Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

renced many marks of favor from the Bishop of Winchester, of whose kindness to him he has sigmified his remembrance in the ring bequeathed at his death, with this expressive motto, “A MITE FoR A MILLion.” It was doubtless through his recommendation, that Ken obtained the patronage of Dr. Morley; who, having appointed him his chaplain, presented him to the rectory of Woodhay, in Hampshire; and then preferred him to the dignity of a prebendary in the cathedral church of Winton. The worthy son of a worthy father had no cause to complain that his merit was unnoticed, or unrewarded. Mr. Izaak Walton, junior, was educated at Christ Church in Oxford. Whilst he was Bachelor of Arts he attended his uncle, Mr. Ken, to Rome, where he was present at the jubilee appointed by Pope Clement the Tenth in 1675. On this occasion Ken was wont to say, “that he had great reason to give God thanks for his travels; since, if it were possible, he returned rather more confirmed of the purity of the Protestant religion than he was before.” During his residence in Italy, that country, which is justly called the great school of music and painting, the rich repository of the noblest productions of statuary and architecture, both ancient and modern, young Mr. Walton indulged and improved his taste for the fine arts. On his return to England, he retired to the university of Oxford to prosecute his studies. Having afterward accepted an invitation from Bishop Ward, to become his domestic chaplain, he was preferred to the rectory of Polshot, near Devizes in Wiltshire, and elected a canon of Salisbury. He afforded much assistance to Dr. John Walker, when engaged in his “History of the Sufferings of the Clergy,” communicating to him a variety of materials for that excellent work. He possessed all the amiable qualities that adorned the character of his father, a calm philanthropy, a genuine piety, an unaffected humility. It was at the house of this his nephew, that Dr. Ken was upon a visit, when a stack of chimneys fell into his bedchamber, Nov. 27, 1703, without doing him any harm; whilst Dr. Kidder, his immediate successor in the see of Bath and Wells, was unfortunately killed with his lady by a similar accident, during the same storm, in his palace at Wells. Mr. Walton, junior, died in 1716. His remains lie interred at the feet of his friend and patron, Bishop Ward, in the cathedral of Salisbury. It would be highly improper to ascribe to Mr. Izaak Walton that extent of knowledge, which characterizes the scholar. Yet those who are conversant in his writings will probably entertain no doubt of his acquaintance with books. His frequent references to ancient and modern history, his seasonable applications of several passages in the most approved writers, his allusions to various branches of general science, these and other circumstances concur in confirming the assertion, that though he did not partake of the benefits of early erudition, yet in maturer age, he enlarged his intellectual acquisitions, so as to render them fully proportionate to his opportunities and abilities. The fruits of his truly commendable industry he has generously consecrated to posterity. Deprived of the advantage of a learned education, he hath with great fidelity preserved the memory of those, who were “by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent in their instructions, honored in their generations, and the glory of their times,” each of whom, in his edifying pages, “being dead yet speaketh.” He may be literally said “to have labored not for himself only, but for all those that seek wisdom.” How interesting and affecting are many of his narratives and descriptions! The vision of ghastly horror that presented itself to Dr. Donne, at the time of his short residence in Paris ; the pleasant messages which Sir Henry Wotton and the good-natured priest exchanged with each other in a church at Rome, during the time of vespers; the domestic incidents which excited the tender commiseration of Mr. Edwin Sandys and Mr. George Cranmer, while they visited their venerable tutor at his country parsonage of Drayton Beauchamp; the affectionate and patient condescension of Mr. George Herbert, compassionating the distresses of the poor woman of Bemerton; the interview of Dr. Sanderson and Mr. Izaak Walton, accidentally meeting each other in the streets of London; these and numberless other similar passages will always be read with reiterated pleasure. We shall indeed be disappointed, if we expect to find in the following volume the brilliancy of wit, the elaborate correctness of style, or the ascititious graces and ornaments of fine composition. But that pleasing simplicity of sentiment, that plain and unaffected language, and, may I add, that natural eloquence, which pervades the whole, richly compensates the want of elegance, and rhetorical embellishment. Truth is never displayed to us in more grateful colors, than when she appears, not in a garish attire, but in her own native garb, without artifice, without pomp. In that garb Izaak Walton has arrayed her. Deeply impressed with the excellence of those exemplary characters which he endeavours to portray, he speaks no other language than that of the heart, and thus imparts to the reader his own undisguised sentiments, so friendly to piety and virtue. Assuredly, no pleasure can be placed in competition with that, which results from the view of men sedulously adjusting their actions with integrity and honor. To accompany them, as it were, along the path of life, to join in their conversation, to observe their demeanour in various situations, to contemplate their acts of charity and beneficence, to attend them into their closets, to behold their ardor of piety and devotion; in short, to establish, as it were, a friendship and familiarity with them ; this, doubtless, must be pronounced a happy anticipation of that holy intercourse, which will, I trust, subsist between beatified spirits in another and a better state. Those parts of this volume are more peculiarly adapted to afford satisfaction, improvement, and consolation, in which is related the behaviour of these good men at the hour of death. Here we find ourselves personally and intimately interested. “A battle or a triumph,” says Mr. Addison, “are conjunctures, in which not one man in a million is likely to be engaged; but when we see a person at the point of death, we cannot forbear being attentive to every thing he says or does; because we are sure, that some time or other, we shall ourselves be in the same melancholy circumstances. The general, the statesman, or the philosopher, are perhaps characters which we may never act in; but the dying man is one whom, sooner or later, we shall certainly resemble.” Thus, while these instructive pages teach us how to live, they impart a lesson equally useful and momentous — how to die. When I contrast the death-bed scenes, which our author has described, with that which is exhibited to us in the last illness of a modern philosopher, who, at that awful period, had no source of consolation but what he derived from reading Lucian and other books of amusement, discoursing cheerfully with his friends on the trifling topics of common conversation, playing at his favorite game of whist, and indulging his pleasantry on the fabulous history of “Charon and his boat,” without one single act of devotion, without any expression of penitential sorrow, of hope, or confidence in the goodness of God, or in the merits of a Redeemer; when this contrast, I say, is presented to my view, it is impossible not to adopt the language of the prophet, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.” Is it necessary to add, that we are here presented with two pleasing portraits of female excellence, in the mother and in the wife of Mr. George Herbert? In the first were united all the personal and mental

« AnteriorContinuar »