Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

sures the company he has once, when he was young, boxed three Frenchmen, “one down tother come on,” and beat them all ; he wonders how French scoundrels can live who eat nothing but salads and frogs the whole year round. ' Jack hates every thing that is French, except their wine, and has been known to quarrel with some of his countrymen for wearing a bag-wig. His virulence against the enemy has even soured his disposition to his friends, and he seems never happy except when indulging invective. If the present war or its causes happen to be the subject of conversation, he lays all the blame upon them alone, and can see neither avarice nor injustice in the planters of our side. If peace be the topic, “his counsel is for open war;” nor can he think any terms honourable or advantageous that do not put us in possession, not only of all we have conquered, but almost all the enemy have to lose. Thus, while our soldiers earn victory abroad, Jack enjoys the price of it at home, and, unacquainted with the perils they endure, seems unmindful how long they undergo them. War gives him no uneasiness; he sits and soaks in profound security ; the distresses, the calamities of mankind, neither interrupt his tranquillity, nor lessen his draught; the miseries of his fellow-creatures, like the pictures of a battle, serve rather to excite pleasure than pain. Ten thousand fallen on one field make a curious article in the gazette. Hundreds sunk to the bottom by one broadside, furnish out the topic of the day, and zest his coffee: the very tempest guides him to his harbour. In short, he fancies he shews his loyalty by reproaches, and his courage by continuing the war. What I would intend by all this, is to persuade my countrymen by the fire-side to behave with the same degree of merit with those in the field; while they cover us with glory abroad, let us not tarnish it by invectives at home. I scarce read a periodical paper that is not filled with indecencies of

this kind, and as many of these papers pass into other countries, what idea will they form, not only of our good sense but humanity, when they see us thus depreciating the enemies we have subdued 2 This, in fact, is lessening ourselves. An easy conquest is no very honourable one. I remember to have heard M. Voltaire observe, in a large company at his house at Monrion,” that at the battle of Dettingen, the English exhibited prodigies of valour; but they soon lessened their well-bought conquest, by lessening the merit of those they had conquered. Their despising the French then, he continued to observe, was probably the cause of their defeat at Fontenoy: one army fought with all the security of presumption; the other with all the fury of men willing to rescue their character from undeserved contempt.

ESSAY XXVI.

THE GODDESS OF SILENCE:

to the 1, Adi Es of LoNDoN AND west MINst ER, GREETING.

Ladies ; though I am personally acquainted with but few of you; though an utter stranger at all your modern entertainments, routs, drums, or assemblies; yet as I was once well known to your grandmothers, and am still in some esteem with your husbands and lovers, I must be permitted to offer my complaint; I must beg leave to introduce my petition upon the strength of former intimacy, even though I should be heard with as much disgust as the poorest of your poor relations.

It is now many years since I was obliged to give up the amusements of town, and fly to a retreat in the country. I own I retired with reluctance, and fondly imagined you

[ocr errors]

would have felt equal reluctance at my departure; but instead of this I find no single creature regrets my absence; every pretty mouth strives which shall make most noise, and all seem to conspire in thinking that company best where I am totally excluded. And yet, Ladies, I have some right to expostulate against this ingratitude, for I will appeal to the opposite sex, whether you ever had in Great Britain a sincerer friend than I. I have made more matches in my time than a grass widow, and have reconciled more matrimonial disputes than the fears of pin-money, or a separate maintenance. I have taught ladies how to get husbands, and the harder lesson still, how to keep them; and yet for all this I am discarded, rejected from all polite society. But I am not only deposed; the Goddess of Discord has been set up in my stead; all your pleasures seem dictated by her direction ; she is constituted mistress of the ceremonies, if I can call that ceremony which is noise and confusion ; it is she alone that prescribes the drum, the ball, and the tempests; 'tis she increases the hurry of ridottas, whirlwinds, routs, hurricanes—but my head aches; I must discontinue a catalogue of names more grating than a curtain lecture, or the grenadier's march. I never think of the power I once enjoyed without regret; in those happy times when the beautiful sex was dressed in ruffs and fardingales; when your grandmothers shewed their skill, not in playing piquet, but in making pies; and were equally remarkable for raising passion and paste; in those happy times I say, Silence made some figure in every assembly; even court-ladies themselves were then contented with silent pleasures, and a lover who resisted all the eloquence of their eyes above-stairs, was after caught in the attractive circle of a custard, or a mince pie, of my lady's own making below in the larder.

Here I had enjoyed a peaceful reign from time immemorial; had flattered myself that modesty and I were to be inseparable companions; but it seems I was mistaken; I was first deposed at court by Miss Jenny Up-and-down, and my lady Betty Round-about; they hunted me from drawing-room to drawing-room, pursued me from family to family; for wherever they came, I was never after admitted. Those two ladies had led the fashion for many years; they continued tip-top talkative toasts for almost half a century; I wished a thousand times to see them peaceably married out of the way; but they continued their visiting and virginity to the last, and I was undone.

From court I was obliged to retire into the city. Here I sought for some time, though in vain, for refuge; but at last happily took shelter in thefamily of the Widow Slumber. I had no fears of having my repose disturbed in this family; for though it consisted mostly of women, there was no great noise; the widow herself being lethargic, and Mrs. Abigail dumb from her cradle. Yet, who would have thought it P A captain of grenadiers attacked the widow with success, and discharged both me and the dumb waitingmaid in the flash of a pistol |

We both travelled together for some time; and whatever she thought of me, I found her excellent company; so borrowing wings from proverty, we flew up together to a garret in Drury Lane. Here all was perfect tranquillity; even carts and hackney coaches from below could scarce be heard; the very woman that cried sprats was unable to interrupt our repose; and yet, after all, our repose was interrupted. Scandal in the shape of our landlady, began to intrude upon our retirement; she did not care, she said, to lodge single women; she lived in a very honest neighbourhood, and would not have her house get a bad character for our scurvy two shillings a week. So giving us warning,

we were obliged to decamp; Abigail to the workhouse, and I to the place of my nativity near Penman-maur.

From this retreat then it is, Ladies, that I address you; though I hate noise, I am equally averse to solitude. Permit me once more to return to be admitted at your entertainments; permit a banished goddess once more to show her friendship to the sex, and add lustre to your beauty. I do not know that I ever disgusted one of your lovers, though I have attracted thousands. I never knew a husband complain that I kept his wife too much company, and even on the most critical occasions my presence has been regarded as an omen of victory; for Silence gives consent. I am, Ladies, &c, &c.

ESSAY XXVII. oN THE ENGLISH CLERGY AND PopUI.AR PREACHERs. ()

It is allowed on all hands, that our English divines receive a more liberal education, and improve that education by frequent study, more than any others of this reverend profession in Europe. In general also it may be observed, that a greater degree of gentility is affixed to the character of a student in England than elsewhere; by which means our clergy have an opportunity of seeing better company while young, and of sooner wearing off those prejudices which they are apt to imbibe even in the best regulated universities, and which may be justly termed the vulgar errors of the wise.

Yet with all these advantages, it is very obvious that the clergy are no where so little thought of by the populace as

(1) [This and the three following papers originally appeared in the Ladies' Magazine for 1760 and 1761. See Life, ch. x.)

« AnteriorContinuar »