« AnteriorContinuar »
upon the remaining part of our days. He has bequeathed a great deal more in charity, which is not yet come to my knowledge, and it is peremptorily said in the parish, that he has left money to build a steeple to the church; for he was heard to say some time ago, that if he lived two years longer, Coverley church should have a steeple to it. The chaplain tells every body that he has made a very good end, and never speaks of him without tears. He was buried according to his own directions, among the family of the Coverleys, on the left hand of his father Sir Arthur. The coffin was carried by six of his tenants, and the pall held up by six of the quorum. The whole parish followed the corpse with heavy hearts, and in their mourning suits; the men in frize, and the women in riding-hoods. Captain Sentry, my master's nephew, has taken possession of the Hall-house, and the whole estate. When my old master saw him a little before his death, he shook him by the hand, and wished him joy of the estate which was falling to him, desiring him only to make a good use of it, and to pay the several legacies, and the gifts of charity, which he told him he had left as quit-rents upon the estate. The captain truly seems a courteous man, though he says but little. He makes much of those whom my master loved, and shows great kindness to the old house-dog, that you know my poor master was so fond of. It would have gone to your heart to have heard the moans the dumb creature made on the day of my master's death. He has never joyed himself since; no more has any of us. It was the melancholiest day for the poor people that ever happened in Worcestershire. This being all from, honoured sir, “Your most sorrowful servant, “Edward Biscuit.
“P. S. My master desired, some weeks before he died, that a book, which comes up to you by the carrier, should be given to Sir Andrew Freeport, in his name.”
This letter, notwithstanding the poor butler's manner of
writing it, gave us such an idea of our good old friend, that
upon the reading of it there was not a dry eye in the club. Sir Andrew opening the book, found it to be a collection of acts of parliament. There was in particular the Act of Uniformity, with some passages in it marked by Sir Roger's own hand. Sir Andrew found that they related to two or three points, which he had disputed with Sir Roger the last time he appeared at the club. Sir Andrew, who would have been merry at such an incident on another occasion, at the sight of the old man's writing burst into tears, and put the book in his pocket. Captain Sentry informs me, that the knight has left rings and mourning for every one in the club. ADDISON.
ON THE ABUSE OF THE HEATHEN MYTHOLOGY.
MANY of our modern authors, whose learning very often extends no further than Ovid's Metamorphoses, do not know how to celebrate a great man, without mixing a parcel of school-boy tales with the recital of his actions. If you read a poem on a fine woman among the authors of this class, you shall see that it turns more upon Venus or Helen, than on the party concerned. I have known a copy of verses on a great hero highly commended; but upon asking to hear some of the beautiful passages, the admirer of it has repeated to me a speech of Apollo, or a description of Polypheme. At other times, when I have searched for the actions of a great man, who gave a subject to the writer, I have been entertained with the exploits of a river god, or have been forced to attend a Fury in her mischievous progress, from one end of the poem to the other. When we are at school it is necessary for us to be acquainted with the system of pagan theology, and we may be allowed to enliven a theme, or point an epigram with an heathen god; but when we would write a manly panegyric, that should carry in it all the colours of truth, nothing can be more ridiculous than to have recourse to our Jupiters and Junos.
No thought is beautiful which is not just, and no thought can be just which is not founded in truth, or at least in that which passes for such. Virgil and Homer might compliment their heroes, by interweaving the actions of deities with their achievements; but for a Christian author to write in the pagan creed, to make Prince Eugene a favourite of Mars, or to carry on a correspondence between Bellona and the Marshal de Villars, would be downright puerility, and unpardonable in a poet that is past sixteen. It is want of sufficient elevation in a genius to describe realities, and place them in a shining light, that makes him have recourse to such trifling antiquated fables; as a man may write a fine description of Bacchus or Apollo, that does not know how to draw the character of any of his contemporaries. In order therefore to put a stop to this absurd practice, I shall publish the following edict, by virtue of that Spectatorial authority with which I stand invested.
“WHEREAs the time of a general peace is, in all appearance, drawing near, being informed that there are several ingenious persons who intend to show their talents on so happy an occasion, and being willing, as much as in me lies, to prevent that effusion of nonsense, which we have good cause to apprehend ; I do hereby strictly require every person, who shall write on this subject, to remember that he is a Christian, and not to sacrifice his catechism to his poetry. In order to it, I do expect of him in the first place to make his own poem, without depending upon Phoebus for any part of it, or calling out for aid upon any one of the Muses by name. I do likewise positively forbid the sending of Mercury with any particular message or dispatch relating to the peace, and shall by no means suffer Minerva to take upon her the shape of any plenipotentiary concerned in this great work. I do further declare, that I shall not allow the Destinies to have had a hand in the deaths of the several thousands who have been slain in the late war, being of opinion, that all such deaths may be very well accounted for by the Christian system of powder and ball. I do therefore strictly forbid the Fates to cut the thread of man's life upon any pretence whatsoever, unless it be for the sake of the rhyme. And whereas I have good reason to fear, that Neptune will have a great deal of business on his hands, in several poems which we may now suppose are upon the anvil, I do also prohibit his appearance, unless it be done in metaphor, simile, or any very short allusion, and that even here he be not permitted to enter but with great caution and circumspection. I desire that the same rule may be extended to his whole fraternity of heathen gods, it being my design to condemn every poem to the flames in which Jupiter thunders, or exercises any other act of authority which does not belong to him: in short, I expect that no pagan agent shall be introduced, or any fact related, which a man cannot give credit to with a good conscience. Provided always, that nothing herein contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to several of the female poets in this nation, who shall be still left in full possession of their gods and goddesses, in the same manner as if this Paper had never been written.” ADDISON.
THE BLACK TOWER. A VISION. (No. 524).
“I was last Sunday in the evening led into a serious reflection on the reasonableness of virtue, and great folly of vice, from an excellent sermon I had heard that afternoon in my parish church. Among other observations, the preacher showed us that the temptations which the tempter proposed, were all on a supposition that we are either madmen or fools, or with an intention to render us such ; that in no other affair we would suffer ourselves to be thus imposed upon, in a case so plainly and clearly against our visible interest. His illustrations and arguments carried so much persuasion and conviction with them, that they remained a considerable while fresh, and working in my unemory; until at last the mind, fatigued with thought, gave way to the forcible oppressions of slumber and sleep, whilst fancy, unwilling yet to drop the subject, presented me with the following vision.
“Methought I was just awoke out of a sleep, that I could never remember the beginning of; the place where I found myself to be was a wide and spacious plain, full of people that wandered up and down through several beaten paths, whereof some few were straight, and in direct lines, but most of them winding and turning like a labyrinth ; but yet it appeared to me afterwards, that these last all met in one issue, so that many that seemed to steer quite contrary courses did at length meet and face one another, to the no little amazement of many of them.
“In the midst of the plain there was a great fountain; they called it the spring of Self-love: out of it issued two rivulets to the eastward and westward : the name of the first was Heavenly-Wisdom; its water was wonderfully clear, but of a yet more wonderful effect: the other's name was Worldly-Wisdom; its water was thick, and yet far from being dormant or stagnating, for it was in a continual violent agitation; which kept the travellers, whom I shall mention by and by, from being sensible of the foulness and thickness of the water; which had this effect, that it intoxicated those who drank it, and made them mistake every object that lay before them. Both rivulets were parted near their springs into so many others as there were straight and crooked paths, which they attended all along to their respective issues.
“I observed from the several paths many now and then diverting, to refresh and otherwise qualify themselves for their journey, to the respective rivulets that ran near them; they contracted a very observable courage and steadiness in what they were about, by drinking these waters. At the end of the perspective of every straight path, all which did end in one issue and point, appeared a high pillar, all of diamond, casting rays as bright as those of the sun into the paths; which rays had also certain sympathising and alluring virtues in them, so that whosoever had made some considerable progress in his journey onwards towards the pillar, by the repeated impression of these rays upon him, was wrought into an habitual inclination and conversion of his sight towards it, so that it grew at last in a