Графични страници
PDF файл

never speakes plainely, till hee dive beneath the shallowest apprehension. I as little affect curiosity in the one, as care for the affectation of baldnesse in the other. I would not bave the pearle of heaven's kingdome so curiously set in gold, as that the art of the workman should hide the beauty of the jewell: nor yet so sleightly valued as to be set in lead : or so beastly used as to be • slubbered with durt. I know the pearle (however placed) still re"tains its virtue, yet I had rather have it set in gold than seeke it in a dunghill.'



Art. V. The miscellaneous Works in Verse and Prose of Sir

Thomas OVERBURY, Knt. with Memoirs of his Life. The tenth edition. London, 1754. [Review-August, 1820.)

This little volume contains the remains of the unfortunate Sir Thomas Overbury, one of the most finished gentlemen about the court” of James 1. who fell a victim, as is well known, before the ungovernable passions of the Countess of Essex. The murder of this accomplished man is one of the most disgraceful passages of the history of England ; but as the tragical story is always related there, we shall turn our attention from so gloomy a subject to the agreeable little volume before us. The sympathy which was universally felt for his melancholy fate is demonstrated by the first forty pages, which consist of elegies and tributes of grief and admiration from all quarters, " on the untimely death of Sir Thomas Overbury, poisoned in the Tower," and on his poem the “ Wife," with manifold regrets that she “had grown husbandless of late.” The only “ Verse" by Sir Thomas Overbury himself, in the book, are his famous poem termed the “ Wife," a smaller one on the “ Choice of a Wife,” and two or three elegies. The “ Wife” is a didactic poem, and though the precepts which it gives are certainly not of a kind which the reader feels disposed to dispute, they have truly very little to recommend them, being far from remarkable for their ingenuity, and certainly not set off by any charms of poetical grace or ornament. Our rage for reviving the forgotten does not extend so far as to inflict upon our readers many passages, containing nothing better than injunctions to disregard beauty, which, as Sir Thomas observes, is but “skin deep,” and to prefer good, which " is a fairer attribute than white," expressed in a dry style and crabbed versification, though they may be on so universally interesting a subject as the Choice of a Wife.

It is not, however, on the poetry, if it may be so called, of Overbury, that his reputation must be founded—it is the remainder of the volume, “ the Characters or witty Descriptions of the Properties of sundry Persons,” which display the fertile and ingenious

character of his mind. From these we intend to make some extracts, which will we hope give a value and interest to this article. The book itself is seldom read, and not, on the whole, entertaining; but there are portions of it, and numerous portions too, which we think will impress the reader with a high opinion of the author's talent for observation, and his power of witty contrast and felicitous, though sometimes obscure, expression.

The “Noble Spirit” is in a noble style-a character of true philosophical elevation, which could have been composed by no one who did not "speak what the spirit within him dictated.”

A Noble Spirit · Hath surveyed and fortified his disposition, and converts all occurrences into experience, between which experience and his reason there is marriage, the issue are his actions. He circuits

his intents, and seeth the end before he shoots. Men are the instruments of his art, and there is no man without his use ; occasion incites him, none enticeth him, and he moves by affection, 'not for affection; he loves glory, scorns shame, and governeth •and obeyeth with one countenance, for it comes from one conside'ration. He calls not the variety of the world chances, for his .meditation hath travelled over them, and his eyes, mounted upon “his understanding, seeth them as things underneath. He covers

not his body with delicacies, nor excuseth these delicacies by his ·body, but teacheth it, since it is not able to defend its own imbecility, to shew or suffer. He licenceth not his weakness to 'wear fate, but knowing reason to be no idle gift of nature, he is the steers-man of his own destiny. Truth is his goddess, and he . takes pains to get her, not to look like her; he knows the condi* tion of the world, that he must act one thing like another, and

then another; to these he carries his desires, and not his desires him, and sticks not fast by the way, (for that contentment is repentance,) but knowing the circle of all courses, of all intents, of

all things, to have but one center or period, without all distrac'tion he hasteth thither and ends there as his true natural element. 'He doth not contemn fortune, but not confess her; he is no game*ster of the world, which only complain and praise her,) but being

only sensible of the honesty of actions, contemns a particular pro• fit as the excrement or scum. Unto the society of men he is a sun, whose clearness directs their steps in a regular motion. •When he is more particular, he is the wise man's friend, the ex'ample of the indifferent, the medicine of the vicious. Thus time

goeth not from him, but with him, and he feels age more by the strength of his soul than the weakness of his body. Thus feels he

no pain, but esteems all such things as friends, that desire to file 'off his fetters, and help him out of prison.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"A Melancholy Man" is also drawn in a masterly manner.

A Melancholy Man • Is a strayer from the drove, one that nature made sociable because she made him a man, and crazed disposition hath altered, ' unpleasing to all, as all to him; straggling thoughts are his con

tent, they make him dream waking, there's his pleasure. His 'imagination is never idle, it keeps his mind in a continual motion, ' as the poise the clock; he winds up his thoughts often, and as often Sunwinds them. Penelope's web thrives faster; he'll seldom be ' found without the shade of some grove, in whose bottom a river dwells; he carries a cloud in his face, never fair weather; his outside is framed to his inside, in that he keeps a decorum, both un* seemly. Speak to him, he hears with his eyes, ears follow his mind, and that's not at leisure. He thinks of business, but never does

any ; he is all contemplation, no action; he hews and ' fashions his thoughts as if he meant them to some purpose, but they prove unprofitable as a piece of wrought timber to no use. *His spirits and the sun are enemies, the sun bright and warm, his 'humour black and cold. Variety of foolish apparitions people ' his head, they suffer him not to breathe, according to the necessity og

of nature, which makes him sup up a draught of as much air at once, as would serve at thrice. He denies nature her due in sleep, ' and overpays her in watchfulness; nothing pleases him long but ' that which pleases his own fancies, they are the consuming evils, and evil consumptions that consume him alive. Lastly, he is a man only in show, but comes short of the better part, a whole * reasonable soul, which is man's chief pre-eminence and sole mark from creatures sensible.'

“ The Sailor” is very humorous, and also very curious, as showing the immutable nature of the effects of his mode of life. A · Fine Gentleman,' or · An Amorist,' of the days of James the First, is neither the man of fashion nor the lover of modern times; but the mariner who fought and conquered under Drake or Frobisher, is the same being that fought and conquered under Nelson or Howe.

A Sailor 'Is a pitched piece of reason caulked and tackled, and only stu• died to dispute with tempests. He is part of his own provision,

for he lives ever pickled ; a fair wind is the substance of his creed, 6 and fresh water the burden of his prayers. He is naturally am

bitious, for he is ever climbing out of sight; as naturally he fears, • for he is ever flying ; time and he are every where, ever contend*ing who shall arrive first; he is well winded, for he tires the day, and outruns darkness; his life is like a hawk's, the best part mewed, and if he lives till three coats, is a master. He sees God's • wonders in the deep, but so as they rather appear his play fel

·lows, than stirrers of his zeal; nothing but hunger and hard rocks can convert him, and then but his upper deck neither, for his "hold neither fears nor hopes; his sleeps are but reprievals of his

dangers, and when he awakes 'tis but next stage to dying : his 'wisdom is the coldest part about him, for it ever points to the 'north, and it lies lowest, which makes his valour every tide o’er.flow it. In a storm 'tis disputable, whether the noise be more his or the elements, and which will first leave scolding? on which

side of the ship he may be saved best? whether his faith be star'board faith, or larboard, or the helm at that time not all his hope of heaven? his keel is the emblem of his conscience, till 'it be split he never repents, then no farther than the land allows

him. His language is a new confusion, and all his thoughts new 'nations; his body and his ship are both one burthen, nor is it “known who stows most wine or rowls most, only the ship is guid'ed, he has no stern; a barnacle and he are bred together, both of *one nature and, 'tis feared, one reason ; upon any but a wooden

horse he cannot ride, and if the wind blows against him he dare 'not, he swarms up to his seat as to a sail yard, and cannot sit un'less he bear a flag-staff; if ever he be broken to the saddle, 'tis but 'a voyage still, for he mistakes the bridle for a bowling, and is ever 'turning bis horse tail; he can pray, but 'tis by rote, not faith, and ' when he would he dares not, for his brackish belief hath made that ominous. A rock or a quicksand pluck him before he be ripe, else he is gathered to his friends at Wapping.'

This is the conclusion of "the Soldier," which, like the most of this ingenious work, is too much infected with that love of conceit, so fatal to most of the writers in the reign of the pedantic James.

'In charity he goes beyond the clergy, for he loves bis greatest enemy best, much drinking. He seems a full student, for he is a 'great desirer of controversies : he argues sharply, and carries his

conclusion in his scabbard ; in the first refining of mankind this 'was the gold ; his actions are lis ammel ;a his allay, (for else you 'cannot work him presently) continual duties, heavy and weary

marches, lodgings as full of need as cold diseases, no time to argue .but to execute; line him with these, and link bim to his squadrons, and he appears a most rich chain for princes.'

No good heart can read the following beautiful picture of a "fair and happy milk-maid,” without inwardly moaning over the fate of the gentle and accomplished man that conceived it. We hardly know of any passage in English prose, and that is saying no little, which inspires the mind of the reader with so many pleasing recollections, and which spreads so calm and purifying a delight over the spirit, as it broods over the idea of the innocent girl

a An old word for enamel. Vol. II.


[ocr errors]

whose image Sir Thomas has here bodied forth :-"It will scept all the year long of June, like a new-made hay-cock.”

A Fair and Happy Milkmaid Is a country wench, that is so far from making herself beauti'ful by art, that one look of hers is able to put all face-physic out of countenance. She knows a fair look is but a dumb orator to 'commend virtue, therefore minds it not. All her excellencies stand in her so silently, as if they had stolen upon her without her * knowledge. The lining of her apparel, which is herself, is far better than outsides of tissue; for though she be not arrayed in

the spoil of the silk-worm, she is decked in innocence, a far better wearing. She doth not, with lying long in bed, spoil both her

complexion and conditions : nature hath taught her too, immode“rate sleep is rust to the soul; she rises therefore with Chanticlere, "her dame's cock, and at night makes the lamb her curfu. In millsing a cow, and straining the teats through her fingers, it seems that so sweet a milk-press makes the milk whiter or sweeter ; for never came almond-glore or aromatic ointment on her palm to taint it. The golded ears of corn fall and kiss her feet when she . reaps them, as if they wished to be bound and led prisoners by sthe same hand that felled them. Her breath is her own, which 'scents all the year long of June, like a new-made hay-cock. She

makes her hand hard with labour, and her heart soft with pity; “and when winter evenings fall early, sitting at her merry wheel,

she sings defiance to the giddy wheel of fortune. She doth all things with so sweet a grace, it seems ignorance will not sufler • her to do ill, being her mind is to do well. She bestows her

year's wages at next fair, and in chusing her garments, counts no • bravery in the world like decency. The garden and bee-hive « are all her physic and surgery, and she lives the longer for it. She dares go alone, and unfold sheep in the night, and fears no manner of ill, because she means none; yet, to say truth, she is never alone, but is still accompanied with old songs,

honest thoughts and prayers, but short ones; yet

but short ones ; yet they have their efficacy, in that they are not palled with ensuing idle cogitations. Lastly, • her dreams are so chaste, that she dare tell them; only a Friday's • dream is all her superstition; that she conceals for fear of anger. • Thus lives she, and all ber. care is, she may die in the spring time, to have store of flowers stuck upon her winding-sheet."

The character of “A Serving-Man" is of a different cast from the last, but is very amusing.

A Serving-Man ' Is a creature, which, though he be not drunk, is not his own iman. He tells, without asking, who owns him, by the superscription of his livery; his life is for ease and leisure much about


« ПредишнаНапред »