Abbildungen der Seite

The love of general applause, recommended by his Lordship, as the great principle of conduct, is a folly and a weakness. He that directs himself by this compass cannot hope to steer through life with steadiness and consistency. He must surrender his own character, and assume the hue of every company he enters. To court the approbation of any one, is, in a tacit manner, to do homage to his judgment or his feelings. He that extends his courtship of it beyond the praise-worthy, violates the exclusive privilege of virtue, and must seek it by unworthy arts.

On the other hand, though I am by no means a friend to rash and unguarded censure, yet I cannot help considering the conduct of him who will censure nothing, who will speak his sentiments of no character with freedom, who palliates every error, and apologizes for every failing, as more nearly allied to meanness, timidity, and a time-serving temper, than it is connected with candour, or favourable to the cause of virtue.

Nor can I persuade myself that his Lordship's system will be attended with general success. The real character is the only one that can be maintained at all times, and in all dispositions. Professions of friendship and regard will lead to expectations of service that cannot be answered. The sentiments delivered in one company, the manners assumed upon one occasion, will be remembered, and contrasted with those that are presented on another. Suspicion, once awakened, will penetrate the darkest cloud which art can throw around a person in the common intercourse of life.

Let us consider, too, were this system generally adopted, what a dull insipid scene must society become! No distinction, no natural expression of character; no confidence of professions of any kind; no assurance of sineerity; no secret sympathy, nor delightful correspondence of feeling. All the sallies of wit, all the graces of polite manners, would but ill supply the want of these pleasures, the purest and most elegant which human life affords.


To the Author of the MIRROR.


As you treat much of politeness, I wish you would take notice of a particular sort of incivility from which one suffers, without being thought entitled to com. plain. I mean that of never contradicting one at all.

I have lately come from my father's in the country, where I was reckoned a girl of tolerable parts, to reside for some time at my aunt's in town. Here is a visitor, Mr. Dapperwit, a good-looking young man, with white teeth, a fine complexion, his cheeks dimpled, and rather a little full and large at bottom; in short, the civilest, most complying sort of face you can imagine. As I have often taken notice of his behaviour, I was resolved to minute down his discourse the other evening at tea.

The conversa tion began about the weather, my aunt observing, that the seasons were wonderfully altered in her me. mory Certainly, my lady,' said Mr. Dapperwit, " amazingly altered indeed.' • Now I have heard • my father say said I), that is a vulgar error; for • that it appears from registers kept for the purpose, • that the state of the weather, though it may • be different in certain seasons, months, or weeks,

preserves a wonderful equilibrium in general.' Why to be sure, Miss, I believe, in general, as you say, but, talking of the weather, I hope your Ladyship caught no cold at the play tother

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

' night; we were so awkwardly situated in get

ting out.'— Not in the least, Sir; I was greatly obliged to your services there.'_You were well

entertained, I hope my Lady!'_ Very well, in• deed; I laughed exceedingly; there is a great deal of wit in Shakespeare's comedies ; 'tis pity there is

so much of low life in them.'—Your Ladyship's • criticism is extremely just ; every body must be • struck with it.'- Why now I think (said I again) • that what you call low life, is nature, which I • would not lose for all the rest of the play.'— Oh! • doubtless, Miss ; for nature Shakespeare is inimi• table, every body must allow that.' -_- What do • you think, Sir, (said my cousin Betsy, who is a • piece of a poetess herself), of that monody you

were so kind as to send us yesterday?—I never • deliver my opinion, Ma'am, before so able a judge,

till I am first informed of hers.'-- I think it the ' most beautiful poem, Sir, I have read of a great • while.'- Your opinion, Ma'am, flatters me ex• tremely, as it agrees exactly with my own; they " are, I think, incontestably the sweetest lines' • Sweet they may be (here I broke in): I allow • them merit in the versification ; but that is only • one, and with me, by no means the chief requisite

in a poem; they want force altogether.' • Nay,

as to the matter of force, indeed, it must be own. red_“Yes, Sir, and unity, and propriety, and a • thousand other things; but, if my cousin will • be kind enough to fetch the poem

from her dressing-room we will be judged by you, Mr. Dapper' wit.' – Pardon me, ladies, you would not have e me be so rude.

• Who shall decide when doctors disagree?" And, with that, he made one of the finest bows in the world.

If all this Sir, proceed from silliness, we must pity the man, and there's an end on't; if it arise from an idea of silliness in us, let such gentlemen as Mr. Dapperwit know, that they are very much mistaken. But if it be the effect of pure civility,-pray inform them, Mr. Mirror, that it is the most provoking piece of rudeness they can possibly commit.

Yours, &c.


No 36. SATURDAY, MAY 29, 1779.

Some mute inglorious Milton bere may rest.

GRAY. Nothing has a greater tendency to elevate and affect the heart than the reflection

upon those personages who have performed a distinguished part on the theatre of life, whose actions were attended with important consequences to the world around them, or whose writings have animated or instructed mankind. The thought that they are now no more, that their ashes are mingled with those of the meanest and most worthless, affords a subject of contemplation, which, however melancholy, the mind, in a moment of pensiveness, may feel a secret sort of delight to indulge. • Tell her,' says Hamlet,' that she may

paint an inch thick ; yet to this she must come at . last.'

When Xerxes, at the head of his numerous army, saw all his troops ranged in order before him, he burst into tears at the thought, that, in a short time, they would be sweeped from the face of the earth, and be removed to give place to those who would fill other armies, and rank under other generals.

Something of what Xerxes felt from the consideration that those who then were, should cease to be, it is equally natural to feel from the reflection, that all who have formerly lived have ceased to live, and that nothing more remains than the memory of a very few who have left some memorial which keeps alive their


and the fame with which those names are accompanied.

But serious as this reflection may be, it is not so deep as the thought, that even of those persons who were possessed of talents for distinguishing themselves in the world, for having their memories handed down from age to age, much the greater part, it is likely, from hard necessity, or by some of the various fatal accidents of life, have been excluded from the possibility of exerting themselves, or of being useful either to those who lived in the same age, or to posterity. Poverty in many, and disastrous chance' in others, have • chill'd the genial current of the • soul,' and numbers have been cut off by premature death in the midst of project and ambition. How many have there been in the


are past, how many may exist at this very moment, who, with all the talents fitted to shine in the world, to guide or to instruct it, may by some secret misfortune, have had their minds depressed, or the fire of their genius extinguished !

I have been led into these reflections from the perusal of a small volume of

poems which happens now to lie before me, which though possessed of very considerable merit, and composed in this country, are, I believe, very little known. In a well-written preface the reader is told, That most of them are the production of Michael Bruce : that this Michael Bruce was born in a remote village in Kinross-shire,

« ZurückWeiter »