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As to the flowers which adorned this room, I thought they were all natural at my first coming in, but on inspection it appeared that several baskets of the finest kinds were inimitably painted on the walls by Marinda's hand.
“ These things afforded me a pleasing entertainment for about half an hour, and then Miss Bruce returned. One of the maids brought in a supper-such fare, she said, as her little cottage afforded; and the table was covered with green peas and pigeons, cream cheese, new bread and butter. Everything was excellent in its kind. The cider and ale were admirable. Discretion and dignity appeared in Marinda's behaviour; she talked with judgment; and, under the decencies of ignorance, was concealed a valuable knowledge.”—Vol. I., p. 1.
This is the way in which Buncle meets with most of his ladies. They are discovered in lovely places reading books, and are always prepared for nice little suppers. Their fathers or other companions are generally people to match. Jack Bruce, Marinda's father, was an excellent good fellow, disinherited by his own father for refusing to sign the thirty-nine articles. He disappears in a solitude, marries å farmer's daughter (“an extraordinary beauty” with an “uncommon understanding”), and becomes a farmer himself.
“Religion,' would Jack Bruce say, as we passed an evening over a little bowl of nectar—for he never taught in the dry, sober method—religion,' &c."
Then follows a picture of philosophic Unitarianism.
“ This was a glorious faith, Jewks.” People, he says, "may substitute inventive pieces in the place of true religion, and multiply their fancies into endless volumes, such as, Revelation examined with Candour, the most uncandid
thing that ever was written; the Life of David, &e., by the same author; Rogers's Discourse of the Visible and Invisible Church ; Waterland's Importance, and other writings; the execrable dialogues called Ophiomaches; Trapp, Webster, and Vernon ; the miserable Answers to the Bishop of Clogher; Dodwell, Church, and Brooks, against Middleton; Knowles against the Argument à Priori ; and cartloads of such religious lumber" (these italics are the author's); “but, my dear Jewks, true Christianity lies in repentance and amendment.” •
Miss Bruce wins a husband by painting pictures of “Arcadia” and the “Crucifixion,” and “playing on the fiddle.” Divers charming young ladies come to her house by accident, and form extempore never-dying friendships, in the manner of the people in the Rovers
“Come to my arms, my slight acquaintance."
Among others are Mrs. Schomberg and Miss West.
“They were riding to Crawford Dyke, near Dunglass, the place I intended for, and by a wrong turn in the road came to Mrs. Benlow's house, instead of going to Robin's Toad, where they designed to bait. It was between eight and nine at night when they got to her door; and as they appeared, by the richness of their riding-dress, their servants, and the beautiful horses they rid, to be women of distinction, Mrs. Benlow invited them in, and requested they would lie at her house that night, as the inn they were looking for was very bad. Nothing could be more grateful to the ladies than this proposal. They were on the ground in a moment; and we all sat down soon after, with the greatest cheerfulness, to a fine dish of trouts, roasted chickens, tarts, and sparragrass. The strangers were quite charmed with everything they saw. The sweet rural room they were in, and the wild beauties of the garden in view,
they could not enough admire; and they were so struck with Mrs. Benlow's goodness, and the lively happy manner she has of showing it, that they conceived immediately the greatest affection for her. Felicity could not rise higher than it did at this table. For a couple of hours we laughed most immoderately."-Id., p. 92.
But to quit the lives of ladies who married other men, and come to John Buncle and his own. John quits his father, as Jack Bruce did, on account of a religious difference, and goes about the world, seeking whom he may marry.
His first wife is a Miss Melmoth. He had known her some time, when having been led one day into some particularly serious reflections on life and death by the sight of a skeleton, he considered that it would be a good thing to “commence a matrimonial relation with some sensible, good-humoured, dear, delightful girl of the mountains, and persuade her to be the cheerful partner of his still life.” He thought that “nature and reason " would then “create the highest scenes of felicity, and that he should live, as it were, in the suburbs of heaven.”
“ This is fine," concludes he, in an ecstacy.
“ For once in my life I am fortunate. And suppose this partner I want in my solitude could be Miss Melmoth, one of the wisest and most discreet of women, thinking a bloom and good-humour itself in a human figure, then, indeed, I must be happy in this silent, romantic station. This spot of earth would then have all the felicities.-Resolved. Conclusum est contra Manichæos, said the great St. Austin ; and with a thump of his fist, he (St. Austin) cracked the table."-Vol. II., Edit. 1770, p. 62.
Miss Melmoth, being one of the wisest as well as loveliest of women, accepts of course the hand that draws so convincing a conclusion from the fist of St. Austin. For two years they lead a life of bliss; but at the end of that time she dies of a fever, and John quits a solitude which he could not bear.
His second wife is the lovely Miss Statia Henley, “bright and charming as Aurora,” daughter of John Henley, Esquire, of the Groves of Basil. She had some fugitive notions of celibacy, which our hero refutes on Christian principles; and, as in the former instance, they lead a life of bliss for two years. The “illustrious Statia” then dies of the small-pox, and is laid by Charlotte's side.
“ Thus did I again become a mourner. I sat with my eyes shut for three days; but at last called for my horse, to try what air, exercise, and variety of objects could do."Vol. III., p. 57.
Air, exercise, and a variety of objects did very well; for Mr. Buncle misses his way into the house and grounds of the exquisite Miss Antonia Cramer, “a heaven-born maid” and “innocent beauty,” whom he marries of course. But her, also, alas! he loses of the small-pox, at the end of two-no, three years. “Four” days, too, he sits with his eyes shut, which is a day more than he gave to Statia; and then he left the lodge once more, “to live, if he could, since his religion ordered him so to do, and see what he was next to meet with in the world.”
“ Nota bene," says our author at this place.
“As I mention nothing of any children by so many wives, some readers may perhaps wonder at this; and therefore, to give a general answer, once for all, I think it sufficient to observe, that I had a great many to carry on the succession ; but as they never were concerned in any extraordinary affairs, nor ever did any remarkable things, that I ever heard of;—only rise and breakfast, read and saunter, drink and eat, it would not be fair, in my opinion, to make any one pay for their history.”—P. 151.
This kind of progeny, by the way, hardly does credit to our hero's very exquisite marriages. But as extremes meet, and fair play must be seen to the mass of the community, we suppose the young Buncles were dull, in oonsideration of the vivacity of the parents.
Mr. Buncle having laid his beloved Antonia by the side of his Charlotte and his Statia, now goes to Harrogate; and while there, “it is his fortune to dance with a lady who had the head of an Aristotle, the heart of a primitive Christian, and the form of a Venus de Medicis.”
“ This was Miss Spence, of Westmoreland. I was not many hours in her company,” says he, “ before I became most passionately in love with her. I did all I could to win her heart, and at last asked her the question. But before I inform my readers what the consequence of this was, I must take some notice of what I expect from the Critical Reviewers. These gentlemen will attempt to raise the laugh. Our moralist (they will say) has buried three wives running, and they are hardly cold in their graves before he is dancing like a buck at the Wells, and plighting vows to a fourth girl, the beauty Miss Spence. An honest fellow, this Suarez, as Pascal says of that Jesuit, in his Provincial Letters.
“To this I reply, that I think it unreasonable and impious to grieve immoderately for the dead. A decent and proper tribute of tears and sorrow humanity requires; but when that duty has been paid, we must remember, that to lament a dead woman is not to lament a wife! A wife must be a living woman.”—Vol. III., p. 180.
He argues furthermore, that it would be sinful to behave on such occasions as if Providence had been unjust. The lady has been lent but for a term; and we must bow to the limitation. Besides, she is in Heaven; and therefore it would be senseless to continue murmuring, and not make the most of the world that remains to us, while she is “breathing the balmy air of Paradise,” and being “beyond description happy."
Miss Spence, however, is a little coy. She is a very learned as well as charming young lady. She quotes Virgil, discourses with her lover on fluxions and the Differential Calculus, and is not to be won quite so fast as he wishes. Nevertheless, he wins her at last; loses her in six