« PreviousContinue »
CATHERINE TALBOT. 1720-1770.
CATHERINE TALBOT, the only daughter of Rev. Edward Talbot, Archdeacon of Berks, was born in the year 1720. She early exhibited strong marks of a feeling heart, a warm imagination, and a powerful understanding. To these natural talents were added all the advantages of a thorough education founded on Christian principles. In 1741 she was introduced to the celebrated Miss Elizabeth Carter, with whom she maintained the most close and intimate friendship to the close of her life. At what age she began to write for the public eye, does not appear; but it is certain that her talents and attainments early introduced her into a valuable literary acquaintance, of which Archbishop Secker, and Dr. Butler, the author of the “ Analogy,” may be named. But great as were her talents, and brilliant as her accomplishments, she possessed qualities of infinitely more importance both to herself and society. Her piety was deep and ardent: it was the spring of all her actions, as its rewards was the object of all her hopes. Her life, however, affords but little scope for narrative; passing on in a smooth, equable tenor, without dangers or adventures. But she was not of a strong constitution, and the disease to which she had long been subject-a cancer-at length made rapid strides upon her delicate frame, and she expired on the 9th of January, 1770.
The chief publications of Miss Talbot are, “Reflections on the Seven Days of the Week,” which have passed through numerous editions, twentysix « Essays,” five « Dialogues,” three « Prose Pastorals," a « Fairy Tale,” three « Imitations of Ossian," two “ Allegories,” No. 30 of the “ Rambler," and a few “Poems;" all of which may be read with great profit, as the production of one who possessed the most exquisite qualities both of the head and heart.2
A SENSE OF GOD'S PRESENCE. Let me ask myself, as in the sight of God, what is the general turn of my temper, and disposition of my mind ? My most trifling words and actions are observed by Him: and every thought is naked to His eye. Could I suppose the king, or any the greatest person I have any knowledge of, were within reach of observing my common daily behaviour, though unseen by me, should I not be very particularly careful to preserve it, in every respect, decent and becoming ? Should I allow myself in any little froward humors ? Should I not be ashamed to appear peevish and ill-natured ? Should I use so much as one harsh or unhandsome expression even to my equal, or my meanest inferior, even were I ever so much provoked ? Much less should I behave irreverently to my parents or superiors. This awful Being, in whom I live and move, and from whom no obscurity can hide me, by whom the very hairs of my head are all numbered, He knows the obligations of every relation in life. He sees in their full light the
1 This lady died in 1806, consequently beyond the period (1800) to which I have been obliged to restrict myself in the preparation of this work, in order to do any justice to our earlier writers.
2 Read-edition of her works, by Rev. M. Pennington ;-a notice of her life in Drake's Essays, vol. v , and some notices in Sir Egerton Brydges's "Censura Literaria."
reciprocal duties of parents and children, of husbands and wives, of neighbors and fellow-servants. He knows the aggravated guilt of every offence against these ties of society, however we may be disposed to treat them as trifles : and every piece of stubbornness and pride, of ill-humour and passion, of anger and resentment, of sullenness and perverseness, exposes us to Hís just indignation.'
Reflections on Sunday.
Direction .. SELF-EXAMINATION. . '." That I may be better in future, let me examine a little what temper I have been in the last twenty-four hours. In general, perhaps, I can recollect nothing much amiss in it: but let me descend to particulars. Things are often very faulty, that appear at first sight very trifling. Perhaps I have so fond a conceit of myself as to think that I can never be in the wrong. Has any uneasiness happened in the family this last day > Perhaps I think the fault was wholly in others, and the right entirely on my side. But ought I not to remember, that in all disputes, there is generally some fault on both sides? Perhaps they begun :-but did not I carry it on ?—They gave the provocation :-but did not I take it ?-Am not I too apt to imagine that it would be mean entirely to let a quarrel drop, when I have a fair opportunity to reason, and argue, and reproach, to vindicate my injured merit, and assert my right? "Yet, is this agreeable to the precepts and example of Him," who, when he was reviled, reviled not again ?" Is it agreeable to His commands, who has charged me, if my brother trespass against me, to forgive him, not seven times only, but seventy times seven? Is it agreeable to that Christian doctrine which exhorts us, not to think of ourselves highly, but soberly, as we ought to think: and that, in lowliness of mind, every one should think others better than himself? And alas, how often do I think this disrespect, though a slight one, provoking to me? This situation, though a happy one, not good enough for ine? How often have I had in my mouth that wise maxim, that a worm, if it is trod upon, will turn again! Wretch that I am, shall I plead the example of a vile worm of the earth for disobeying the commands of my Saviour, with whom I hope hereafter to sit in heavenly places ?1
Reflections on Monday,
ALL CAN DO GOOD. Every one of us may in something or other assist or instruct some of his fellow-creatures : for the best of human race is poor
1 It is proper to observe that this excellent illustration of these unchristian passions, though expressed in the first person, conveys no sort of idea of the mild and humble disposition of the writer hersell.
and needy, and all have a mutual dependence on one another: there is nobody that cannot do some good : and everybody is bound to do diligently all the good they can. It is by no means enough to be rightly disposed, to be serious, and religious in our closets: we must be useful too, and take care, that as we all reap numberless benefits from society, society may be the better for every one of us. It is a false, a faulty, and an indolent humility, that makes people sit still and do nothing, because they will not believe that they are capable of doing much: for everybody can do something. Everybody can set a good example, be it to many or to few. Everybody can in some degree encourage virtue and religion, and discountenance vice and folly. Everybody has some one or other whom they can advise, or instruct, or in some way help to guide through life. Those who are too poor to give alms, can yet give their time, their trouble, their assistance in preparing or forwarding the gifts of others; in considering and representing distressed cases to those who can relieve them ; in visiting and comforting the sick and afflicted. Everybody can offer up their prayers for those who need them: which, if they do reverently and sincerely, they will never be wanting in giving them every other assistance that it should please God to put in their power.
Reflections on Thursday. 9 THE IMPORTANCE OF TIME. Another week is past; another of those little limited portions of time which number out my life. Let me stop a little here, before I enter upon a new one, and consider what this life is which is thus imperceptibly stealing away, and whither it is conducting me? What is its end and aim, its good and its evil, its use and improvement? What place does it fill in the universe ? What proportion does it bear to eternity ?
Let me think, then, and think deeply, how I have employed this week past. Have I advanced in, or deviated from the path that leads to life? Has my time been improved or lost, or worse than lost, misspent ? If the last, let me use double diligence to redeem it. Have I spent a due portion of my time in acts of devotion and piety, both private, public, and domestic? And have they been sincere, and free from all mixture of superstition, moroseness, or weak scrupulosity? Have I, in society, been kind and helpful, mild, peaceable, and obliging? Have I been charitable, friendly, discreet? Have I had a due regard, without vanity or ostentation, to set a good example? Have I been equally ready to give and receive instruction, and proper advice ? Careful to give no offence, and patient to take every thing in good part? Have I been honest, upright, and disinterested ? Have I, in my way, and according to my station and calling, been diligent, fru
gal, generous, and industrious to do good? Have I, in all my behavior, consulted the happiness and ease of those I live with, and of all who have any dependence upon me? Have I preserved my understanding clear, my temper calm, my spirits cheerful, my body temperate and healthy, and my heart in a right frame? If to all these questions I can humbly, yet confidently answer, that I have done my best : if I have truly repented all the faulty past, and made humble, yet firm, and vigorous, and deliberate resolutions for the future, poor as it is, the honest endeavor will be graciously accepted.
Reflections on Saturday..
IMPORTANCE OF EARLY RISING.
Awake, my Laura, break the silken chain,
Forsake thy drowsy couch, and sprightly rise.
Think of the task those hours have yet in view,
THOMAS CHATTERTON. 1752-1770.
THOMAS CHATTERTON was the son of the master of a free-school in Bristol, and was born on the 20th of November, 1752. His father dying about three months before the birth of the son, the whole care of his education devolved upon the mother, who appears to have discharged her duty with great fidelity. At the age of eight, he was put to a charity-school at Bristol, where he soon discovered a great passion for books, and before he was twelve had perused about seventy volumes, chiefly on history and divinity, and written some verses which were wonderful for his years. At the age of fourteen he was bound apprentice to a Mr. Lambert, a scrivener in his native city, and he devoted all his leisure time to acquiring a knowledge of English antiquities and obsolete language, as a sort of preparation for the wonderful fabrication he shortly after palmed upon the world.
It was in the year 1768 that he first attracted public attention. On the occasion of the new bridge at Bristol being opened, there appeared in the Bristol Journal an article purporting to be the transcript of an ancient manuscript, entitled, “ A Description of the Fryers first passing over the Old Bridge, taken from an Ancient Manuscript.” This was traced to Chatterton, who said he had received the paper, together with many other ancient manuscripts, from his father, who had found them in an iron chest in the Redcliff church, near Bristol, and that they were written by Thomas Rowley, a priest of the fifteenth century. Having deceived many persons of some literary pretensions in Bristol, he wrote to Horace Walpole, in London, sending him some specimens of his Rowleian poetry, and requesting his patronage. The virtuoso, however, having shown the poetical specimens to Gray and Mason, who pronounced them to be forgeries, sent the youth a cold reply, and advised him to stick to his professional business.
In the mean time Chatterton commenced a correspondence with the Town and Country Magazine, to which he sent a number of communications relating to English Antiquities; and his situation in Mr. Lambert's office becoming every day more and more irksome to him, he solicited and obtained a release from his apprenticeship; his master, it is said, being alarmed by the hints which Chatterton gave of his intention to destroy himself.
In the month of April, 1770, Chatterton, then seventeen years old, arrived in London, with many of his ancient manuscripts, and some acknowledged original poems, and received from the booksellers several important literary engagements. He was filled with the highest hopes, and his letters to his mother and sister, which were always accompanied with presents, expressed the most joyous anticipations. But suddenly, for some causes that are not known, all his dreams of honor and wealth to be obtained from his literary labors vanished. His poverty soon became distressing-he suffered from actual want of food; and having no religious principles to sustain him-he took poison, and was found dead in his bed on the 25th of August, 1770.
The chief of the poems of Chatterton, published under the name of Rowley, are the « Tragedy of Ella,” the « Execution of Sir Charles Bawdin," “Ode to Ella,” the “ Battle of Hastings,” “The Tournament," one or two “ Dialogues," and a « Description of Canynge's Feast.” I “In estimating the promises of
1 “It will be asked, For what end or purpose did he contrive such an imposture! I answer, From lucrative views; or perhaps from the pleasure of deceiving the world, a motive which, in many minds, operater more powerfully than the hopes of gain. He probably promised to himself greater emolu