Imágenes de página
PDF

softly insinuated, that the greatest punishment to be inflicted upon any disobligation was only to have the contrary virtue to the fault they had been guilty of, highly applauded in the next correspondence, which was ever so managed as to please and improve. Scarce an harsh expression, much less any evil surmise or suspicion, could be admitted where every line was devoted to charity and goodness. This is no effect of partiality, but appears in the particular instances, so that the same judgment must be made by all unprejudiced persons who shall have a sight of them. Any misfortune or disappointment was not mournfully lamented, but related in such a manner as became a mind that had laid in a sufficient provision of courage and patience beforehand to support it under afflictions. All unfortunate accidents are allayed by some consolatory argument taken from solid principles. No kind of trouble, but one, seems to interrupt the constant intention to entertain and oblige; but that is dolorously represented in many of the letters; which is the loss of children or friends. That being an irreparable separation in this world, is deplored with the most affectionate tenderness which words can express. You may conclude that they who write in such a manner as this, must be supposed to have a just sense of religion, because there can scarce be assigned one act of a beneficent and charitable temper but has many texts of the Gospel to enforce it. So that all good Christians must be very useful and excellent neighbours and friends; which made this lady ever esteemed so. She was the delight of all the conversations where she appeared, she was loved and admired, yet never envied by any, not so much as by the women, who seldom allow the perfections of their own sex, lest they eclipse their own; but as this very manifestly and upon all occasions was her temper, the world was very grateful to her upon that account. This happiness was gained and preserved by one wise qualification; for though no person living had a closer insight into the humours or characters of persons, or could distinguish their merits more nicely, yet she never made any despising or censorious reflections: her great discernment and wit were never abused to sully the reputation of others, nor affected any applause that might be gained by satirical jests. Though she was extremely valued, and her friendship prized and sought for by them of the highest condition, yet she ever treated those of the lowest with great condescension and humanity. The memory of her virtues and benefits made such deep impression on her neighbours of Deptford and Greenwich, that if any one should bring in another report from this, or what was generally received among them, they would condemn it as false, and the effect of a slanderous calumny: either they would never yield that any change should happen to this excellent lady, or they'd impute it to sickness, or time, or chance, or the unavoidable frailties of human nature. But I have somewhat digressed from my subject, which was to describe her person or perfections no otherwise than may be gathered from the letters I received; they contain historical passages and accounts of any more or less considerable action or accident that came to her knowledge, with diverting or serious reflections as the subject required, but generally in an equal and chaste style, supported by a constant gravity, never descending to affected sallies of ludicrous wit. It's to be further observed, that though she recites and speaks French exactly, and understands Italian, yet she confines herself with such strictness to the purity of the English tongue, that she never introduces foreign or adopted words. That there's a great steadiness and equality in her thoughts, and that her sense and expressions have a mutual dependence on each other, may be inferred from hence— you shall never perceive one perplexed sentence, or blot, or recalling a word in more than twenty letters. Many persons with whom she conversed or were related to her, or had any public part in the world, were honoured by very lively characters conferred on them, always just and full of discernment, rather inclining to the charitable side, yet no otherwise than as skilful masters who paint like, yet know how to give some graces and advantages to them whose pictures they draw. . The expressions are clear and unaffected, the sentences frequent and grave, the remarks judicious, the periods flowing and long, after the Ciceronian * Copies of many letters to Dr. Bohun were found at Wotton, but not

those here referred to. Several of them will follow, with some addressed to other correspondents, as specimens of her manner and great good sense.

way; yet, though they launch out so far, they are strict to the rules of grammar, and ever come safe home at last without any obscurity or incoherence attending them. I will only give one instance of a person who was characterized by her in a more favourable manner than he durst presume that he deserved; however, to show the method of her writing, I shall set it down. “I believe (such an one) to be a person of much wit, great knowledge, judicious and discerning, charitable, well natured, obliging in conversation, apt to forget and forgive injuries, eloquent in the pulpit, living according to known precepts, faithful to his friend, generous to his enemy, and in every respect accomplished; this in our vulgar way is a desirable character, but you'll excuse if I judge unrefinedly who have the care of cakes and stilling, and sweetmeats and such useful things.” Mrs. Evelyn has been often heard to say concerning the death of her admirable and beloved daughter, that though she had lost her for ever in this world, yet she would not but that she had been, because many pleasing ideas occur to her thoughts that she had conversed with her so long, and been made happy by her for so many years.

Ozon, 1695, Sept. 20.

[This character of Mrs. Evelyn would appear to have been written thirteen years before her death. She outlived her husband nearly three years, and, by her will dated in February 1708-9 (the year and month of her death), desired to be buried in a stone coffin near that of “my dear husband, whose love and friendship I was happy in, fifty-eight years nine months; but by God's providence left a disconsolate widow, the 27th day of February, 1705, in the 71st year of my age. His care of my education was such as might become a father, a lover, a friend, and husband; for instruction, tenderness, affection, and fidelity to the last moment of his life; which obligation I mention with a gratitude to his memory, ever dear to me; and I must not omit to own the sense I have of my parent's care and goodness, in placing me in such worthy hands.”]

[merged small][ocr errors]

SIR,

I am concerned you should be absent when you might confirm the suffrages of your fellow collegiots, and see the mistress both Universities court; a person who has not her equal possibly in the world, so extraordinary a woman she is in all things. I acknowledge, though I remember her some years since and have not been a stranger to her fame, I was surprised to find so much extravagancy and vanity in any person not confined within four walls. Her habit particular, fantastical, not unbecoming a good shape, which she may truly boast of. Her face discovers the facility of the sex, in being yet persuaded it deserves the esteem years forbid, by the infinite care she takes to place her curls and patches. Her mien surpasses the imagination of poets, or the descriptions of a romance heroine's greatness; her gracious bows, seasonable nods, courteous stretching out of her hands, twinkling of her eyes, and various gestures of approbation, show what may be expected from her discourse, which is as airy, empty, whimsical, and rambling as her books, aiming at science, difficulties, high notions, terminating commonly in nonsense, oaths, and obscenity. Her way of address to people, more

* This letter appears to describe the impression produced on the writer by that interview with Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, to which reference is made in the Diary, vol. ii. p. 26: “Went again with my wife to the Duchess of Newcastle, who received her in a kind of transport, suitable to her extravagant humour and dress, which was very singular.” The date therefore will be 1667.

than necessarily submissive; a certain general form to all, obliging, by repeating affected, generous, kind expressions; endeavouring to show humility by calling back things past, still to improve her present greatness and favour to her friends. I found Doctor Charlton with her, complimenting her wit and learning in a high manner; which she took to be so much her due that she swore if the schools did not banish Aristotle and read Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, they did her wrong, and deserved to be utterly abolished. My part was not yet to speak, but admire; especially hearing her go on magnifying her own generous actions, stately buildings, noble fortune, her lord's prodigious losses in the war, his power, valour, wit, learning, and industry, what did she not mention to his or her own advantage P. Sometimes, to give her breath, came in a fresh admirer; then she took occasion to justify her faith, to give an account of her religion, as new and unintelligible as her philosophy, to cite her own pieces line and page in such a book, and to tell the adventures of some of her nymphs. At last I grew weary, and concluded that the creature called a chimera which I had heard speak of, was now to be seen, and that it was time to retire for fear of infection; yet I hope, as she is an original, she may never have a copy. Never did I see a woman so full of herself, so amazingly vain and ambitious. What contrary miracles does this age produce. This lady and Mrs. Philips || The one transported with the shadow of reason, the other possessed of the substance and insensible of her treasure; and yet men who are esteemed wise and learned, not only put them in equal balance, but suffer the greatness of the one to weigh down the certain real worth of the other. This is all I can requite your rare verses with ; which as much surpass the merit of the person you endeavour to represent, as I can assure you this description falls short of the lady I would make you acquainted with : but she is not of mortal race, and therefore cannot be de

fined.
M. E.

* The once “matchless Orinda;” now forgotten. An edition of her poems had come out during the present year.

« AnteriorContinuar »