« ZurückWeiter »
A man who has this distemper in his tongue shall entertain you, though he never saw you before, with a long story in praise of his own wife; give you the particulars of last night's dream, or the description of a feast he has been at, without letting a single dish escape him. When he is thus entered into conversation, he grows very wise-descants upon the corruption of the times, and the degeneracy of the age we live in ; from which, as his transitions are somewhat sudden, he falls upon the price of corn, and the number of strangers that are in town. He undertakes to prove, that it is better putting to sea in summer than in winter, and that rain is necessary to produce a good crop of corn; telling you in the same breath, that he intends to plough up such a part of his estate next year, that the times are hard, and that a man has much ado to get through the world. His whole discourse is nothing but hurry and incoherence. He acquaints you, that Demippus had the largest torch at the feast of Ceres ; asks you if you remember how many pillars are in the music theatre; tells you that he took physic yesterday; and desires to know what day of the month it is. If you have patience to hear him, he will inform you what festivals are kept in August, what in October, and what in December.
When you see such a fellow as this coming towards you, run for your life. A man had much better be visited by a fever; so painful is it to be fastened upon by one of this make, who takes it for granted that you have nothing else to do, but to give him a hearing.
III.—Character of Addison, as a Writer. AS a describer of life and manners, Mr. Addison must be allowed to stand perhaps the first in the first rank. His humour is peculiar to himself; and is so happily diffused, as to give the grace of novelty to domestic scenes and daily occurrences. He never o'ersteps the modesty of nature ; nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can hardly be said to invent; yet his exhibitions have an air so much original, that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination.
As a teacher of wisdom, he may be confidently followed. His religion has nothing in it enthusiastic or superstitious ; he appears neither weakly credulous, nor wantonly sceptical; his morality is neither dangerously lax, nor implacably rigid. All the enchantments of fancy, and all the cogency of arguments, are employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the care of pleasing the Author of his being. Truth is shown sometimes as the phantom of a vision, sometimes appears half veiled in an allegory, sometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy, and sometimes steps forth in the confidence of reason. She wears a thousand dresses, and in all is pleasing:
His prose is the model of the middle style ; on grave subjects not formal, on light occasions not grovelling ; pure without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration ; always equable and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected splendor. It seems to have been his principal endeavour to avoid all harshness and severity of diction ; he is therefore sometimes verbose in his transitions, and connexions, and sometimes descends too much to the language of conversation ; yet, if his language had been less idiomatical, it might have lost somewhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he attempted he performed; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetic; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates. His sentences have neither studied amplitude nor affected brevity; his periods, though not diligently rounded, are voluble and easy. Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.
IV.- Pleasure and Pain. THERE were two families, which, from the beginning of the world, were as opposite to each other as light and dark
The one of them lived in heaven, and the other in hell. The youngest descendant of the first family was Pleasure, who was the daughter of Happiness, who was the child of Virtue, who was the offspring of the gods. These, as I said before, had their habitation in heaven. The youngest of the opposite family was Pain, who was the son of Misery, who was the child of Vice, who was the offspring of the Furies. The habitation of this race of beings was in hell. · The middle station of nature between these two opposite extremes was the earth, which was inhabited by creatures of a middle kind; neither so virtuous as the one, nor so vicious
as the other, out partaking of the good and bad qualities of these two opposite families. Jupiter, considering that this species, commonly called man, was too virtuous to be miserable, and too vicious to be happy, that he might make a distinction between the good and the bad, ordered the two youngest of the above-mentioned families (Pleasure, who was the daughter of Happiness, and Pain, who was the son of Misery) to meet one another upon this part of nature, which lay in the half-way between them, having promised to settle it upon them both, provided they could agree upon the division of it, so as to share mankind between them.
Pleasure and Pain were no sooner met in their new habitation, but they immediately agreed upon this point, that Pleasure should take possession of the virtuous, and Pain of the vicious part of that species which was given up to them. But, upon examining to which of them any individual they met with belonged, they found each of them had a right to him; for that, contrary to what they had seen in their old places of residence, there was no person so vicious who had not some good in him, nor any person so virtuous who had not in him some evil. The truth of it is, they generally found upon search, that in the most vicious man Pleasure might lay a claim to a hundredth part, and that in the most virtuous man Pain might come in for at least two thirds. This they saw would occasion endless disputes between them, unless they could come to some accommodation. To this end, there was a marriage proposed between them, and at length concluded. Hence it is, that we find Pleasure and Pain are such constant yokefellows, and that they either make their visits together, or are never far asunder. If Pain comes into a heart, he is quickly followed by Pleasure ; and if Pleasure enters, you may be sure Pain is not far off.
But notwithstanding this marriage was very convenient for the two parties, it did not seem to answer the intention of Jupiter in sending them among mankind. To remedy, therefore, this inconvenience, it was stipulated between them by article, and confirmed by the consent of each family, that, notwithstanding they here possessed the species indifferently, upon the death of every single person, if he was found to have in him a certain proportion of evil, he should be despatched into the infernal regions by a passport from Pain, there to dwell with Misery, Vice, and the Furies; or on the contrary, if he had in bim a certain proportion of good, he should be despatched into heaven, by a passport from Pleasure, there to dwell with happiness, Virtue, and the Gods.
V.--Sir Roger de Coverly's Family. HAVING often received an invitation from my friend Sir Roger de Coverly, to pass away a month with him in the country, I last week accompanied him thither, and am settled with him for some time at his country-house, where I intend to form several of my ensuing speculations. Sir Roger, who is very well acquainted with my humour, lets me rise and go to bed when I please, dine at his own table or in my chamber, as I think fit, sit still and say nothing, without bidding me be merry. When the gentlemen of the country come to see him, he only shows me at a distance. As I have been walking in the fields, I have observed them stealing a sight of me over a hedge, and have heard the knight desiring them not to let me see them, for that I hated to be stared at.
I am the more at ease in Sir Roger's family, because it consists of sober and steady persons ; for as the knight is the best master in the world, he seldom changes his servants; and as he is beloved by all about him, his servants never care for leaving him ; by this means his domestics are all in years and grown old with their master. You would take his valet de chambre for his brother; his butler is grey headed, his groom is one of the gravest men I have ever seen, and his coachman has the looks of a privy counsellor. You see the goodness of the master even in the old house dog, and in a grey pad that is kept in the stable with great care and tenderness, out of regard to his past services, though he has been useless for several years.
I could not but observe, with a great deal of pleasure, the joy that appeared in the countenances of these ancient domestics, upon my friend's arrival at his country-seat. Some of them could not refrain from tears at the sight of their old master; every one of them pressed forward to do something for him, and seemed discouraged if they were not employed. At the same time, the good old knight, with the mixture of the father and the master of the family, tempered the inquiries after his own affairs with several kind ques. tions relating to themselves.
This humanity and good nature engages every body to him ; so that when he is pleasant upon any of them, all his
family are in good humour, and none so much as the person whom he diverts himself with ; on the contrary, if he coughs, or betrays any infirmity of old age, it is easy for a stander by to observe a secret concern in the looks of all his servants. · My worthy friend has put me under the particular care of his butler, who is a very prudent man, and, as well as the rest of his fellow-servants, wonderfully desirous of pleasing me, because they have often heard their master talk of me as his particular friend.
My chief companion, when Sir Roger is diverting himself in the woods or in the fields, is a very venerable man, who is ever with Sir Roger, and has lived at his house in the nature of chaplain, above thirty years. This gentleman is a person of good sense and some learning, of a very regular life and obliging conversation ; he heartily loves Sir Roger, and knows that he is very much in the old knight's esteem;. so that he lives in the family rather as a relation than a dependant.
I have observed, in several of my papers, that-my friend Sir Roger, amidst all his good qualities, is something of a humorist; and that his virtues, as well as imperfections, are, as it were, tinged by a certain extravagance, which makes them particularly his, and distinguishes them from those of other men. This cast of mind, as it is generally very innocent in itself, so it renders his conversation highly agreeable, and more delightful than the same degree of sense and virtue would appear in their common and ordinary colours. As I was walking with him last night, he asked me how I liked the good man whom I have just now mentioned ;and, without staying for my answer, told me, that he was afraid of being insulted with Latin and Greek at his own table ; for which reason he desired a particular friend of his at the university, to find him out a clergyman, rather of plain sense than much learning, of a good aspect, a clear voice, a sociable temper; and, if possible, a man who understood a little back-gammon.—My friend, says Sir Roger, found me out this gentleman ; who, besides the endowments required of him, is, they tell me, a good scholar, though he does not show it. I have given him the parsonage of the parish; and because I know his value, have settled upon him a good annuity for life. If he outlives me, he shall find that he was higher in my esteem than perhaps he thinks he is. He has now been with me thirty years; and though he does not know I have taken notice of it, has never, in all that time,