Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

life; and it was not until he had the good fortune to be admitted into his Majesty's printing office, as serrand carrier,' which title he converted into 'king's messenger,' that he became a conspicuous character. From that moment his conduct corresponded to the idea he entertained of his own importance. After the appointment he assumed a singular appearance, and affected a dignity of manner which he never laid aside. His official duties frequently called him to both chambers of Parliament, as well as to all the great public offices connected with the crown; and Old John,' as he was familiarly called, generally excited a smile from the great officers of state, as well as the heads of the various departments, in succession, during a period of fourscore years.

It was the business of his humble station to carry on his back a bag loaded with his Majesty's speeches, bills, addresses, proclamations, &c., on which occasions the privacy of the inner chambers of the Treasury and Exchequer was not sacred from his intrusion. The doors of a secretary of state, and the gates of the palace at Lambeth, flew open on his appearance. His antiquated and greasy garb corresponded with his grotesque shape, and an immense cocked hat was in continual motion, to assist him in the bows of the old school: the recognition or nod of great men in office was his delight. But he imagined that this courtesy was due to his character, as being identified with the state; and the Chancellor and the Speaker were considered by him in no other view than as persons filling departments in common with himself; for the seals of the one, and the mace of the other, did not, in his estimation, distinguish them more than the bag used by himself in the transmission of the despatches entrusted to his care. The imperfect intellect given to him, seemed only to fit him for the situation he filled. Take him out of it, he was as helpless as a child, and easily became a dupe to those who were inclined to impose upon him. With a high opinion of his own judgment, however, he diverted himself and others by mimicking the voice and manner of his superiors, when he thought he perceived any assumption of character. John could imitate the strut and swell of the great man, and even the frivolity of the fop. Seeing in his time packets to the same individuals addressed from plain Mr.' to the Right Honourable, afforded him subject for much joke; and he frequently used to observe, that it would shortly come to Old John's turn to become an Esquire or Knight himself.

Like the leaves of autumn, generations of men are swept away, and are soon forgotten; and though the station of this singular being was humble, yet as his hand has conveyed papers of state to most of the great men of the last and present century, ministered with fidelity in this way from the days of Sir Robert Walpole, beyond the time of the second William Pitt, and bearing on his back the mighty results of their labours, poor Old John, who was as important in his own conceit as any statesman of his time, may put in his claim also for his share of renown.(Annual Biography and Obituary for 1819, p. 386.)

10.-PLOUGH MONDAY. On this day, or about this time, in the north, in Cambridgeshire, and in some of the midland counties, the fool-plough goes about, a pageant that consists of a number of sword-dancers, dragging a plough, with music, and one, sometimes two, in a very fantastic dress; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the fool, almost covered with skins, wearing a hairy cap, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these characters is, to rattle a box among the spectators of the dance, in which he collects their little donations.

13.-SAINT HILARY. Hilary was born at Poictiers in France, of an

Illustrious family; and of this place he was chosen bishop in the year 353. Having taken an active part against the Arians, he was banished to Phrygia, by order of the Emperor Constantius, in 856, where he remained for three years. After various travels in different parts, and many sufferings, Hilary died at Poictiers in 368. He was an excellent orator and poet; his style abounds with rhetorical figures.

*13. 1819.-DR. WOLCOTT DIED, ÆT. 81, Well known to the literary world under the name of Peter Pindar. It is needless to expatiate on the character of his works, as they are universally known. Nature has seldom afforded a more original genius, and his mind was stored with various knowledge. He was well acquainted with the Greek language, and was a sound scholar in Latin. He spoke French with facility, and had made considerable progress in Italian. He drew his imagery from Nature and Life, which he hrad observed with vigilance and accuracy. Perhaps hardly any Poet since Shakspeare has illustrated his works with more abundant allusions derived from the sources of Nature. He had seen much of the world in various parts, and excelled in the imitation as well as delineation of character. His satirical humour was exuberant; and in reference to our revered Sovereign, it is impossible to palliate, or rather, not strongly to reprobate, the freedom, to use the mildest word, which he took with the Royal Character; but such is the ignorance, malevolence, and bad taste of the world, that his works were more popular on that account than for the original humour, wit, tenderness, and often sublimity, by which they are characterised. He never attacked any person after he became acquainted with him. He retained his faculties to the last, and was able, till within a very few days of his death, to dictate verses from his bed, which were strongly marked by his former- strength and humour.

He was a sound critic in poetry and painting ; and his sketches of landscape evinced a degree of taste which, if poetry had not engrossed so much of bis attention, might have rendered him no inferior artist. Our volumes are enriched with some of his most beautiful poetic effusions. We subjoin his pleasant and wholesome Advice to Landscape Painters.'

Whate'er you wish, in landscape to excel,

London is the very place to mar it, Believe the oracles I tell,

There's very little landscape in a garret.

A rushlight winking in a bottle's neck,

Ill represents the glorious orb of morn; Nay, though it were a caudle with a wick,

'Twould be a representative forlorn. I think, too, that a man would be a fool, For trees to copy legs of a joint-stool;

Or ev’n by them to represent a stump : As also broom sticks, which though well he'd rig Bach with an old fox-coloured wig,

Must make a very poor autumnal clump. You'll say— Yet such ones oft a person sees In many an artist's trees; And in some paintings, we have all beheld, Green baize hath surely sat for a green field; Bolsters for mountains, hills, and wheaten mows; Cats for ram goats-and curs for bulls and cows.'

All this, my lads, I freely grant;

But better things from you I want. As Shakspeare says (a bard I much approve) List, list, Oh lisť--if thou dost painting love :

Claude painted in the open air!

Therefore to Wales at once repair, Where scenes of true magnificence you'll find:

Besides this great advantageif in debt,

You'll have with creditors no tête-à-tête:
So leave the bull-dog bailiffs all behind;

Who hunt you, with what nose they may,
Must hunt for needles in a stack of hay.

18.--SAINT PRISCA. Prisca, a Roman lady, was early converted to Christianity ; but refusing to abjure her religion, and to offer sacrifice when she was commanded, was horribly tortured, and afterwards beheaded, under the Emperor Claudius, in the year 275.

*18. 1671.--GRINLIN: GIBBON. *This day,' observes Mr. Evelyn, 'I first acquainted his Majesty (Charles II] with that incomparable young man GIBBON', whom I lately met with in an obscure place by meere accident, as I was walking neere a poore solitary thatched house, in a field in our parish [Deptford), neere Says Court. I found him shut in; but looking in at the window I perceived him carving that large cartoon or crucifix of Tintoret, a copy of which I had myselfe brought from Venice, where the original painting remaines. I asked if I might enter; he opened the door civilly to me, and I saw him about such a work as for ye curiosity of handling, drawing, and studious exactnesse, I never had before seene in all my travells. I questioned him why he worked in such an obscure and lonesome place; he told me it was that he might apply himselfe to his profession without interruption, and wondred not a little how I had found him out. I asked him if he was unwilling to be made knowne to some greate man, for that I believed it might turn to his profit; he answered he was yet but a beginner, but would not be sorry to sell off that piece: on demanding the price, he said £100. In good earnest the very frame was worth the money, there being nothing in nature so tender

1 Usually called Gibbons, celebrated for his exquisite carving in wood; very beautiful specimens of which may be seen in the choir, &c. of St. Paul's Cathedral, at Lord Egremont's at Petworth, at Windsor, the Duke of Norfolk's át' Holm Lacey, and in the chapel of Trinity College, Oxford. He also executed the bronze statue of James II, now in Scotland Yard.

« PoprzedniaDalej »