« ПредишнаНапред »
his ancestors, and endeavoured to show that true nobility consists in virtue, not in birth. With submission, however, to so many great authorities, I think they have pushed this matter a little too far. We ought in gratitude to honour the posterity of those who have raised either the interest or reputation of their country, and by whose labours wel ourselves are more happy, wise, or virtuous, than we should have been without them. Besides, naturally speaking, a man bids fairer for greatness of soul, who is the descendant of worthy ancestors, and has good blood in his veins, than one who is come of an ignoble and obscure parentage. For these reasons, I think a man of merit, who is derived from an illustrious line, is very justly to be regarded more than a man of equal merit who has no claim to hereditary honours.
Nay, I think those who are indifferent in themselves, and have nothing else to distinguish them but the virtues of their forefathers, are to be looked upon degree of veneration even upon that account, and to be more respected than the common run of men who are of low and vulgar extraction.
After having thus ascribed due honours to birth and parentage, I must, however, take notice of those who arrogate to themselves more honours than are due to them upon this account. The first are such who are not enough sensible that vice and ignorance taint the blood, and that an unworthy behaviour degrades and disennobles a man, in the eye of the world, as much as birth and family aggrandize and exalt him.
The second are those who believe a new man of an elevated merit is not more to be honoured than an insignificant and worthless man who is descended from a long line of patriots and heroes : or, in other words, behold with contempt a person who is such a man as the first founder of their family was, upon whose reputation they value themselves.
But I shall chiefly apply myself to those whose quality
1-Who have raised and by whose labours we, &c.] This construction is, indeed, in frequent use, but not so natural as the following would have been—"who have raised—and who, by their labours, have made ourselves more happy,' &c. The mind loves to proceed in the construction with which it set out, and suffers a kind of torture in having another presently forced upon it.
sits uppermost in all discourses and behaviour. An empty man of a great family is a creature that is scarce conversible. You read his ancestry in his smile, in his air, in his eye-brow. He has, indeed, nothing but his nobility to give employment to his thoughts. Rank and precedency are the important points which he is always dicussing within himself. A gentleman of this turn begun a speech in one of King Charles's parliaments : “Sir, I had the honour to be born at a timeupon which a rough honest gentleman took him up short, “I would fain know what that gentleman means: is there any one in this house that has not had the honour to be born as well as himself?” The good sense which reigns in. our nation has pretty well destroyed this starched behaviour among men who have seen the world, and know that every gentleman will be treated upon a foot of equality. But there are many who have had their education among women, dependants, or flatterers, that lose all the respect, which would otherwise be paid them, by being too assiduous in procuring it.
My Lord Froth has been so educated in punctilio, that he governs himself by a ceremonial in all the ordinary occurrences of life. He measures out his bow to the degree of the person he converses with. I have seen him in every inclination of the body, from a familiar nod to the low stoop in the salutation-sign. I remember five of us, who were acquainted with one another, met together one morning at his lodgings, when a wag of the company was saying, it would be worth while to observe how he would distinguish us at his first entrance. Accordingly he no sooner came into the room, but casting his eye about, “My Lord such a one, (says he,) your most humble servant. Sir Richard, your
humble servant. Your servant, Mr. Ironside. Mr. Ducker, how do you do ? Hah! Frank, are you there?
There is nothing more easy than to discover a man whose heart is full of his family. Weak minds that have imbibed a strong tincture of the nursery, younger brothers that have been brought up to nothing, superannuated retainers to a great house, have generally their thoughts taken up with little else.
| Many who have had--that lose.] To avoid the two unconnected relatives, who ard that--read thus-many who having had, or, who, in consequence of having had, &c.—lose all the respect.
I had some years ago an aunt of my own, by name Mrs. Martha Ironside, who would never marry beneath herself, and is supposed to have died a maid in the fourscorth year of her
age. She was the chronicle of our family, and passed away the greatest part of the last forty years of her life in recounting the antiquity, marriages, exploits, and alliances of the Ironsides. Mrs. Martha conversed generally with a knot of old virgins, who were likewise of good families, and had been very cruel all the beginning of the last century, They were every one of them as proud as Lucifer, but said their prayers twice a day, and in all other respects were the best women in the world. If they saw a fine petticoat at church, they immediately took to pieces the pedigree of her that wore it, and would lift up their eyes to heaven at the confidence of the saucy minx, when they found she was an honest tradesman's daughter. It is impossible to describe the pious indignation that would rise in them at the sight of a man who lived plentifully on an estate of his own getting. They were transported with zeal beyond measure, if they heard of a young woman's matching into a great family upon account only of her beauty, her merit, or her money.
In short, there was not a female within ten miles of them that was in possession of a gold watch, a pearl necklace, or a piece of Mechlin lace, but they examined her title to it. My aunt Martha used to chide me very frequently for not sufficiently valuing myself. She would not eat a bit all dinnertime, if at an invitation she found she had been seated below herself; and would frown upon me for an hour together, if she saw me give place to any man under a baronet. As I was once talking to her of a wealthy citizen whom she had refused in her youth, she declared to me with great warmth, that she preferred a man of quality in his shirt to the richest man upon the 'change in a coach and six. She pretended, that our family was nearly related by the mother's side to half a dozen peers; but as none of them knew anything of the matter, we always kept it as a secret among ourselves. A little before her death she was reciting to me the history of my forefathers; but dwelling a little longer than ordinary upon the actions of Sir Gilbert Ironside, who had a horse shot under him at Edgehill fight, I gave an unfortunate pish!
I and asked, “ What was all this to me?" upon which she retired to her closet, and fell a scribbling for three bours
together, in which time, as I afterwards found, she struck me out of her will, and left all she had to my sister Margaret, a wheedling baggage, that used to be asking questions about her great-grandfather from morning to night. She now lies buried among the family of the Ironsides, with a stone over her, acquainting the reader, that she died at the age of eighty years, a spinster, and that she was descended of the ancient family of the Ironsides. After which follows the genealogy drawn up by her own hand.
No. 138. WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19.
Incenditque animum famæ venientis amore. Virg. THERE is nothing which I study so much in the course of these my daily dissertations as variety. By this means every
my readers is sure some time or other to find a subject that pleases him, and almost every paper has some particular set of men for its advocates. Instead of seeing the number of my papers every day increasing, they would quickly lie as a drug upon my hands, did not I take care to keep up the appetite of my guests, and quicken it from time to time by something new and unexpected. In short, I endeavour to treat
my reader in the same manner as Eve does the angel in that beautiful description of Milton.
So saying, with despatchful looks in haste
FIFTн Воок. If, by this method, I can furnish out a splendida furrago, according to the compliment lately paid me in a fine poem published among the exercises of the last Oxford act, I have gained the end which I propose to myself.
In my yesterday's paper, I showed how the actions of our ancestors and forefathers should excite us to everything that is great and virtuous ; I shall here observe, that a regard to our posterity, and those who are to descend from us, ought to have the same kind of influence on a generous mind. A noble soul would rather die than commit an action that should make his children blush when he is in his grave, and be looked upon as a reproach to those who shall live a hundred years after him. On the contrary, nothing can be a more pleasing thought to a man of eminence, than to consider that his posterity, who lie many removes from him, shall make their boast of his virtues, and be honoured for his sake.
Virgil represents this consideration as an incentive of glory to Æneas, when, after having shown him the race of heroes who were to descend from him, Anchises adds with a noble warmth,
Et dubitainus adhuc virtutem extendere factis ?
MR. DRYDEN. Since I have mentioned this passage in Virgil, where Æneas was entertained with the view of his great descendants, I cannot forbear observing a particular beauty, which I do not know that any one has taken notice of. The list which he has there drawn up was in general to do honour to the Roman name, but more particularly to compliment Augustus. For this reason, Anchises, who shows Àneas most of the rest of his descendants in the same order that they were to make their appearance in the world," breaks his method for
1 In the same order that they were to make their appearance in the world.] This sentence is only elliptical in omitting the preposition in; for the relative, that, is used for which; and the preposition is omitted in sentences of this form, to avoid the ill effect which a repetition of in would have on the ear. Our language loves these ellipses, in the familiar style, especially; and gains this advantage by the use of them, that it emulates the conciseness of those languages, where the case includes the preposition; as——" eodem ordine quo."
It is true, the perspicuity is not equal in the two cases ; and, therefore, we do not take this liberty, or we take it with more caution, in the solemn style, that is, when we treat matters of importance, or, when we would express what we say with energy. But in conversation, to which the familiar style conforms itself, it is graceful to be concise where there is small danger of being obscure. In this case, to insert the preposition, or sometimes the relative itself, would be to affect perspicuity, which, too, could only serve—“ nugis addere pondus.”