Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση
[ocr errors]

the daughter of a neighbouring gentleman farmer, who was reckoned the beauty of the whole world--a phrase by which the honest country people mean nothing more than the circle of their acquaintance, or that territory of land which is within sight of the smoke of their own hamleti

This young lady, in addition to her beauty, was highly accomplished for she had spent five or six months at a boarding-school in town, where she learned to work pics s tures in satin, ard paint sheep that might be mistaken" for wolves; to hold up her head, sit straight in her chair, and to think every species of useful acquirement beneath & her attention. When she returned home, so completely had she forgotten every thing she knew before, that on seeing one of the maids milking a cow, she asked her father with an air of most enehanting ignorance“ what i that odd looking thing was doing with that queer ania: mal?” The old man shook his head at this, but the mother was delighted at these symptoms of gentility, and so enamoured at her daughter's accomplishments, that she actually got framed a picture worked in satin by the young lady. It represented the tomb of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo was dressed in an orange-coloured cloak, fastened round his neck by a large golden clasps a white satin tamboured waistcoat, leather breeches, blue silk stockings, and white topped boots. The amiable Juliet shone in a flamescoloured gown, most gorgeously bespana gled with silver stars, a high-crowned muslin cap that reached to the top of the tomb;-on her feet she wore a pair of short-quartered high-heeled shoes, and her waists was the exact fac-simile of an inverted sugar loaf. The head of the “noble county Paris” looked like a chimney sweep's brush that had lost its handle; and the cloak of the good Friar hung about him as gracefully as the 'armour of a rhinoceros. The good lady considered this picture as a splendid proof of her daughter's accomplishments, and hung it up in the best parlour, as an honest tradesman does his certificate of admission into that enlightened body yclept the Mechanic Society.

With this accomplished young lady, then, did my uncle John become deeply enamoured; and as it was his

first love, he determined to bestir himself in an extraordinary manner. Once at least in a fortnight, and generally on a Sunday evening, he would put on his leather breeches (for he was a great beau), mount his gray horse Pepper, and ride over to see Miss Pamela, though she lived upwards of a mile off, and he was obliged to pass close by a church-yard, which at least a hundred creditable persons would swear was haunted. Miss Pamela could not be insensible to such proofs of attachment, and accordingly received him with considerable kindness; her mother always left the room when he came--and my uncle had as good as made a declaration by saying one evening, very significantly, " that he believed he should soon change his condition;" when, somehow or other, he began to think he was doing things in too great a hurry, and it was high time to consider; so he considered near a month about it, and there is no saying how much longer he might have spun the thread of his doubts, had he not been roused from this state of indecision, by the news that his mistress had married an attorney's apprentice, whom she had seen the Sunday before at church, where he had excited the applauses of the whole congregation, by the invincible gravity with which he listened to a Dutch sermon. The young people in the neighbourhood laughed a good deal at my uncle on the occasion; but he only shrugged his shoulders, looked mysterious, and replied, “ Tut boys! I might have had her.


THERE was one dapper little gentleman in bright coloured clothes, with a chirping gossiping expression of countenance, who had all the appearance of an author on good terms with his bookseller. After considering him attentively, I recognised in him a diligent getter up of miscellaneous works, which bustled off well with the trade. I was curious to see how he manufactured his wares. He made more stir and show of business than any of the

others; dipping into various books, fluttering over the leaves of manuscripts, taking a morsel out of one, a morsèl out of another, “ line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.' The contents of his book seemed to be as heterogeneous as those of the witches caldron in Macbeth. It was here a finger and there a thumb, toe of frog and blind worm's sting, with his own gossip poured in, like baboon's blood," to make the medley “slab and good.”

After all, thought I, may not this pilfering disposition be implanted in authors for wise purposes; may it not be the way in which Providence has taken care that the seeds of knowledge and wisdom shall be preserved from age to age, in spite of the inevitable decay of the works in which they were first produced? We see that nature has wisely, though whimsically, provided for the conveyance of seeds from clime to clime, in the maws of certain birds; so that animals, which, in themselves, are little better than carrion, and apparently the lawless plunderers of the orchard and the corn field, are, in fact, Nature's carriers to disperse and perpetuate her blessings. In like manner, the beauties and fine thoughts of ancient and obsolete authors are caught up by these flights of predatory writers, and cast forth again to flourish and bear fruit in a remote and distant tract of time. Many of their works, also, undergo a kind metempsychosis, and spring up under new forms. What was formerly a ponderous history, revives in the shape of a romance an old legend changes into a modern play and a sober philosophical treatise furnishes the body for a whole series of bouncing and sparkling essays.

Thus it is in the clearing of our American woodlands; where we burn down a forest of stately pines, a progeny of dwarf oaks start up in their placé: and we never see the prostrate trunk of tree mouldering into soil, but it gives birth to a whole tribe of fungi.

Lot us not, then, lament over the decay and and oblivion into which ancient writers descend; they do but submit to the great law of nature, which declares that all sublunary shapes of matter shall be limited in their

duration, but which decrees, also, that their elements shall never perish. Generation after generation, both in animal and vegetable life, passes away, but the vital principle is transmitted to posterity, and the species continue to flourish. Thus, also, do authors beget authors, and having produced a numerous progeny, in a good old age they sleep with their fathers, that is to say, with the authors who preceded them-and from whom they had stolen.

Whilst I was indulging in these rambling fancies, I had leaned my head against a pile of reverend folios. Whe ther it was owing to the soporific emanations from these works; or to the profound quiet of the room; or to the lassitude arising from much wandering; or to an unlucky habit of napping at improper times and places, with which I am grievously afflicted, so it was, that I fell into a doze. Still, however, my imagination continued busy, and indeed the same scene remained before my mind's eye, only a little changed in some of the details. I dreamt that the chamber was still decorated with the portraits of ancient authors, but the number was increased. The long tables had disappeared, and in place of the sage magi, I beheld a ragged, threadbare throng, such as may be seen plying about the great repository of cast-off clothes, Monmouth Street. Whenever they seized upon a book, by one of those incongruities common to dreams, methought it turned into a garment of foreign or antique fashion, with which they proceeded to equip themselves. I noticed, however, that no one pretended to clothe himself from any particular suit, but took a sleeve from one, a cape from another, a skirt from a third, thus decking himself out piecemeal, while some of his original rags would peep out from among his borrowed finery.

There was a portly, rosy, well-fed parson, whom I observed ogling several mouldy polemical writers through an eye-glass. He soon contrived to slip on the voluminous mantle of one of the old fathers, and having purloined the gray beard of another, endeavoured to look exceedingly wise; but the smirking common-place of his countenance set at nought all the trappings of wisdom.

One sickly looking gentleman was busied embroidering a very flimsy garment with gold thread drawn out of several old court dresses of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Another had trimmed himself magnificently from an illuminated manuscript, had stuck a nosegay in bis bosom, culled from “ The Paradise of dainty devices," and having put Sir Philip Sidney's hat on one side of his head, strutted off with an exquisite air of vulgar elegance. A third, who was but of puny dimensions, had bolstered himself out bravely with the spoils from several obscure tracts of philosophy, so that he had a very imposing front; but he was lamentably tattered in rear, and I perceived that he bad patched his small-clothes with scraps of parchment from a Latin author.

There were some well dressed gentlemen, it is true, who only helped themselves to a gem or so, which sparkled among their own ornaments, without eclipsing them. Some, too, seemed to contemplate the costumes of the old writers, merely to imbibe their principles of taste, and to catch their air and spirit; but I grieve to say, that too many were apt to array themselves from top to toe, in the patchwork manner I have mentioned. I shall not omit to speak of one genius, in drab breeches and gaiters, and an Arcadian hat, who had a violent propensity to the pastoral, but whose rural wanderings had been confined to the classic haunts of Primrose Hill, and the solitudes of the Regent's Park. He had decked himself in wreaths and ribands from all the old pastoral poets, and hanging his head on one side, went about with a fantastical lack-a-daisical air, “babbling about green fields." But the personage that most struck my attention was a pragmatical old gentleman, in clerical robes, with a remarkably large and square, but bald head. He entered the room wheezing and puffing, elbowed his way through the throng, with a look of sturdy self-confidence, and having laid hands upon a thick Greek quarto, clapped it upon his head, and swept majestically away in a formidable frizzled wig.

In the height of this literary masquerade, a cry suddenly resounded from every side, of " Thieves ! thieves!"

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »