« AnteriorContinuar »
most celebrated performances, was composed by him on the road to Italy; ne totum illud tempus quo equo fuit insidendum, illiteratis fabulis terreretur, Test the hours which he was obliged to spend on horseback should be tattled away without regard to literature.
An Italian philosopher expressed in his motto, that time was his estate; an estate indeed, which will
produce nothing without cultivation, but will always abundantly repay the labours of industry, and satisfy the most extensive desires, if no part of it be suffered to lie waste by negligence, to be overrun with noxious plants, or laid out for show rather than for use.
TUESDAY, April 2, 1751.
Gratum est, quod patriæ civem populoque dedisti,
Grateful the gift! a member to the state,
that member useful shall create;
To the RAMBLER.
HOUGH you seem to have taken a view
sufficiently extensive of the miseries of life, and have employed much of your speculation on mournful subjects, you have not yet exhausted the whole stock of human infelicity. There is still a species of wretchedness which escapes your observation, though it might supply you with many sage remarks, and salutary cautions.
I cannot but imagine the start of attention awakened by this welcome hint; and at this instant see the Rambler snuffing his candle, rubbing his spectacles, stirring his fire, locking out interruption, and settling himself in his easy chair, that he may enjoy a new calamity without disturbance. For, whether it be that continued sickness or misfortune
has acquainted you only with the bitterness of being; or that you imagine none but yourself able to discover what I suppose has been seen and felt by all the inhabitants of the world : whether you intend your writings as antidotal to the levity and merriment with which your rivals endeavour to attract the favour of the publick; or fancy that you have some particular powers of dolorous declamation, and warble out your groans with uncommon elegance or energy; it is certain that, whatever be your subject, melancholy for the most part bursts in upon your speculation, your gayety is quickly overcast, and, though your readers may be flattered with hopes of pleasantry, they are seldom dismissed but with heavy liearts.
That I may therefore gratify you with an imitation of your own syllables of sadness, I will inform you' that I was condemned by some disastrous influence to be an only son, born to the apparent prospect of a large fortune, and allotted to my parents at that time of life, when satiety of common diversions allows the mind to indulge parental affection with greater intenseness. My birth was celebrated by the tenants with feasts, and dances, and bagpipes: congratulations were sent from every family within ten miles round; and my parents discovered in my first cries such tokens of future virtue and understanding, that they declared themselves determined to devote the remaining part of life to my happiness and the increase of their estate.
The abilities of my father and mother were not perceptibly mequal, and education had given neither much advantage over the other. They had both 18
kept good company, rattled in chariots, glittered in playhouses, and danced at court, and were both expert in the games that were in their time called in as auxiliaries against the intrusion of thought.
When there is such a parity between tivo persons associated for life, the dejection which the husband, if he be not completely stupid, must always suffer for want of superiority, sinks him to submissiveness. My mamma therefore governed the family without control; and except that my father still retained some authority in the stables, and, now and then, after a supernumerary bottle, broke a looking-glass or china dish to prove his sovereignty, the whole course of the year was regulated by her direction, the servants received from her all their orders, and the tenants were continued or dismissed at her discretion.
She therefore thought herself entitled to the superintendence of her son's education, and when my father, at the instigation of the parson, faintly proposed that I should be sent to school, very positively told him, that she should not suffer so fine a child to be ruined; that she never knew any boys at a grammar-school that could come into a room without blushing, or sit at the table without some awkward uneasiness ; that they were always putting themselves into danger by boisterous plays, or vitiating their behaviour with mean company; and that, for her part, she would rather follow me to the grave, than see me tear my clothes, and hang down my head, and speak about with dirty shoes and blotted fingers, my hair unpowdered, and my hat uncocked.
My father, who had no other end in his proposal than to appear wise and manly, soon acquiesced, VOL. V.
since I was not to live by my learning ; for indeed he had known very few students that had not some stiffness in their manner. They therefore agreed, that a domestick tutor should be procured, and hired an honest gentleman of mean conversation and narrow sentiments, but whom, having passed the common forms of literary education, they implicitly concluded qualified to teach all that was to be learned from a scholar. He thought himself sufficiently exalted by being placed at the same table with his pupil, and had no other view than to perpetuate his felicity by the utmost flexibility of submission to all my mother's opinions and caprices. He frequently took away my book, lest I should mope with too much application, charged me never to write without turning up my ruffles, and generally brushed
coat before he dismissed me into the parlour.
He had no occasion to complain of too burdensome 'an employment; for my mother very judiciously considered, that I was not likely to grow politer in his company, and suffered me not to pass any more time in his apartment than my lesson required. When I was summoned to my task, she enjoined me not to get any of my tutor's ways, who was seldom mentioned before me but for practices to be avoided. I was every moment admonished not to lean on my chair, cross my legs, or swing my hands like my tutor; and once my mother very seriously deliberated upon his total dismission, because I began, she said, to learn his manner of sticking on my hat, and had his bend in my shoulders, and his totter in my gait.
Such, however, was her care, that I escaped all these depravities; and when I was only twelve years 17