« AnteriorContinuar »
companion ; and shower down thy mitres, if it seem good unto thy Divine Providence, upon those heads which are aching for them.
Pursuing these ideas, I sat down close to my table ; and, leaning my head upon my hand, I began to figure to myself the miseries of confinement. I was in a right frame for it, and so I gave full scope to my imagination. !!
I was going to begin with the millions of my fellow-crea, tures, born to no inheritance but slavery ; but finding, however affecting the picture was, that I could not bring it near me, and that the multitude of sad groups in it did but distract me, I took a single captive; and having first shut him up in his dungeon, I then looked through the twilight of his grated door, to take his picture.
I beheld his body half wasted away, with long expectation and confinement; and felt what kind of sickness of the heart it is, which arises from hope deferred. Upon looking nearer, I saw him pale and feverish. In thirty years the. western breeze had not once fanned his blood he had seen no sun, no moon, in all that time=nor had the voice of friend or kinsman breathed through his lattice. His children but here my heart began to bleed—and I was forced to go on with another part of the portrait.
He was sitting upon the ground, upon a little straw, in the farthest corner of his dungeon, which was alternately his chair and bed. A little calendar of small sticks was laid at the head ; notched all over with the dismal days and nights he had passed there. He had one of these little sticks in his hand; and, with a rusty nail, he was etching another day of misery to add to the heap. As I darkened the little light he had, he lifted up a hopeless eye towards the door-then cast it down-shook his head and went on with his work of affliction. I heard his chains upon his legs, as he turned his body, to lay bis little stick upon the hundle. He gave a deep sigh-I saw the iron enter into his soul. I burst into tears. I could not sustain the picture of confinement which my fancy had drawn.
XI.-The Cant of Criticism. And how did Garrick speak the soliloquy last night? -Oh, against all rule, my Lord ; 'most ungrammatically Betwixt the substantive and the adjective (which should agree together, in number, case, and gender) he made a breach thus-stopping as if the point wanted settling. And
after the nominative case, (which your Lordship knows should govern the verb) he suspended his voice, in the epilogue, a dozen times, three seconds and three fifths, by a stop watch, my Lord, each time. Admirable grammarian! But, in suspending his voice, was the sense suspended likewise ? Did no expression of attitude or countenance fill up the chasm? Was the cye silent? Did you narrowly look? I looked only at the stop watch, my Lord. Excellent observer!
And what of this new book, the whole world makes such a rout about? Oh, 'tis out of all plumb, my Lord-quite an irregular thing! Not one of the angles at the four corners was a right angle. I had my rule and compasses, my Lord, in my pocket. Excellent critic!
And for the epic poem, your Lordship bade me look at, -upon taking the length, breadth, height, and depth, of it, and trying them at home, upon an exact scale of Bossau's, 'tis out, my Lord, in every one of its dimensions. Admirable connoisseur!
And did you step in to take a look at the grand picture, , in your way back ? 'Tis a melancholy daub, my Lord ; not one principle of the pyramid in any one group! And what a price! For there is nothing of the colouring of Titianthe expression of Rubens—the grace of Raphael—the purity of Dominichino-the corregioscity of Corregio-the learning of Poussin--the airs of Guido—the taste of Carrachis or the grand contour of Angelo.
Grant me patience ! Of all the cants which are canted, in this canting world—though the cant of hypocrisy may be the worst-the cant of criticism is the most tormenting? I would go fifty miles on foot, to kiss the hand of that man, whose generous heart will give up the reins of his imagination into his author's hands, be pleased, he knows not why, and cares not wherefore.
XII.- Parallel between Pope and Dryden. IN acquired knowledge, the superiority must be allowed to Dryden, whose education was more scholastic, and who, before he became an author, had been allowed more time for study, with better means of information. His mind has a larger range, and he collects his images and illustrations from a more extensive circumference of science. Dryden. knew more of man, in his general nature ; and Pope, in his local manners. The notions of Dryden were formed by comprehensive speculation ; those of Pope, by minute
attention. There is more dignity in the knowledge of Dryden, and more certainty in that of Pope.
Poetry was not the sole praise of either; for both excelled likewise in prose: But Pope did not borrow his prose from his predecessor. The style of Dryden is capricious and varied ; that of Pope is cautious and uniform: Dryden obeys the motions of his own mind; Pope constrains his mind to his own rules of composition.-Dryden is some. times vehement and rapid ; Pope is always smooth, uniform, and gentle. Dryden's page is a natural field, rising into inequalities, and diversified by the varied exuberance of abundant vegetation ; Pope's is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe, and levelled by the roller.
Of genius—that power that constitutes a poet; that quality, without which, judgment is cold, and knowledge is inert; that energy which collects, combines, amplifies, and animates—the superiority must, with some hesitation, be allowed to Dryden. It is not to be inferred, that of this poetical vigour, Pope had only a little, because Dryden had more; for every other writer, since Milton, must give place to Pope; and even of Dryden it must be said, that if he has brighter paragraphs, he has not better poems. Dryden's performances were always hasty ; either excited by some external occasion, or extorted by domestic necessity; he composed without consideration, and published without correction. What his mind could supply at call, or gather in one excursion, was all that he sought, and all that he gave. The dilatory caution of Pope enabled him to condense his sentiments, to multiply his images, and to accumulate all that study might produce, or change might supply. If the flights of Dryden, therefore, are higher, Pope continues longer on the wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze is brighter; of Pope's the heat is more regular and constant. Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope never falls below it. Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and Pope with perpetual delight.
XIII.-Story of Le Fever. IT was some time in the summer of that year in which Dendermond was taken by the allies, when my uncle Toby was one evening getting his supper, with Trim sitting behind him, at a small sideboard—Isay sitting—for in consideration of the corporal's lame knee (which sometimes gave him exquisite pain)—when my uncle Toby dined cr supped alone, he would never suffer the corporal to stand : And the poor fellow's veneration for his master was such, that, with a proper artillery, my uncle Toby could have taken Dendermond itself, with less trouble than he was able to gain this point over him : for many a time when my uncle Toby supposed the corporal's leg was at rest, he would look back, and detect him standing behind him, with the most dutiful respect; this bred more little squabbles betwixt them, than all other causes, for five and twenty years together.
He was one evening sitting thus at his supper, when the landlord of a little inn in the village came into the parlour, with an empty phial in his hand, to beg a glass or two of sack: 'Tis for a poor gentleman-I think of the army, said the landlord, who has been taken ill at my house four days ago, and has never held up his head since, or had a desire to taste any thing till just now, that he had a fancy for a glass of sack, and a thin toast.-6. I think,” says he, taking his hand from his forehead— it would comfort me.”
-If I could neither beg, borrow, nor buy, such a thingadded tbe landlord-I would almost steal it for the poor gentleman, he is so ill.--I hope he will still mend, continued he-we are all of us concerned for him.
Thou art a good patured soul, I will answer for thee, cried my uncle Toby; and thou shalt drink the poor gentleman's health in a glass of sack thyself and take a couple of bottles, with my service, and tell him he is heartily welcome to them, and to a dozen more, if they will do him good.
Though I am persuaded, said my uncle Toby, as the landlord shut the door, he is a very compassionate fellow, Trim
-yet I cannot help entertaining a high opinion of his guest too; there must be something more than common in him, that, in so short a time, should win so much upon the affections of his host—and of his whole family, added the corporal, for they are all concerned for him.-Step after him, said my uncle Toby-do Trim, and ask if he knows his name.
I have quite forgot it, truly, said the landlord, coming back into the parlour with the corporal—but I can ask his son again.-Has he a son with him, then? said my uncle Toby. A boy, replied the landlord, of about eleven or twelve years of age ;--but the poor creature has tasted almost as little as his father; he does nothing but mourn and lament for him night and day. He has not stirred from the bed side these two days.
My uncle Toby laid down his knife and fork, and thrust his plate from before him, as the landlord gave him the account; and Trim, without being ordered, took them away, without saying one word, and in a few minutes after brought him his pipe and tobacco.
Trim ! said my uncle Toby, I have a project in my head, as it is a bad night, of wrapping myself up warm in my roquelaure, and paying a visit to this poor gentleman.Your honour's roquelaure, replied the corporal, has not once been had on since the night before your honour received your wound, when we mounted guard in the trenches before the gate of St. Nicholas ;-and besides, it is so cold and rainy a night, that, what with the roquelaure, and what with the weather, it will be enough to give your honour your death. I fear so, replied my uncle Toby; but I am not at rest in my mind, Trim, since the account the landlord has given me I wish I had not known so much of this affair-added my uncle Toby-or that I had known more of it.—How shall we manage it? Leave it, an't please your honour, to me, quoth the corporal;—I'll take my hat and stick, and go to the house, and reconnoitre, and act accordingly; and I will bring your honour a full account in an hour. Thou shalt go, Trim, said my uncle Toby, and here's a shilling for thee to drink with his servant. I shall get it all out of him, said the corporal, shutting the door.
It was not till my uncle Toby had knocked the ashes out of his third pipe, that corporal Trim returned from the inn, and gave him the following account:
I despaired at first, said the corporal, of being able to bring back your honour any kind of intelligence concerning the poor sick lieutenant-Is he of the army, then ? said my uncle Toby. He is, said the corporal-And in what regi. ment? said my uncle Toby—I'll tell your honour, replied the corporal, every thing straight forward, as I learnt it.Then, Trim, I'll fill another pipe, said my uncle Toby, and not interrupt thee ;--so sit down at thy ease, Trim, in the window seat, and begin thy story again. The corporal made his old bow; which generally spoke as plain as a bow could speak it, “ Your honour is good ;” and having done that, he sat down, as he was ordered—and began the story to my uncle Toby over again, in pretty near the same words.
I despaired at first, said the corporal, of being able to bring back any intelligence to your honour, about the lieutenant and his son ; for when I asked where his servant was,