Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

He poured the fiery Hollands in,—the man that never feared— He took a long and solemn draught, and wiped his yellow beard, And one by one the musketeers - the men that fought and prayed

All drank as 'twere their mother's milk, and not a man afraid.

That night, affrighted from his nest, the screaming eagle flew, He heard the Pequot's ringing whoop, the soldier's wild halloo; And there the sachem learned the rule he taught to kith and kin, "Run from the white man when you find he smells of Hollands gin."

A hundred years, and fifty more, had spread their leaves and snows,
A thousand rubs had flattened down each little cherub's nose,
When once again the bowl was filled, but not in mirth or joy,
'Twas mingled by a mother's hand to cheer her parting boy.

"Drink, John," she said, "twill do you good-poor child, you'll never bear

This working in the dismal trench out in the midnight air; And if God bless me!-you were hurt, 'twould keep away the chill."

So John did drink-and well he wrought that night at Bunker's Hill!

I tell you there was generous warmth in good old English cheer;
I tell you 'twas a pleasant thought to bring its symbol here;
'Tis but the fool that loves excess. Hast thou a drunken soul?
The bane is in thy shallow skull, not in my silver bowl!

I love the memory of the past-its pressed yet fragrant flowersThe moss that clothes its broken walls-the ivy on its towers— Nay this poor bauble it bequeathed-my eyes grow moist and dim To think of all the vanished joys that danced around its brim.

Then fill a fair and honest cup, and bear it straight to me;
The goblet hallows all it holds, whate'er the liquid be;
And may the cherubs on its face protect me from the sin
That dooms one to those dreadful words-"My dear, where

have you been ?"

Dr. Holmes is still a young man, and one of the most eminent physicians in Boston. He excels in singing his own charming songs, and speaks as well as he writes; and, after reading even the small specimens of his poetry that my space has enabled me to give, my fair readers will not wonder to hear that he is one of the most popular persons in his native city.

He is a small compact little man (says our mutual friend), the delight and ornament of every society that he enters, buzzing about like a bee, or fluttering like a humming-bird, exceedingly difficult to catch unless he be really wanted for some kind act, and then you are sure of him.

X.

LETTERS OF AUTHORS.

SAMUEL RICHARDSON.

BESIDES the rich collections of State Papers and Historical Despatches which have been discovered in the different public offices, and the still more curious bundles of family epistles (such as the Paxton correspondence) which are every now and then disinterred from the forgotten repositories of old mansions, there is no branch of literature in which England is more eminent than the letters of celebrated men.

From the moment in which Mason by a happy inspiration made Gray tell his own story, and by dint of his charming letters contrived to produce from the uneventful life of a retired scholar one of the most attractive books ever printed, almost every biographer of note has followed his example. The lives of Cowper, of Byron, of Scott, of Southey, of Charles Lamb, of Dr. Arnold, works full of interest and of vitality, owe their principal charm to this source. Nay, such is the reality and identity belonging to letters written at the moment and intended only for the eye of a favourite friend, that it is probable that any genuine series of epistles, were the writer ever so little dis

tinguished, would, provided they were truthful and spontaneous, possess the invaluable quality of individuality which so often causes us to linger before an old portrait of which we know no more than that it is a Burgomaster by Rembrandt, or a Venetian Senator by Titian. The least skilful pen when flowing from the fulness of the heart, and untroubled by any misgivings of after publication, shall often paint with as faithful and life-like a touch as either of those great masters.

Of letter-writers by profession we have indeed few, although Horace Walpole, bright, fresh, quaint, and glittering as one of his own most precious figures of Dresden china, is a host in himself. But every here and there, scattered in various and unlikely volumes, we meet with detached letters of eminent persons which lead us to wish for more. I remember two or three of David Hume's which form a case in point: one to Adam Smith, who had asked of him the success of his "Theory of Moral Sentiments," in which he dallies with a charming playfulness with an author's anxiety, withholding, delaying, interrupting himself twenty times, and at last pouring out without stint or measure the favourable reception of the work; another to Dr. Robertson, who appears to have requested his opinion of his style, bantering him on certain Scottish provincialisms and small pedantries-"a historian, indeed! Have you an ear?"-mixed with praise so graceful and kindness so genuine, that the most susceptible of vanities could not have taken offence.

Every now and then, too, we fall upon a long correspondence which the writer's name has caused to be

published, but which, from a thousand causes, is certain to fall into oblivion although containing much that is curious. Such is "The Life and Letters of Samuel Richardson."

I suspect that the works from whence that great name is derived are in this generation little more than a tradition; and that the "Clarissa" and the "Sir Charles Grandison," which, together with the "Spectators," formed the staple of our great grandmother s libraries, find almost as few readers amongst their descendants as the "Grand Cyrus" or "The Princess of Cleves."

As far as "Clarissa" is concerned, great tragedy as the book unquestionably is, I do not wonder at this. Considering the story and plan of the work, the marvel is rather that mothers should have placed it in their daughters' hands as a sort of manual of virtue, and that at Ranelagh, ladies of the highest character should have held up the new volumes as they came out, to show to their friends that they possessed the book of which all the world were talking, than that it should now be banished from the boudoir and the drawing room. But as my friend, Sir Charles Grandison, has no other sin to answer for than that of being very long, very tedious, very oldfashioned, and a prig, I cannot help confessing that, in spite of these faults, and perhaps because of them, I think there are worse books printed now-a-days, and hailed with delight amongst critics feminine than the seven volumes that gave such infinite delight to the Beauties of the Court of George the Second.

As pictures of manners I suspect them to be worthless. Richardson was a citizen in an age in

« ForrigeFortsæt »