Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

wretch to the gallows was he who falsly swore his life away; "and yet,” continued I, “ that perjurer had just such a nose, such lips, such hands, and such eyes as Newton.” I at last came to the account of the wretch that was searched after robbing one of the thief-takers of half a crown. Those of the confederacy knew that he had got but that single half crown in the world; after a long search therefore, which they knew would be fruitless, and taking from him half a crown, which they knew was all he had, one of the gang compassionately cried out, “Alas ! poor creature, let him keep all the reft he has got, it will do him service in Newgate, where we are sending him.” This was an instance of such complicated guilt and hypocrisy, that I threw down the book in an agony of rage, and began to think with malice of all the human kind. I sat silent for some minutes and foon per. ceiving, the ticking of my watch beginning to grow noisy and troublesome, I quickly placed it out of hearing, and strove to resume my serenity. But the watchmen foon give me a second alarm. I had scarcely recovered from this, when my peace was assaulted by the wind at my window; and when that ceased to blow, I listened for death-watches in the wainscot. I now found my whole fyftem discomposed. I ftrove to find a resource in philofophy and reason; but what could I oppose or where direct my blow, when I could see. no enemy to combat. I saw no misery approaching, nor knew any I had to fear, yet ftill I was miserable. Morning came, I sought for tranquillity in dissipation, fauntered from one place of public resort to another, but found myself disagreeable to my acquaintance, and ridiculous to others. I tried at different times dancing, fencing, and riding. I resolved geometrical problems,

shaped tobacco stoppers, wrote verses, and cut paper. At last I placed my affections on music, and find, that earnest employment, if it cannot cure, at least will pal. liate every anxiety." Adieu.

LETTER XCI.

[ocr errors]

FROM THE SAME.

IT is no unpleasing contemplation, to consider the influence which soil and climate have upon the disposition of the inhabitants, the animals and vegetables of different countries. That among the brute creation is much more visible than in man, and that in vegetables more than ei. ther. In some places, those plants which are entirely poi. sonous at home, lose their deleterious quality by being carried abroad; there are serpents in Macedonia so harmless as to be used as play-things for children, and we are told, that in some parts of Fez, there are lions so very timorous as to be scared away, though coming in herds, by the cries of women.

I know of no country where the influence of climate and foil is more visible than in England; the fame hid. den cause which gives courage to their dogs and cocks gives also fierceness to their men. But chiefly this fea rocity appears among the vulgar. The polite of every country pretty nearly resemble each other. But as in fimpling, it is among the uncultivated productions of nature, we are to examine the characteristic differences of climate and soil, so, in an estimate of the genius of the people, we must look among the sons of the unpo. lished rusticity. The vulgar English, therefore, may be

easily distinguished from all the rest of the world, by superior pride, “impatience, and a peculiar hardness of soul.

Perhaps no qualities in the world are more susceptible of a fine polish than these, artificial complaisance and easy deference being superinduced over these, ge. nerally form a great character ! something at once ele. gant and majestic, affable, yet sincere. Such in general are the better sort; but they who are left in primitive rudeness, are the least disposed for society with others, or comfort internally, of any people under the sun.

The poor indeed of every country are but little prone to treat each other with tenderness; their own miseries are too apt to engross all their pity; and perhaps too they give but little commiseration, as they find but little from others. But, in England, the poor treat each other upon every occasion with more than savage animosity, and as if they were in a state of open war by nature. In China, if two porters should meet in a narrow street, they would lay down their burthens, make a thousand excuses to each other for the accidental interruption, and beg pardon on their knees; if two men of the same occupation should meet here, they would first begin to scold, and at last to beat each other. One would think they had miseries enough resulting from penury and labour, not to increase them by ill-nature among themselves, and subjection to new penal. ties, but such considerations never weigh with them.

But to recompence this strange absurdity, they are in the main generous, brave, and enterprising. They feel the slightest injuries with a degree of ungoverned impatience, but resist the greatest calamities with surprising fortitude. Those miseries under which any other peo

13

ple in the world would fink, they have often shewed they were capable of enduring; if accidentally cast upon fome desolate coast, their perseverance is beyond what any other nation is capable of fustaining; if imprisoned for crimes, their efforts to escape are greater than among others. The peculiar strength of their prisons, when compared to those elsewhere, argues their hardiness; even the strongest prisons I have ever seen in other countries would be very insufficient to confine the untameable spirit of an Englishman. In short, what man dares do in circumstances of danger, an Englishman will. His virtues seem to sleep in the calm, and are called out only to combat the kindred storm.

But the greatest eulogy of this people is, the genero. sity of their miscreants! the tenderness in general of their robbers and highwaymen. Perhaps no people can produce instances of the same kind where the desperate mix pity with injustice ; still shewing that they understand a distinction in crimes, and even in acts of vio. lence, have still some tin&ture of remaining virtue. In every other country robbery and murder go almost al. ways together; here it seldom happens, except upon illjudged refiftance or pursuit. The banditti of other countries are unmerciful to a fupreme degree; the high. way man and robber here are generous at least to the pub. lic, and pretends even to virtues in their intercourse among each other. Taking, therefore, my opinion of the English from the virtues and vices practised among the vulgar, they at once present to a stranger all their faults, and keep their virtues up only for the enquiring, eye of a philosopher.

Fore gners are generally shocked at their insolence upon first coming among them; they find themselves ridiculed and insulted in every street; they meet with none of those trifling civilities so frequent elsewhere, which are instances of mutual good will without previous acquaintance; they travel through the country either too ignorant or too obstinate to cultivate a close acquaintance, meet every moment something to excite their disgust, and return home to characterize this as the region of spleen, insolence, and ill-nature. In short, England would be the last place in the world I would travel to by way of amusement; but the first for instruction. I would chuse to have others for my acquaintance, but Englishmen for my friends.

LETTER XCII,

TO THE SAME.

I HE mind is ever ingenious in making its own dis, tress. The wandering beggar, who has none to protect,

to feed, or to shelter him, fancies complete happiness in ; labour and a full meal; take him from rags and want,

feed, clothe, and employ him, his wishes now rise one step above his station; he could be happy were he possessed of raiment, food, and ease. Suppose his wishes gratified even in these, his prospects widen as he ascends ; he finds himself in affluence and tranquillity indeed, but indolence soon breeds anxiety, and he desires not only to be freed from pain, but to be possessed of pleasure ; pleasure is granted him, and this but opens his soul from

« ПредишнаНапред »