« PoprzedniaDalej »
you. The same passions which agitated me while you was ill, I can easily conceive must have also affected you, when you first heard of my accident. Shall I tell you honestly how I felt myself at the beginning of this affair? I have philosophy enough to be reconciled to an ill, which I know must befal me one time or other, though as a rational being I cannot but shudder at the thought of death, when it seems near. To be uneasy at the apprehensions that we must die, is making an ill use of that faculty, which exalts us above other animals; though in common with other animals we are desirous of preserving our existence as long as we can. I had in a manner given myself over, after the alarming appearances that presented themselves in consequence of my fall. I can never believe, that it is possible for us to shake off the mortal entirely during this most interesting interval between "To be and not to be." If we reflect at all, the earthly part of us will, from the force of nature have a share in our ideas; and however high our thoughts may be lifted up in the contemplation of eternity, they will sink down again to a survey and retrospect of this perishable world. That person must have lived without the reciprocation of those social endearments, which alone should make us desirous of living, who can quit his present being with indifference, nor (in the words of the poet) cast one longing lingering look behind.
"Friday afternoon, 16th Dec. 1763.
"My dear Sylvia,
"Every one carries a face to be seen; and if the eye of the spectator is not short-sighted, it can look through it to the dark recesses of the heart. In my opinion, no one can wear a mask for any long time;
it is pulled off by himself; because, though he wishes to disguise his real sentiments, it is too troublesome to him to keep it on. We cannot wear an underwaist-coat constantly in the summer-months; neither can we go naked at the present time of year. It is certain, a person may paint white and red; but the discerning eye will distinguish the artificial colouring from mere natural beauty :....'Tis the same with the mind;....whatever pains may be taken to make it appear other than it is, the black spots, (like patches on the face) will be conspicuous.
"When I write to my Syl, I consider myself as thinking aloud: for I am happy in that kind of soliloquy, which (when addressed to her) is speaking to All Me."
IF the reader's sentiments correspond with those of the writer of this article, the portions here given from the private letters of BONNELL THORNTON, to the Lady whom he married, will be considered (as the respectable party who placed them in his hands wishes they should be) as an unequivocal memorial of
THE BEST OF HEARTS.
BY MR. TOWN,
CRITIC AND CENSOR-GENERAL.
No. I. THURSDAY, JANUARY 31, 1754.
Mores, et studia, et populos, et prælia dicam.
Their studies and pursuits in order shewn,
AS I have assumed the character of CENSOR GENERAL, I shall follow the example of the old Roman censor; the first part of whose duty was to review the people, and distribute them into their several divisions. I shall therefore enter upon my office, by taking a cursory survey of what is usually called The TOWN. In this I shall not confine myself to the exact method of a geographer, but carry the reader from one quarter to another, as it may suit my convenience, or best contribute to his entertainment.
When a comedian, celebrated for his excellence in the part of Shylock, first undertook that character, he made daily visits to the center of business, the 'Change and the adjacent coffee-houses; that by a frequent intercourse and conversation with "the unfore
skinn'd race," he might habituate himself to their air and deportment. A like desire of penetrating into the most secret springs of action in these people has often led me there; but I was never more diverted than at Garraway's a few days before the drawing of the lottery. I not only could read hope, fear, and all the various passions excited by a love of gain, strongly pictured in the faces of those who came to buy ; but I remarked with no less delight, the many little artifices made use of to allure adventurers, as well as the visible alteration in the looks of the sellers, according as the demand for tickets gave occasion to raise or lower their price. So deeply were the countenances of these bubble-brokers impressed with an attention to the main chance, and their minds seemed so dead to all other sensations, that one might almost doubt, where money is out of the case whether a Jew "has eyes, hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions."
From Garraway's it is but a short step to a gloomy class of mortals, not less intent on gain than the stockjobber: I mean the dispensers of life and death, who flock together, like birds of prey watching for carcases, at Batson's. I never enter this place, but it serves as a memento mori to me. What a formal assemblage of sable suits, and tremendous perukes! I have often met here a most intimate acquaintance, whom I have scarce known again; a sprightly young fellow, with whom I have spent many a jolly hour; but being just dubbed a graduate in physic, he has gained such an entire conquest over the risible muscles, that he hardly vouchsafes at any time to smile. I have heard him harangue, with all the oracular importance of a veteran, on the possibility of Canning's subsisting for a whole month on a few bits of bread; and he is now preparing a treatise, in which will be set forth a new and infallible method to prevent the spreading of the plague from France into England.
Batson's has been reckoned the seat of solemn stupidity yet is it not totally devoid of taste and common sense. They have among them physicians, who can cope with the most eminent lawyers or divines; and critics, who can relish the salvolatile of a witty composition, or determine how much fire is requisite to sublimate a tragedy secundum artem.
Emerging from these dismal regions, I am glad to breathe the pure air in St. Paul's coffee house: where (as I profess the highest veneration for our clergy). I cannot contemplate the magnificence of the cathedral without reflecting on the abject condition of those "tatter'd crapes," who are said to ply here for an occasional burial or sermon, with the same regularity as the happier drudges, who salute us with the cry of "coach, sir," or "chair your honour."
And here my publisher would not forgive me, was I to leave the neighbourhood without taki notice of the Chapter coffee-house, which is frequented by those encouragers of literature, and (as they are styled by an eminent critic) "not the worst judges of merit, the booksellers." The conversation here naturally turns upon the newest publications; but their criticisms are somewhat singular. When they say a good book, they do not mean to praise the style or sentiment, but the quick and extensive sale of it. That book in the phrase of the Conger is best, which sells most: and if the demand for Quarles should be greater than for Pope, he would have the highest place on the rubricpost. There are also many parts of every work liable to their remarks, which fall not within the notice of less accurate observers. A few nights ago I S&W one of these gentlemen take up a sermon, and after seeming to peruse it for some time with great attention, he declared, "it was very good English." The reader will judge whether I was most surprised or diverted, when I discovered, that he was not commending the purity and elegance of the diction, but the