« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
Now I would wish to know if there is no possibility of having these offenders punished by law; and whether it would not be advisable for ladies to mention in their cards of invitation, as a postscript, “ Stealing hats and shawls positively prohibited." At any rate, I would thank you, Mr. Evergreen, to discountenance the thing totally, by publishing in your paper, that stealing a hat is no joke.
Your humble servant,
Showing the nature of History in general; containing,
furthermore, the universal Acquirements of William the Testy, and how a Man may learn so much as to render himself good for nothing.
When the lofty Thucydides is about to enter on his description of the plague that desolated Athens, one of his modern commentators* assures the reader, that his history “is now going to be exceeding so. lemn, serious, and pathetic;" and hints, with that air of chuckling gratulation, with which a good dame. draws forth a choice morsel from a cupboard to regale a favourite, that this plague will give his history a most agreeable variety.
In like manner did my heart leap within me, when I came to the dolorous dilemma of Fort Good Hope, which I at once perceived to be the forerunner of a series of great events and entertaining disasters. Such are the true subjects for the historic pen. For what is history, in fact, but a kind of Newgate Calen. dar, a register of the crimes and miseries that man has inflicted on his fellow men? It is a huge libel on human nature, to which we industriously add page after page, volume after volume, as if we were building up a monument to the honour rather than the
* Smith's Thucyd. vol. 1.
infamy of our species. If we turn over the pages of these chronicles that man has written of himself, what are the characters dignified by the appellation of great, and held up to the admiration of posterity? -Tyrants, robbers, conquerors, renowned only for the magnitude of their misdeeds and the stupendous wrongs and miseries they have inflicted on mankind
- warriors, who have hired themselves to the trade of blood, not from motives of virtuous patriotism, or to protect the injured or defenceless, but merely to gain the vaunted glory of being adroit and successful in massacring their fellow beings! What are the great events that constitute a glorious era? The fall of empires—the desolation of happy countriessplendid cities smoking in their ruins, the proudest works of art tumbled in the dust-the shrieks and groans of whole nations ascending unto heaven!
It is thus the historians may be said to thrive on the miseries of mankind-they are like the birds of prey that hover over the field of battle, to fatten on the mighty dead. It was observed by a great projector of inland lock navigation, that rivers, lakes, and oceans were only formed to feed canals. In like manner I am tempted to believe, that plots, conspi. racies, wars, victories, and massacres are ordained by Providence only as food for the historian.
It is a source of great delight to the philosopher in studying the wonderful economy of nature, to trace the mutual dependencies of things, how they are created reciprocally for each other, and how the most noxious and apparently unnecessary animal has its uses. Thus those swarms of flies, which are so often execrated as useless vermin, are created for the sustenance of spiders; and spiders, on the other hand, are evidently made to devour flies. So those heroes who have been such pests in the world were bounteously provided as themes for the poet and the historian, while the poet and historian were destined to record the achievements of heroes! These and many similar reflections naturally arose
in my mind as I took up my pen to commence the reign of William Kieft, for now the stream of our history, which hitherto has rolled in a tranquil current, is about to depart for ever from its peaceful haunts, and brawl through many a turbulent and rugged scene. Like some sleek ox, which, having fed and fattened in a rich clover field, lies sunk in luxurious repose, and will bear repeated taunts and blows before it heaves its unwieldy limbs, and clumsily arouses from its slumbers; so the province of the Nieuw Nederlandts, having long thriven and grown corpulent under the prosperous reign of the Doubter, was reluctantly awakened to a melancholy conviction that, by patient sufferance, its grievances had become so numerous and aggravating, that it was preferable to repel than endure them. The reader will now witness the manner in which a peaceful community advances toward a state of war; which it is too apt to approach, as a horse does a drum, with much prancing and parade, but with litile progress and too often with the wrong end foremost. .
WILHELMUS Kiert, who, in 1634, ascended the Gubernatorial chair, (to borrow a favourite though clumsy appellation of modern phraseologists,) was in form, feature, and character, the very reverse of Wouter Von Twiller, his renowned predecessor. He was of very respectable descent, his father being Inspector of Windmills in the ancient town of Saardam; and our hero, we are told, made very curious investigations in the nature and operations of those machines when a boy, which is one reason why he afterwards came to be so ingenious a governor. His name, according to the most ingenious etymologists, was a corruption of Kyver, that is to say, a wrangler or scolder, and expressed the hereditary disposition of his family, which, for nearly two centuries, had kept the windy town of Saardam in hot water, and produced more tartars and brimstones, than any ten families in the place; and so truly did Wilhelmus Kieft inherit this family endowment, that he had scarcely been a year in the discharge of his government, before he was universally known by the name of WILLIAM THE Testy.
He was a brisk, waspish, little old gentleman, who had dried and withered away, partly through the natural process of years, and partly from being parched and burned up by his fiery soul, which blazed like a vehement rushlight in his bosom, constantly inciting him to most valorous broils, altercations, and misadventures. I have heard it observed by a profound and philosophical judge of human nature, ihat if a woman waxes fat as she grows old, the tenure of her life is very precarious; but if happily she withers, she lives for ever: such likewise was the case with William the Testy, who grew tougher in proportion as he dried. He was some such a little Dutchman as we may now and then see, stumping briskly about the streets of our city, in a broad skirted coat, with buttons nearly as large as the shield of Ajax, an old fashioned cocked hat stuck on the back of his head, and a cane as high as his chin. His visage was broad, but his features sharp; his nose turned up with a most petulant curl; his cheeks, like the regions of Terra del Fuego, were scorched into a dusky red-doubtless, in consequence of the neighbourhood of two fierce little gray eyes, through which his torrid soul beamed as fervently as a tropical sun blazing through a pair of burning glasses. The corners of his mouth were curiously modelled into a kind of fretwork, not a little resembling the wrinkled proboscis of an irritable pug dog; in a word, he was one of the most positive, restless, ugly little men that ever put himself in a passion about no
Such were the personal endowments of William the Testy; but it was the sterling riches of his mind that raised him to dignity and power. In his youth he had passed with great credit through a celebrated academy at the Hague, noted for producing finished scholars with a despatch unequalled, except by cer
tain of our American colleges, which seem to manu. facture bachelors of arts by some patent machine. Here he skirmished very smartly on the frontiers of several of the sciences, and made so gallant an inroad on the dead languages, as to bring off captive a host of Greek nouns and Latin verbs, together with divers pithy saws and apophthegms; all of which he constantly paraded in conversation and writing, with as much vain glory as would a triumphant general of yore display the spoils of the countries he had ravished. He had moreover puzzled himself considerably with logic, in which he had advanced so far as to attain a very familiar acquaintance, by name at least, with the whole family of syllogisms and dilemmas; but what he chiefly valued himself on was his knowledge of metaphysics, in which having once upon a time ventured too deeply, he came well nigh being smothered in a slough of unintelligible learning
-a fearful peril, from the effects of which he never perfectly recovered. In plain words, like many other profound intermeddlers in this abstruse, bewildering science, he so confused his brain with abstract speculations which he could not comprehend, and artificial distinctions, which he could not realize, that he could never think clearly on any subject, however simple, through the whole course of his life afterwards. This, I must confess, was in some measure a misfortune, for he never engaged in argument, of which he was exceeding fond, but what, between logical deductions and metaphysical jargon, he soon involved himself and his subject in a fog of contradictions and perplexities, and then would get into a mighty passion with his adversary, for not being convinced gratis.
It is in knowledge as in swimming,-he who ostentatiously sports and flounders on the surface makes more noise and splashing, and attracts more attention than the industrious pearl diver, who plunges in search of treasures to the bottom. The " universal acquirements” of William Kieft were the subject of