Page images
PDF
EPUB

it can recover the 'regularity of its time. Such, thought I, shall be my method this evening; and since it is that day of the year, which I dedicate to the memory of such in another life as I much delighted in when living, an hour or two shall be sacred to sorrow and their memory, while I run over all the melancholy circumstances of this kind which have occurred to me in my whole life.

The first sense of sorrow I ever knew was upon the death of my father, at which time I was not quite five years of age; but was rather amazed at what all the house meant, than possessed with a real understanding why nobody was willing to play with me. I remember I went into the room where his body lay, and my mother sat weeping alone by it. I had my battledore in my hand, and fell abeating the coffin, and calling Papa; for, I know not how, I had some slight idea that he was locked up there. My mother catched me in her arms, aud, transported beyond all patience of the silent grief she was before in, she almost smothered me in her embraces; and told me in a flood of tears, Papa could not hear me, and would play with me no more, for they were going to put him under ground, whence he could never come to us again." She was a very beautiful womao, of a noble spirit, and there was a dignity in her grief amidst all the wildness of her transport; which, methought, struck me with an instinct of sorrow, 'that before I was sensible of what it was to grieve, seized my very soul, and has made pity the weakness of my heart ever since. The mind in infancy is, methinks, like the body in embryo; and receives impressions so forcible, that they are as bard to be removed by reason, as any mark, with which a child is born, is to be taken away by any future application. Hence it is, that good nature in me is no

merit; but having been so frequently overwhelmed with ber tears before I knew the cause of any affiction, or could draw defences from my own judgment, I imbibed commiseration, remorse, and an unmanly gentleness of mind, which has since insnared me into ten thousand calamities; from whence I can reap no advantage, except it be, that, in such a humour as I am now in, I can the better indulge myself in the softness of humanity, and enjoy that sweet anxiety which arises from the memory of past afflictions.

We, that are very old, are better able to remember things which befel us in our distant youth, than the passages of later days. For this reason it is, that the companions of my strong and vigorous years present themselves more immediately to me in this office of sorrow. Untimely and unhappy deaths are what we are most apt to lament; so little are we able to make it indifferent when a thing happens, though we know it must happen. Thus we groan under life, and bewail those who are relieved from it. Every object that returns to our imagination raises different passions, according to the circumstance of their departure. Who can have lived in an army, and in a serious hour reflect upon the many gay and agreeable men that might long have flourished in the arts of peace, and not join with the imprecations of the fatherless and widow on the tyrant to whose ambition they fell sacrifices ? But gallant men, who are cut off by the sword, move rather our veneration than our pity : and we gather relief enough from their own contempt of death, to make that no evil, which was approached with so much cheerfulness, and attended with so much honour. But when we turn our thoughts from the great parts of life on such occasions, and instead of lą. menting those who stood ready to give death to those from whom they had the fortune to receive it; I say, when we let our thoughts wander from such noble objects, and consider the havoc which is made among the tender and the innocent, pity enters with an unmixed softness, and possesses all our souls at once.

Here (were there words to express such sentiments with proper tenderness) I should record the beauty, innocence, and untimely death, of the first object my eyes ever beheld with love. The beauteous virgin ! how ignorantly did she charm, how carelessly excel! Oh death ! thou hast right to the bold, to the ambitious, to the high, and to the haughty; but why this cruelty to the humble, to the meek, to the undiscerning, to the thoughtless? Nor age, nor business, nor distress, can erase the dear image from my imagination. In the same week, I saw her dressed for a ball, and in a shroud. How ill did the habit of death become the pretty trifler! I still behold the smiling earth

-A large train of disasters were coming on to my memory, when my servant knocked at my closet-door, and interrupted me with a letter, attended with a hamper of wine, of the same sort with that which is to be put to sale on Thursday next, at Garraway's coffee house. Upon the receipt of it, I sent for three of my friends. We are so intimate, that we can be company in whatever state of mind we meet, and can entertain each other without expecting always to rejoice. The wine we found to be generous and warming, but with such an heat as moved us rather to be cheerful than frolicsome. It revived the spirits, without firing the blood. We commended it until two of the clock this morning; and having to-day met little

a

before dinner, we found, that though we drank two bottles a man, we had much more reason to recollect than forget what had passed the night before.

N° 182. THURSDAY, JUNE 8, 1710.

Spectaret populum ludis attentiùs ipsis.

Hor. 1 Ep. ii. 197. The crowd would more delight the laughing Sage*, Than all the farce, and follies of the stage.

FRANCIS.

Sheer-lane, June 7. The town grows so very empty, that the greater number of my gay characters are fled out of my sight into the country. My beaux are now shepherds, and my belles wood-nymphs. They are lolling over rivulets, and covered with shades, while we who remain in town, hurry through the dust about impertinencies, without knowing the happi. ness of leisure and retirement. To add to this ca. lamity, even the actors are going to desert us for a season, and we shall not shortly have so much as a landscape or a forest-scene to refresh ourselves with in the midst of our fatigues. This may not, perhaps, be so sensible a loss to any other as to me; for I confess it is one of my greatest delights to sit unobserved and unknown in the gallery, and en

. * Democritus.

tertain myself either with what is personated on the stage, or observe what appearances present themselves in the audience. If there were no other good consequences in a play-house, than that so many persons of different ranks and conditions are placed there in their most pleasing aspects,

that prospect only would be very far from being below the pleasures of a wise man.

There is not one person you can see, in whom, if you look with an in. clination to be pleased, you may not behold something worthy or agreeable. Our thoughts are in our features ; and the visage of those in whom love, rage, anger, jealousy, or envy, have their frequent mansions, carries the traces of those passions wherever the amorous, the choleric, the jealous, or the envious, are pleased to make their appearance. However, the assembly at a play is usually made up of such as have a sense of some elegance in pleasure; by which means the audience is generally composed of those who have gentle affections, or at least of such, as at that time are in the best humour you can ever find them. This has insepsibly a good effect upon our spirits; and the musical airs which are played to us, put the whole company into a participation of the same pleasure, and by consequence, for that time, equal in humour, in fortune, and in quality. Thus far we gain only by coming into an audience; but if we find, added to this, the beauties of proper action, the force of eloquence, and the gaiety of well-placed lights and scenes, it is being happy, and seeing others happy, for two hours; a duration of bliss not at all to be slighted by so short-lived a creature as man.. Why then should not the duty of the player be had in much more esteem than it is at present? If the merit of a performance is to be valued according to the talents which are necessary to it, the qualifi,

« PreviousContinue »