sunday, in particular, their behaviour served to mortify me. I had desired my girls the preceding night to be dressed early the next day; for I always loved to be iao at church a good while before the rest of the congregation. They punctually obeyed my directions; but when we were to assemble in the morning at breakfast, down came my wife i» and daughters dressed out in all their former splendour; their hair plastered up with pomatum, their faces patched to taste, their trains bundled up in a heap behind, and rustling at every 140 motion. I could not help smiling at their vanity, particularly that of my wife, from whom I expected more discretion. In this exigence, therefore, my only resource was to order 145 my son, with an important air, to call our coach. The girls were amazed at the command; but I repeated it with more solemnity than before. 'Surely, my dear, you jest,' no

« AnteriorContinuar »