Page images

busy and politic part of mankind, I shall translate the following letter, written to an eminent French gentleman in this town from Paris, which gives us the exit of an heroine who is a pattern of patience and generosity: SIR,

Paris, April 18, 1712. « IT is so many years


your native country, that I am to tell you the characters. of your nearest relations as well as if you were an utter stranger to them. The occasion of this is to give you an account of the death of Madam de Villacerfe, whose departure out of this life I know not whether a man of your philosophy will call unfortunate or not, since it was attended with some circumstances as much to be desired as to Es lamented. She was her whole life happy in an uninterrupted health, and was always honoured for an evenness of temper and greatness of mind. On the 10th instant that lady was taken with an indisposition which confined her to her chamber, but was such as was too light to make her take a sick-bed, and yet too grievous to admit of any satisfaction in being out of it. It is notoriously known that some years ago Monsieur Festeau, one of the most considerable surgeons in Paris, was desperately in love with this lady. Her quality placed her above any application to her on the account of his passion : but as a woman always has some regard to the person whom she believes to be her real admirer, she now took it in her head fupon advice of her physicians to lose some of her blood) to send for Monsieur Festeau on that occasion.' I happened to be there at that time, and my near relation gave me the privilege to be present. As soon as her arm was stripped bare, and he began to press it in order to raise the yeing

his colour changed, and I observed him seized with a sudden tremor, which made me take the liberty to speak of it to my cousin with some apprehension. She smiled, and said, she knew M. Festeau had no inclination to do her injury. He seemed to recover himself, and, smiling also, proceeded in his work. Immediately after the operation, he cried out that he was the most unfortunate of all men, for that he had opened an artery. instead of a vein. It is as impossible to express the artist's distraction as the patient's composure. I will not dwell on little circumstances, but go on to inform you, that within three days' time it was thought necessary to take off her arm. She was so far from using Festeau as it would be natural for one of a lower spirit to treat him, that she would not let him be absent from any consultation about her present condition; and, after having been about a quarter of an hour alone, she bid the surgeons, of whom poor Festeau was one, go on in their work. I know not how to give you the terms of art, but there appeared such symptoms after the amputation of her arm, that it was visible she could not live four and twenty hours. Her behaviour was so magnanimous throughout the whole affair, that I was particularly curious in taking notice of what passed as her fate approached nearer and nearer, and took notes of what she said to all about her, particularly word for word what she spoke to M, Festeau, which was as follows:

“ Sir, you give me inexpressible sorrow for the anguish with which I see you overwhelmed. I am removed to all intents and

purposes from the interests of human life, therefore I am to begin to think like one wholly unconcerned in it. I do not consider you as one by whose error I have

lost my life; no, you are my benefactor, as you have hastened my entrance into a happy immortality. This is my sense of this accident: but the world in which


may have thoughts of it to your disadvantage: I have, therefore taken care to provide for you in my will, and have placed you above what you have to fear from their illnature.”

While this excellent woman spoke these words, Festeau looked as if he received a condemnation to die, instead of a pension for his life. Madam de Villacerfe lived till eight of the clock the next night; and though she must have laboured under the most exquisite torments, she possessed her mind with so wonderful a patience, that one may rather say she ceased to breathe, than she died at that hour. You, who had not the happiness to be personally known to this lady, have nothing but to rejoice in the honour you had of being related to so great merit: but we, who have lost her conversation, cannot so easily resign our own happiness by reflection upon hers.


. am, SIR,
Your affectionate kinsman,
and most obedient, humble servant,


There hardly can be a greater instance of an heroic mind than the unprejudiced manner in which this lady weighed this misfortune. The regard of life could not inake her overlook the contrition of the unhappy man, whose more than ordinary concern for her was all his guilt. It would certainly be of singular use to human society to have an exact account of this lady's ordinary conduct, which was crowned with so un


common magnanimity. Such greatness was not to be acquired in the last article; nor is it to be doubted but it was a constant practice of all that is praise-worthy, which made her capable of beholding death, not as the dissolution, but consume mation of her life.'

[ocr errors]

No. 369. SATURDAY, MAY 3, 1712..

Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures,
Quàm quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus

Hor. Ars Poet. 1802
What we hear moves less than what we see.


MILTON, after having represented in vision the history of mankind to the first great period of nature, dispatches the remaining part of it in narration. He has devised a very handsome reasor for the angel's proceeding with Adam after this manner; though doubtless the true reason was the difficulty which the poet would have found to have shadowed out so mixed and complicated a story in visible objects. I could wish, however, that the author had done it, whatever pains it might have cost him. To give my opinion freely, I think that the exhibiting part of the history of mankind in vision, and part in narrative, is as if an history-painter should put in colours one half of his subject, and write down the remaining part of it. If Milton's poem flags any where, it is in this narration, where in some places the author has been so attentive to his divinity that he has neglected his poetry. The narration, however, rises-very happily on several occasions, where the


subject is capable of poetical ornaments, as particuarly in the confusion which he describes among the builders of Babel, and in his short sketch of the plagues of Egypt. The storm of dail and fire, with the darkness that overspread the land for three days, are described with great strength. The beautiful passage which follows is raised upon noble hints in Scripture :

Thus with ten wounds
The river-dragon tam'd at length submits
To let his sojourners depart ; and oft
Humbles his stubborn heart; but still, as ice,
More harden'1 after thaw : till in his rage
Pursuing whom he late dismiss'd, the sea
Swallows him with his host; but them let pass
As on dry land between two crystal walls;
Aw'd by the rod of Moses so to stand

Divided The river-dragon is an allusion to the crocodile, which inhabits the Nile, from whence Egypt derives her plenty. This allusion is taken from that sublime passage in Ezekiel : 'Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.' Milton has given us another very noble and poetical image in the same description, which is copied almost word for word out of the history of Mo

ses :

All night he will pursue, but his approach
Darkness defends between till morning watch:
Then through the fiery pillar and the cloud
God looking forth will trouble all his host,
And craze their chariot wheels : when by command
Moses once more his potent rod extends
Over the sea : the sea his rod obeys :
On their embattell'd ranks the waves return
And overwhelm their war

« PreviousContinue »