« ForrigeFortsæt »
Second, between a joint-stool and a brown jug
Of an evil tongue
Crossed in love
Broke his neck in robbing a henroost
Cut finger turned to a gangrene by an old gentle
woman of the parish
Surfeit of curds and cream
Took cold sleeping at church
Of a sprain in his shoulder, by saving his dog at a bull-baiting
Lady B's cordial water
Knocked down by a quart bottle
Frighted out of his wits by a headless dog with
Broke a vein in bawling for a knight of the shire
Old women drowned upon trial of witchcraft
Climbing a crow's nest
Chalk and green apples
Led into a horse-pond by a Will of the Wisp
By the parson's bull
Vagrant beggars worried by the Squire's house-dog
HORACE, Juvenal, Boileau, and indeed the greatest writers in almost every age, have exposed, with all the strength of wit and good sense, the vanity of a man's valuing himself
upon his ancestors, and endeavoured to show that true nobility consists in virtue, not in birth. With submission, however, to so many great authorities, I think they have pushed this matter a little too far. We ought in gratitude to honour the posterity of those who have raised either the interest or reputation of their country, and by whose labours we ourselves are more happy, wise, or virtuous, than we should have been without them. Besides, naturally speaking, a man bids fairer for greatness of soul, who is the descendant of worthy ancestors, and has good blood in his veins, than one who is come of an ignoble and obscure parentage. For these reasons, I think a man of merit, who is derived from an illustrious line, is very justly to be regarded more than a man of equal merit who has no claim to hereditary honours. Nay, I think those who are indifferent in themselves, and have nothing else to distinguish them but the virtues of their forefathers, are to be looked upon with a degree of veneration even upon that account, and to be more respected than the common run of men who are of low and vulgar extraction.
After having thus ascribed due honours to birth and parentage, I must, however, take notice of those who arrogate to themselves more honours than are due to them upon this account. The first are such who are not enough sensible that vice and ignorance taint the blood, and that an unworthy behaviour degrades and disennobles a man, in the eye of the world, as much as birth and family aggrandize and exalt him.
The second are those who believe a new man of an ele ́vated merit is not more to be honoured than an insignificant and worthless man who is descended from a long line of patriots and heroes: or, in other words, behold with contempt a person who is such a man as the first founder of their family was, upon whose reputation they value themselves.
But I shall chiefly apply myself to those whose quality
1 -Who have raised—and by whose labours we, &c.] This construction is, indeed, in frequent use, but not so natural as the following would have been-" who have raised—and who, by their labours, have made ourselves more happy," &c. The mind loves to proceed in the construction with which it set out, and suffers a kind of torture in having another presently forced upon it.
sits uppermost in all discourses and behaviour. An empty man of a great family is a creature that is scarce conversible. You read his ancestry in his smile, in his air, in his eye-brow. He has, indeed, nothing but his nobility to give employment to his thoughts. Rank and precedency are the important points which he is always dicussing within himself. A gentleman of this turn begun a speech in one of King Charles's parliaments: "Sir, I had the honour to be born at a timeupon which a rough honest gentleman took him up short, "I would fain know what that gentleman means: is there any one in this house that has not had the honour to be born as well as himself?" The good sense which reigns in our nation has pretty well destroyed this starched behaviour among men who have seen the world, and know that every gentleman will be treated upon a foot of equality. But there are many who have had their education among women, dependants, or flatterers, that lose all the respect, which would otherwise be paid them, by being too assiduous in procuring it.
My Lord Froth has been so educated in punctilio, that he governs himself by a ceremonial in all the ordinary occurrences of life. He measures out his bow to the degree of the person he converses with. I have seen him in every inclination of the body, from a familiar nod to the low stoop in the salutation-sign. I remember five of us, who were acquainted with one another, met together one morning at his lodgings, when a wag of the company was saying, it would be worth while to observe how he would distinguish us at his first entrance. Accordingly he no sooner came into the room, but casting his eye about, "My Lord such a one, (says he,) your most humble servant. Sir Richard, your humble servant. Your servant, Mr. Ironside. Mr. Ducker, how do you do? Hah! Frank, are you there?
There is nothing more easy than to discover a man whose heart is full of his family. Weak minds that have imbibed a strong tincture of the nursery, younger brothers that have been brought up to nothing, superannuated retainers to a great house, have generally their thoughts taken up with little else.
1 Many who have had that lose.] To avoid the two unconnected relatives, who and that-read thus-many who having had, or, who, in consequence of having had, &c.-lose all the respect.
I had some years ago an aunt of my own, by name Mrs. Martha Ironside, who would never marry beneath herself, and is supposed to have died a maid in the fourscorth year of her age. She was the chronicle of our family, and passed away the greatest part of the last forty years of her life in recounting the antiquity, marriages, exploits, and alliances of the Ironsides. Mrs. Martha conversed generally with a knot of old virgins, who were likewise of good families, and had been very cruel all the beginning of the last century. They were every one of them as proud as Lucifer, but said their prayers twice a day, and in all other respects were the best women in the world. If they saw a fine petticoat at church, they immediately took to pieces the pedigree of her that wore it, and would lift up their eyes to heaven at the confidence of the saucy minx, when they found she was an honest tradesman's daughter. It is impossible to describe the pious indignation that would rise in them at the sight of a man who lived plentifully on an estate of his own getting. They were transported with zeal beyond measure, if they heard of a young woman's matching into a great family upon account only of her beauty, her merit, or her money. In short, there was not a female within ten miles of them that was in possession of a gold watch, a pearl necklace, or a piece of Mechlin lace, but they examined her title to it. My aunt Martha used to chide me very frequently for not sufficiently valuing myself. She would not eat a bit all dinnertime, if at an invitation she found she had been seated below herself; and would frown upon me for an hour together, if she saw me give place to any man under a baronet. As I was once talking to her of a wealthy citizen whom she had refused in her youth, she declared to me with great warmth, that she preferred a man of quality in his shirt to the richest man upon the 'change in a coach and six. She pretended, that our family was nearly related by the mother's side to half a dozen peers; but as none of them knew anything of the matter, we always kept it as a secret among ourselves. A little before her death she was reciting to me the history of my forefathers; but dwelling a little longer than ordinary upon the actions of Sir Gilbert Ironside, who had a horse shot under him at Edgehill fight, I gave an unfortunate pish! and asked, "What was all this to me?" upon which she retired to her closet, and fell a scribbling for three hours
together, in which time, as I afterwards found, she struck me out of her will, and left all she had to my sister Margaret, a wheedling baggage, that used to be asking questions about her great-grandfather from morning to night. She now lies buried among the family of the Ironsides, with a stone over her, acquainting the reader, that she died at the age of eighty years, a spinster, and that she was descended of the ancient family of the Ironsides. After which follows the genealogy drawn up by her own hand.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19.·
Incenditque animum famæ venientis amore. VIRG.
THERE is nothing which I study so much in the course of these my daily dissertations as variety. By this means every one of my readers is sure some time or other to find a subject that pleases him, and almost every paper has some particular set of men for its advocates. Instead of seeing the number of my papers every day increasing, they would quickly lie as a drug upon my hands, did not I take care to keep up the appetite of my guests, and quicken it from time to time by something new and unexpected. In short, I endeavour to treat my reader in the same manner as Eve does the angel in that beautiful description of Milton.
So saying, with despatchful looks in haste
If, by this method, I can furnish out a splendida farrago, according to the compliment lately paid me in a fine poem published among the exercises of the last Oxford act, I have gained the end which I propose to myself.