ePub 版

he turned his attention to literary pursuits. His chief procluctions are, “ Sir Walter Raleigh,” a tragedy, 1719; “ Epistles to Mr. Addison, on the death of Lord Halifax;" • Cupid's Proclamation;" “ A Vindication of the English Stage,” &c. He died at Hampstead, in great poverty, February 8, 1726.

Though Dr. Sewell did not write much, he deserves to be remembered for the following beautiful and touching verses, " said to be written upon himself when he was in a consumption."


Why, Damon, with the forward day,
Dost thou thy little spot survey,
From tree to tree, with doubtful cheer,
Pursue the progress of the year,

What winds arise, what rains descend,

When thou before that year shalt end?
What do thy noontide walks avail,
To clear the leas, and pick the snail,
Then wantonly to death decree
An insect usefuller than thee?

Thou and the worm are brother-kind,

As low, as earthy, and as blind.
Vain wretch! canst thou expect to see
The downy peach make court to thee?
Or that thy sense shall ever meet
The bean-flower's deep embosom'd sweet,
Exhaling with an evening blast?

Thy evenings then will all be past.
Thy narrow pride, thy fancied green,
(For vanity's in little seen,)
All must be left when Death appears,
In spite of wishes, groans, and tears;

Nor one of all thy plants that grow,
But rosemary, will with thee go.

SIR RICHARD STEELE. 1671-1729. RICHARD STEELE was born in Dublin, 1671. His father sent him to be educated at the Charter-house in London, whence he was removed to Merton College, Oxford, 1691. Soon after leaving the university, he unfortunately im bibed a fondness for the army, and entered himself as a private in the horse. guards, from which he was soon promoted to the oflice of ensign. Scarcely any position in life is so dangerous to one's morals, as a situation in the army or navy; and so it proved to Steele, who soon plunged into the vortex of dissipation and intemperance; by which he laid the foundation of much wisery and remorse during his life. In 1702 he first attracted the notice of the public as an author, by the publication of “The Funeral, or Grief a-luMode," a comedy which was successfully acted in that year. Two more coinedies, « The Tender Husband," acted in 1703, and “The Lying Lover," 1704, followed this first attempt. The latter proving a failure, Steele deter. wined, for a time at least, to desert the stage, and projected the publication of a periodical paper. The title of the paper, as the author observes in the first number, was decided upon in honor of the fair sex, and the Tatler was therefore placed under their jurisdiction. The name of its conductor, Isaac BICKERSTAFF, was taken from a previous publication of Swift. It was commenced on the 12th of April, 1709. How, and how early, Addison came to know the author, is mentioned in the life of the former. “If we consider the invention of Steele, as discoverable in the scheme and conduct of the l'atler, if we reflect upon the finely drawn and highly finished character of Bickerstaff, in his varied offices of philosopher, humorist, astrologer, and censor, the vast number of his own elegant and useful papers, and the beauty and value of those which, through his means, saw the light, we cannot hesitate in honor. ing hiin with the appellation OF THE FATHER OF PERIODICAL WRITING.”1

In March, 1711, he began, in conjunction with Addison, « The Spectator," and in 1713 « The Guardian.” After the accession of George I., Steele was made, in 1715, surveyor of the royal stables at Hampton Court, and was knighted. The same year he was chosen member of parliament for Boroughbridge in Yorkshire, and was high in favor with the reiguing powers. But his good fortune did not last long, and the latter years of his life he suffered much from poverty, caused in part from his speculating in new projects, one of which was, to convey live salmon from the coast of Ireland to the London market. At a great expense he had a vessel constructed for the purpose; but, alas! the salmon so battered themselves in their passage, as to be totally unfit for the market, and poor Steele lost nearly his all. “No friend of humanity," says Dr. Drake, “ can contemplate the situation of Steele, during the latter period of his life, without sympathy and sorrow. His frailties, the origin of all his misfortunes, were not the offspring of vice, but merely owing to habitual carelessness and the want of worldly prudence. Compassionate in his heart, unbounded in his benevolence, no object of distress ever left him with a murmur; and in the hour of prosperity he was ever ready, both with his influence and his property, to promote the views of literature and science, and to assist the efforts of unprotected genius.”

The last few years of his life he resided, by the indulgence of the mortgagee, at his seat at Llangunnor, near Caermarthen, Wales, where he died on the 21st of September, 1729.

The style of Steele is remarkable for its flowing ease and naturalness, but he is often negligent and careless, and frequently ungrammatical. It is his misfortune that, being a co-laborer with Addison in the same walks of literature, he is constantly compared with him, and of course must generally suffer by the comparison; though at times, when he has written with more than usual care, he seems evidently to have imbibed a portion of Addisonian grace. But compared with some of the best of his predecessors, he appears in a very favorable light. “He will be found in purity and simplicity inferior to Tilloison; to Temple in elegance and harmony: to Dryden in richness, mellow'. ness, and variety. To the two former, however, he is equal in correctness; to the latter in vivacity; and with all he is nearly on a level as to ease wild perspicuity."!

The following extracts from his perioilical papers will give an idea of his best manner and style :

I Drake's Essays, vol. 1. p. 79.

2 !bid, p. 201.

THE DREAM. I was once myself in agonies of grief that are unutterable, and in so great a distraction of mind, that I thought myself even out of the possibility of receiving comfort. The occasion was as follows. When I was a youth in a part of the army which was then quartered at Dover, I fell in love with an agreeable young woman, of a good family in those parts, and had the satisfaction of seeing my addresses kindly received, which occasioned the perplexity I am going to relate.

We were in a calm evening diverting ourselves upon the top of a cliff with the prospect of the sea, and trifling away the time in such little fondnesses as are most ridiculous to people in business, and most agreeable to those in love.

In the midst of these our innocent endearments, she snatched a paper of verses out of my hand, and ran away with them. I was following her, when on a sudden the ground, though at a considerable distance from the verge of the precipice, sunk under her, and threw her down from so prodigious a height upon such a range of rocks, as would have dashed her into ten thousand pieces, had her body been made of adamant. It is much easier for my reader to imagine my state of mind upon such an occasion, than for me to express it. I said to myself, It is not in the power of heaven to relieve me! when I awaked, equally transported and astonished, to see myself drawn out of an affliction which, the very moment before, appeared to me altogether inextricable.

T'he impressions of grief and horror were so lively on this occasion, that while they lasted they made me more miserable than I was at the real death of this beloved person, which happened a few months after, at a time when the match between us was concluded ; inasmuch as the imaginary death was untimely, and I myself in a sort an accessary; whereas her real decease had at least these alleviations, of being natural and inevitable.

The memory of the dreain I have related still dwells so strongly upon me, that I can never read the description of Dover-cliff in Shakspeare's tragedy of King Lear, without a fresh sense of my escape. The prospect from that place is drawn with such proper incidents, that whoever can read it without growing giddy must have a good head, or a very bad one.

| "One of the finest moral tales," observes Dr. Beattie, “I ever read. is an account in the Tauer, which, though it has every appearance of a real dream, comprehends a moral o sublime and so inte estins that question whether any man who attends to it can ever forget it: and if he remember, whether he can cease to be the better for it."

2 Come on, sir; here's the place :stand still I How fearni

And dizzy 'us to cast one's eyes so low!
The crows and choughs, that wing the midway air,
Show scarce so gross as beetles. Half-way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire-dreadful trade!
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head :
The fishern.en, that walk upon the beach,
Appear like mice; And yon t..ll anchoring bark,

Taller, No. 117. THE DEATH OF HIS FATHER. The first sense of sorrow I ever knew was upon the death of my father, at which time I was not quite five years of age ; but was rather amazed at what all the house meant, than possessed with a real understanding why nobody was willing to play with me. I remember I went into the room where his body lay, and my mother sat weeping alone by it. I had my battledore in my hand, and fell a beating the coffin, and calling papa ; for, I know not how, I had some slight idea that he was locked up there. My mother catched me in her arms, and, transported beyond all patience of the silent grief she was before in, she almost smothered me in her embraces; and told me in a flood of tears, “ Papa could not hear me, and would play with me no more, for they were going to put him under ground, whence he could never come to us again.” She was a very beautiful woman, of a noble spirit, and there was a dignity in her grief amidst all the wildness of her transport; which, methought, struck me with an instinct of sorrow, that before I was sensible of what it was to grieve, seized my very soul, and has made pity the weakness of my heart ever since. The mind in infancy is, methinks, like the body in embryo; and receives impressions so forcible, that they are as hard to be removed by reason, as any mark, with which a child is born, is to be taken away by any future application. Hence it is, that good nature in me is no merit; but having been so frequently overwhelmed with her tears before I knew the cause of my affliction, or could draw defences from my own judgment, I imbibed commiseration, remorse, and an unmanly gentleness of mind, which has since insnared me into ten thousand calamities; from whenco I can reap no advantage, except it be, that, in such a humor as I am now in, I can the better indulge myself in the softness of humanity, and enjoy that sweet anxiety which arises from the memory of past afflictions.

THE STRENGTH OF TRUE LOVE. A young gentleman and lady of ancient and honorable houses in Cornwall had from their childhood entertained for each other a

Tatler, No. 181.

Diminish'd to her cock;* her cock, a buoy
Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge,
That on th' unnumber'd Idle pebbles cha fes,
Cannot be heard so high. I'll look no more,
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong."

Her cock-boat, the small boat of a ship.

generous and noble passion, which had been long opposed by their friends, by reason of the inequality of their fortunes; but their constancy to each other, and obedience to those on whom they depended, wrought so much upon their relations, that these celebrated lovers were at length joined in marriage. Soon after their nuptials, the bridegroom was obliged to go into a foreign country, to take care of a considerable fortune, which was left him by a relation, and came very opportunely to improve their moderate circumstances. They received the congratulations of all the country on this occasion ; and I remember it was a common sentence in every one's mouth, “ You see how faithful love is rewarded."

He took this agreeable voyage, and sent home every post fresh accounts of his success in his affairs abroad; but at last, though he designed to return with the next ship, he lamented in his letters, that “ business would detain him some time longer from home," because he would give himself the pleasure of an unexpected arrival.

The young lady, after the heat of the day, walked every evening on the sea-shore, near which she lived, with a familiar friend, her husband's kinswoman; and diverted herself with what objects they met there, or upon discourses of the future methods of life, in the happy change of their circumstances. They stood one evening on the shore together in a perfect tranquillity, observing the setting of the sun, the calm face of the deep, and the silent heaving of the waves, which gently rolled towards them, and broke at their feet; when at a distance her kinswoman saw something float on the waters, which she fancied was a chest ; and with a smile told her, "She saw it first, and if it came ashore full of jewels, she had a right to it.” They both fixed their eyes upon it, and entertained themselves with the subject of the wreck, the cousin still asserting her right; but promising, “if it was a prize, to give her a very rich coral for her youngest child." Their mirth soon abated, when they observed, upon the nearer approach, that it was a human body. The young lady, who had a heart naturally filled with pity and compassion, made many melancholy reflections on the occasion. « Who knows," said she, “but this man may be the only hope and heir of a wealthy house; the darling of indulgent parents, who are now in impertinent mirth, and pleasing themselves with the thoughts of offering him a bride They had got ready for him ? Or, may he not be the master of a family that wholly depended upon his life? There may, for aught we know, be half a dozen fatherless children, and a tender wife, now exposed to poverty by his death. What pleasure might he have promised himself in the different welcome he was to have from her and them ! But let us go away ; it is a dreadful sight! The best office we can do, is to take care that the poor man, who

« 上一頁繼續 »