Page images
[ocr errors]

to furnish out the length of a daily “ Spectator." I own I have small regard for Lord Bolingbroke as an author, and the highest contempt for him as a man. He came into the world greatly favoured both by nature and fortune, blest with a noble birth, heir to a large estate, endowed with a strong constitution, and, as I have heard, a beautiful figure, high spirits, à good memory, and a lively apprehension, which was cultivated by a learned education : all these glorious advantages being left to the direction of a judgment stifled by unbounded vanity, he dishonoured his birth, lost his estate, ruined his reputation, and destroyed his health, by a wild pursuit of eminence even in vice and trifles.

I am far from making misfortune a matter of reproach. I know there are accidental occurrences not to be foreseen or avoided by human prudence, by which a character may be injured, wealth dissipated, or a constitution impaired : but I think I may reasonably despise the understanding of one who conducts himself in such a manner as naturally produces such lamentable consequences, and continues in the same destructive paths to the end of a long life, ostentatiously boasting of morals and philosophy in print, and with equal ostentation bragging of the scenes of low debauchery in public conversation, though deplorably weak both in mind and body, and his virtue and his vigour in a state of non-existence. His confederacy with Swift and Pope puts me in mind of that of Bessus and his sword-men, in the “King and no King," who endeavour to support themselves by giving certificates of each other's merit. Pope has triumphantly declared that they may do and


say whatever silly things they please, they will still be the greatest geniuses ever exhibited. I am delighted with the comparison given of their benevolence, which is, indeed, most aptly figured by a circle in the water, which widens till it comes to nothing at all; but I am provoked at Lord Bolingbroke's misrepresentation of my favourite Atticus, who seems to have been the only Roman that, from good sense, had a true notion of the times in which he lived, in which the Republic was inevitably perishing; and the two factions, who pretended to support it, equally endeavouring to gratify their ambition in its ruin. A wise man, in that case, would certainly declare for neither, and try to save himself and family from the general wreck; wbich could not be done but by a superiority of understanding acknowledged on both sides. I see no glory in losing life or fortune by being the dupe of either, and very much applaud that conduct which could preserve an universal esteem amidst the fury of opposite parties. We are obliged to act vigorously where action can do any good ; but in a storm, when it is impossible to work with success, the best hands and ablest pilots may laudably gain the shore if they

Atticus could be a friend to men without awaking their resentment, and be satisfied with his own virtue without seeking popular fame; he had the reward of his wisdom in his tranquillity, and will ever stand among the few examples of true philosophy, either ancient or modern.

You must forgive this tedious dissertation. I hope you read in the same spirit I write, and take as proofs of affection whatever is sent you by your truly affectionate mother,



To Mr. Digby.

August 12th, 1724. My dear friend,

I have been above a month strolling about in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, from garden to garden, but still returning to Lord Cobham's with fresh satisfaction. I should be sorry to see my Lady Scudamore’s till it has had the full advantage of Lord B's improvements; and then I will expect something like the waters of Riskins and the woods of Oakley together, which (without flattery) would be at least as good as anything in our world; for as to the hanging gardens of Babylon, the paradise of Cyrus, and the Sharawaggis of China, I have little or no ideas of them; but I dare say Lord B- - has, because they were certainly both very great and very wild. I hope Mrs. Mary Digby is quite tired of his lordship's extravagante bergerie ; and that she is just now sitting, or rather reclining, on a bank, fatigued with over much dancing and singing at his unwearied request and instigation. I know your love of ease so well, that you might be in danger of being too quiet to enjoy quiet, and too philosophical to be a philosopher, were it not for the ferment Lord B- will put you into. One of his lordship's maxims is, that a total abstinence from intemperance or business is no more philosophy than a total consopiation of the senses is repose; one must feel enough of its contrary to have a relish of either. But after all, let your temper work, and be as sedate and contemplative as you will, I will engage you shall be fit for any of us when you come to town in the winter. Folly will

laugh you into all the customs of the company here; nothing will be able to prevent your conversion to her but indisposition, which, I hope, will be far from you. I am telling the worst that can come of you ; for as to vice, you are safe ; but folly is many an honest man's, nay, every good-humoured man's, lot; nay, it is the seasoning of life; and fools (in one sense) are the salt of the earth; a little is excellent, though indeed a whole mouthful is justly called the devil.

So much for your diversions next winter, and for mine. I envy you much more at present than I shall then ; for if there be on earth an image of Paradise, it is in such perfect union and society as you all possess. I would liave my innocent envies and wishes of you state known to you all; which is far better than making you compliments, for it is inward approbation and esteem. My Lord Digby has in me a sincere servant, or would have, were there any occasion for me to manifest it.

Yours, &c.,


To his Mother.

Cambridge, Nov. 7th, 1749. My dear Mother,

The unhappy news I have just received from you equally surprises and afflicts me.* I have lost a person I loved very much, and have been much used to from my infancy ; but am much more concerned for your loss, the circumstances of which I forbear to dwell upon, as you must be too sensible of them yourself; and will, fear, more and more need a consolation that no one can give, except He who has preserved her to you so many years, and at last, when it was His pleasure, has taken her from us to Himself: and perhaps, if we reflect upon what she felt in this life, we may look upon this as an instance of His goodness both to her and to those that loved her. She might have languished many years before our eyes in a continual increase of pain, and totally helpless; she might have long wished to end her misery without being able to attain it; or perhaps even lost all sense, and yet continued to breathe ; a sad spectacle to such as must have felt more for her than she could have done for herself.

* The death of his aunt, Mrs. Mary Antrobus.

However you may deplore your own loss, yet think that she is at last easy and happy; and has now more occasion to pity us than we her. I hope and beg you will support yourself with that resignation we owe to Him who gave us our being for our good, and who deprives us of it for the same reason.

I would have come to you directly, but you do not say whether you desire I should or not: if you do, I beg I may know it, for there is nothing to hinder me, and I am in very good health.

Yours, &c.,


Subjects for Letters.

1. From a friend on his arrival in Canada. 2. From a brother to his sister (both at school). 3. From a sister at home to her brother at school.

« PreviousContinue »