Page images

comes!" I found that I had a very per

fect idea of Johnson's figure, from the [MADAME D'ARBLAY (MISS BURNEY). 1752



THE king went up to the table, and looked at a book of prints, from Claude Lorraine, which had been brought down for Miss Dewes; but Mrs. Delany, by mistake, told him they were for me. He turned over a leaf or two, and then said:

"Pray, does Miss Burney draw too?" The too was pronounced very civilly. "I believe not, sir," answered Mrs. Delany; "at least she does not tell."

"Oh," cried he laughing, "that's nothing; she is not apt to tell; she never does tell, you know. Her father told me that himself. He told me the whole history of her 'Evelina.' And I shall never forget his face when he spoke of his feelings at first taking up the book; he looked quite frightened, just as if he was doing it that moment. forget his face while I live.” Then coming up close to me he said: "But what! what! how was it?" "Sir," cried I, not well understanding him.

I never can

portrait of him painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds soon after he had published his Dictionary, in the attitude of sitting in his easy chair in deep meditation; which was the first picture his friend did for him, which Sir Joshua very kindly presented to me, and from which an engraving has been made for this work. Mr. Davies mentioned my name, and respectfully introduced me to him. I was much agitated; and recollecting his prejudice against the Scotch, of which I had heard much, I said to Davies, "Don't tell where I come from." "From Scotland," cried Davies, roguishly. "Mr. Johnson," said I, "I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it." I am willing to flatter myself that I meant this as light pleasantry, to soothe and conciliate him, and not as a humiliating abasement at the expense of my country. But however that might be, this speech was somewhat unlucky; for with that quickness of wit for which he was so remarkable, he seized the expression "came from Scotland," which I used in the sense of being of that country: and, as if I had said that I had come away from it, or left it; retorted, "That, sir, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help." This stroke stunned me a good deal; and when we had sat down, I felt myself not a little embarrassed, and apprehensive of what might come next. He then ad- "But your publishing-your printing dressed himself to Davies: "What do-how was that?" you think of Garrick? He has refused me an order for the play for Miss Wil-causeliams, because he knows the house will be full, and that an order would be worth three shillings." Eager to take any opening to get into conversation with him, I ventured to say, “O, sir, I cannot think Mr. Garrick would grudge such a trifle to you." Sir," said he, with a stern look, "I have known David Garrick longer than you have done, and I know no right you have to talk to me on the subject."-Life of Johnson.

[ocr errors]


"How came you-how happened it— what-what?"

"I-I only wrote, sir, for my own amusement - only in some odd idle hours."

"That was only, sir

only be

I hesitated most abominably, not knowing how to tell him a long story, and growing terribly confused at these questions; besides, to say the truth, his own "what! what! so reminded me of those vile Probationary Odes, that, in the midst of all my flutter, I was really hardly able to keep my countenance.

The what! was then repeated, with so earnest a look, that, forced to say something, I stammeringly answered: "I thought, sir, it would look very well in print."

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]


"No, sir, he could not, for-—_”

I was going on, but he laughed so much I could not be heard, exclaiming : Vastly well! I see you are of Mr. Baretti's mind, and think your brother could keep your secret, and not your sister. Well but," cried he, presently, "how was it first known to you, you were betrayed!"


'By a letter, sir, from another sister. I was very ill, and in the country; and she wrote me word that my father had taken up a review, in which the book was mentioned, and had put his finger upon its name, and said: 'Contrive to get that book for me.'

"And when he got it," cried the king, "he told me he was afraid of looking at it, and never can I forget his face when he mentioned his first opening it. But you have not kept your pen unemployed all this time?"

"Indeed I have, sir."
But why?"


"I-I believe I have exhausted my. self, sir."

He laughed aloud at this, and went and told it to Mrs. Delany, civilly treating a plain fact as a mere bon mot.


Then returning to me again, he said more seriously: "But you have determined against writing any more?" "N-o, sir."

"You have made no vow-no real resolution of that sort.” "No, sir."

"You only wait for inclination?" How admirably Mr. Cambridge's speech might have come in here. No, sir."


A very civil little bow spoke him pleased with this answer, and he went again to the middle of the room, where he chiefly stood, and, addressing us in general, talked upon the different motives of writing, concluding with: "I believe there is no constraint to be put upon real genius; nothing but inclination can set it to work. Miss Burney, however, knows best." And then hastily returning to me,

he cried: "What! what?"

"No, sir, I-I believe not, certainly," quoth I very awkwardly, for I seemed

[merged small][ocr errors]

[DAVID HUME. 1711-1776.]


THOSE who cast their eye on the general revolutions of society, will find that, as almost all improvements of the human mind had reached nearly to their state of perfection about the age of Augustus, there was a sensible decline from that point or period: and men thenceforth gradually relapsed into ignorance and barbarism. The unlimited extent of the Roman empire, and the consequent despotism of its monarchs, extinguished all emulation, debased the generous spirits of men, and depressed the noble flame by which all the refined arts must be cherished and enlivened. The military government which soon succeeded, rendered even the lives and properties of men insecure and precarious; and proved destructive to those vulgar and more necessary arts of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce; and in the end, to the military art and genius itself, by which alone the immense fabric of the empire could be supported. The irruption of the barbarous nations which soon followed, overwhelmed all human knowledge, which was already far in its decline; and men sunk every age deeper into ignorance, stupidity, and superstition; till the light of ancient science and history had very nearly suffered a total extinction in all the European nations.

liam the Conqueror; and from that era the sun of science, beginning to reascend, threw out many gleams of light, which preceded the full morning when letters were revived in the fifteenth century. The Danes and other northern people who had so long infested all the coasts, and even the inland parts of Europe, by their depredations, having now learned the arts of tillage and agriculture, found a certain subsistence at home, and were no longer tempted to desert their industry in order to seek a precarious livelihood by rapine and by the plunder of their neighbours. The feudal governments also, among the more southern nations, were reduced to a kind of system; and though that strange species of civil polity was ill fitted to insure either liberty or tranquillity, it was preferable to the universal licence and disorder which had everywhere preceded it.

It may appear strange that the progress of the arts, which seems, among the Greeks and Romans, to have daily increased the number of slaves, should in later times have proved so general a source of liberty; but this difference in the events proceeded from a great difference in the circumstances which attended those institutions. The ancient barons, obliged to maintain themselves continually in a military posture, and little emulous of eloquence or splendour, employed not their villeins as domestic servants, much less as manufacturers; but composed their retinue of freemen, whose military spirit rendered the chieftain formidable to his neighbours, and who were ready to attend him in every warlike enterprise. The villeins were entirely occupied in the cultivation of their master's land, and paid their rents either in corn and cattle, But there is a point of depression as and other produce of the farm, or in well as of exaltation, from which human servile offices, which they performed affairs naturally return in a contrary di- about the baron's family, and upon the rection, and beyond which they seldom farms which he retained in his own pospass, either in their advancement or de- session. In proportion as agriculture imcline. The period in which the people proved and money increased, it was found of Christendom were the lowest sunk in that these services, though extremely ignorance, and consequently in disorders burdensome to the villein, were of little of every kind, may justly be fixed at the advantage to the master; and that the eleventh century, about the age of Wil-produce of a large estate could be much

seem to exclude him from the character of a good one.

He possessed, indeed, great vigour of mind, which qualified him for exercising dominion over men; courage, intrepidity, vigilance, inflexibility: and though these qualities lay not always under the guidance of a regular and solid judgment, they were accompanied with good parts and an extensive capacity; and every one dreaded a contest with a man who was never known to yield, or to forgive; and who, in every controversy, was determined to ruin himself or his antagonist.

more conveniently disposed of by the peasants themselves, who raised it, than by the landlord or his bailiff, who were formerly accustomed to receive it. A commutation was therefore made of rents for services, and of money-rents for those in kind; and as men, in a subsequent age, discovered that farms were better cultivated where the farmer enjoyed a security in his possession, the practice of granting leases to the peasant began to prevail, which entirely broke the bonds of servitude, already much relaxed from the former practices. After this manner villenage went gradually into disuse throughout the more civilized parts of Europe: the interest of the master as well as that of the slave concurred in this alteration. The latest laws which we find in England for enforcing or regulating this species of servitude, were enacted in the reign of Henry VII. And though the ancient statutes on this head remain unrepealed by parliament, it appears that, before the end of Elizabeth, the distinc-rary friendship`and attachment. In this tion of villein and freeman was totally though insensibly abolished, and that no person remained in the state to whom the former laws could be applied.

Thus personal freedom became almost general in Europe; an advantage which paved the way for the increase of political or civil liberty, and which, even where it was not attended with this salutary effect, served to give the members of the community some of the most considerable advantages of it.—History of England.


A catalogue of his vices would comprehend many of the worst qualities incident to human nature. Violence, cruelty, profusion, rapacity, injustice, obstinacy, arrogance, bigotry, presumption, caprice; but neither was he subject to all these vices in the most extreme degree, nor was he at intervals altogether devoid of virtues. He was sincere, open, gallant, liberal, and capable at least of a tempo

respect he was unfortunate, that the incidents of his times served to display his faults in their full light; the treatment he met with from the court of Rome provoked him to violence; the danger of a revolt from his superstitious subjects seemed to require the most extreme severity. But it must at the same time be acknowledged, that his situation tended to throw an additional lustre on what was great and magnanimous in his character.

The emulation between the emperor and the French king rendered his alliance, notwithstanding his impolitic conduct, of great importance to Europe. The extensive powers of his prerogative, and the submission, not to say slavish disposition, of his Parliament, made it more easy for him to assume and maintain that entire dominion, by which his reign is so much distinguished in English history.

IT is difficult to give a just summary of this prince's qualities, he was so different from himself in different parts of his reign that, as is well remarked by Lord Herbert, his history is his best character and It may seem a little extraordinary, that description. The absolute and uncon- notwithstanding his cruelty, his extortrolled authority which he maintained at tion, his violence, his arbitrary adminihome, and the regard he obtained among stration, this prince not only acquired foreign nations, are circumstances which the regard of his subjects, but never was entitle him to the appellation of a great the object of their hatred: he seems, prince; while his tyranny and cruelty | even, in some degree, to have possessed

their love and affection.
qualities were advantageous, and fit to
captivate the multitude; his magnifi-
cence and personal bravery rendered
him illustrious to vulgar eyes; and it
may be said with truth, that the English
in that age were so thoroughly subdued,
that, like eastern slaves, they were in-
clined to admire even those acts of vio-
lence and tyranny which were exercised
over themselves, and at their own ex-
pense.-History of England.



SOME incidents happened which revived her tenderness for Essex, and filled her with the deepest sorrow for the consent which she had unwarily given to his execution.

His exterior pected that her favourite would make this last appeal to her tenderness, and who ascribed the neglect of it to his invincible obstinacy, was, after much delay and many internal combats, pushed by resentment and policy to sign the warrant for his execution. The Countess of Nottingham falling into sickness, and affected with the near approach of death, was seized with remorse for her conduct; and having obtained a visit from the queen, she craved her pardon, and revealed to her the fatal secret. The queen, astoInished with this incident, burst into a furious passion: she shook the dying countess in her bed; and crying to her that God might pardon her, but she never could, she broke from her, and thenceforth resigned herself over to the deepest and most incurable melancholy. She rejected all consolation; she even refused food and sustenance; and throwing herself on the floor, she remained sullen and immovable, feeding her thoughts on her afflictions, and declaring life and existence an insufferable burden to her. Few words she uttered; and they were all expressive of some inward grief which she cared not to reveal: but sighs and groans were the chief vent which she gave to her despondency, and which, though they discovered her sorrows, were never able to ease or assuage them. Ten days and nights she lay upon the carpet, leaning on cushions which her maids brought her; and her physicians could not persuade her to allow herself to be put to bed, much less to make trial of any remedies which they prescribed to her. Her anxious mind at last had so long preyed on her frail body, that her end was visibly approaching; and the council, being assembled, sent the keeper, admiral, and secretary, to know her will with regard to her successor. She answered with a faint voice that as she had held a regal sceptre, she desired no other than a royal successor. Cecil requesting her to explain herself more particularly, she subjoined that she would have a king to succeed her; and who should that be but her nearest kinsman, the king of Scots? Being then advised by the Archbishop of

The Earl of Essex, after his return from the fortunate expedition against Cadiz, observing the increase of the queen's fond attachment towards him, took occasion to regret that the necessity of her service required him often to be absent from her person, and exposed him to all those ill offices which his enemies, more assiduous in their attendance, could employ against him. She was moved with this tender jealousy; and making him the present of a ring, desired him to keep that pledge of her affection, and assured him that into whatever disgrace he should fall, whatever prejudices she might be induced to entertain against him, yet if he sent her that ring, she would immediately, upon sight of it, recall her former tenderness, would afford him a patient hearing, and would lend a favourable ear to his apology. Essex, notwithstanding all his misfortunes, reserved this precious gift to the last extremity; but after his trial and condemnation, he resolved to try the experiment, and he committed the ring to the Countess of Nottingham, whom he desired to deliver it to the queen. The countess was prevailed on by her husband, the mortal enemy of Essex, not to execute the commission; and Elizabeth, who still ex

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »